Personal Response: A Doll’s House

In A Doll’s House by Henik Ibsen, we are introduced to the marriage of Nora Helmer and Torvald Helmer. Nora is introduced to us as a pretty and cheerful woman living out her days as a mother and wife. Torvald Helmer is represented as cold and strict, where his transitional views carry the play. Throughout the play, we slowly see the unraveling of their marriage, and Nora’s perspective of her own life changes dramatically.

I thoroughly enjoy this play, and it’s important input about gender roles and women rights. At times, it made me feel uncomfortable and embarrassed, mostly to do with Torvald and Nora’s relationship. Nora’s first appearance seems like she was there to “represent” all women of that time. She seemed naive and silly, brought up in a world where her only importance was to look pretty and bare children. She delightfully took the role as Torvald’s wife.“To be so utterly alone. What a heavy sadness that must be for you. I have three lovely children. Though you can’t see them at the moment, they’re out with their nanny. But now, you must tell me everything—“ (pg.116) Even when talking to a close friend, she only talks about herself, completely ignoring the fact that Ms. Linde has gone through the ringer. I thought this showed a lack of character, careless for others. As the play continues, we see her own selfish show again. When speaking to Dr. Rank in Act 2, he is expressing his troubles to her, and in response she states “Oh, you’re being quite unreasonable today. And just when I wanted you to be in a really good mood.”(pg.151). To me, this shows her lack of sympathy towards others than herself. She doesn’t comfort him but instead tries to manipulate him so she can get what she wants. I started to enjoy her character more in Act 3. It seemed like she completely changed in the span of two days, became a totally different person. I thought it was very impressive of her not only to leave but to talk to Torvald about why she is leaving, “It’s not so late yet. Sit down here, Torvald; you and I have a to talk about.”(pg.181) Running away is one thing, but this is different. She isn’t just leaving her “home”, but is telling him why, hopefully forever leaving an impact in his life. I also think being able to talk about your problems and how someone did you wrong takes a lot of courage, especially for being a woman in that time frame. She was more bold, and didn’t budge when Torvald asked her to stay. I felt more connected to her when she stood up to him, showing that she now wants to go and make her own in the world.

A Doll’s House shows us Nora’s breakdown of her “reality”, and her breaking free from society’s grasp on women. She is no longer playing a role, but becoming her own person. Even if she still carries some flaws, she is doing all of us a favour by standing up for what she believes in.

3 thoughts on “Personal Response: A Doll’s House”

  1. I think the questions you raise about her selfishness are interesting. She’s often quite contradictory in that way. Selflessly, she indebts herself to save her husband and commits fraud to spare her father. Then, selfishly (as you mentioned), she seems to always focus on herself when talking with friends. An interesting question is about her actions at the end of the play– as you say, they are extremely brave. But, are they also selfish? After all, she’s abandoning her children. Is she more brave than selfish or vice versa? Is it necessarily bad to be selfish?

  2. I completely agree with your post, Tia. I really relate to your comment on how uncomfortable and embarrassed it made you feel. It’s hard to see women portrayed in such childish, ignorant, and weak ways, because in certain ways, we’re still perceived like that. Whether purposeful or not, I often catch people perpetuating these misogynistic stereotypes, which can be frustrating and invalidating. I even fall under these stereotypes, myself, due to the internalized misogyny that society has placed in me. I wonder how segregated gender roles will be in the future: will we see more resemblance between different genders, or will they still be perceived as opposites? Great job!

  3. I thought you did a great job of recognizing the manipulative nature of Nora. You did a good job of describing how the play made you feel, recording your observations in an ordered manner, and ending with a simple, but satisfying conclusion. Great job Tia!

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