I’ve rewritten this introduction 3 times. None of them correctly reflect how I feel. In one iteration of this opener, I described my feelings as uncomfortable. In another, I said that I was angry. Why can’t I put my emotions for A Doll’s House into words? I slowly realized that the reason I was so confused and conflicted was that I saw myself in Nora. And even now I don’t like that concept. New questions were raised, about myself, about Nora, about my friends and family, and I didn’t want to think about them. I’d seen how A Doll’s House unfolded, and I had created this barrier between myself and the content. Here, I’ll try to explain how I feel, how I resemble Nora, and how that is a sickening thought.
Nora and I are both, non-confrontational people pleasers. Nora has a tendency to turn to pleasing Torvald instead of standing her ground, or being direct with what she wants, “Nora: If your little squirrel asked you ever so prettily, for just one thing–? / Helmer: Well? / Nora: Would you do it? / Helmer: I’d need to know what it is first, naturally. / Nora: Your squirrel would run about and do tricks, if you were nice and gave in to her” (p. 146). This act of entertainment comes from the fear of disapproval or essentially any negative action from Torvald. Knowing I act the same way; Nora has already weighed all the options, considered all the outcomes, and decided that this is the path that will cause the least amount of damage to Torvald, and raise her chances of him agreeing. And while Nora is not incredibly smart or educated, we know that she is knowledgeable enough to consider these kinds of things. In her conversation with Kristine, we find evidence for this,
“MRS LINDE: And you’ve not confided in your husband since? NORA: No, for heaven’s sake, how can you think that? When he’s so strict on the issue of borrowing! And besides, just think how awkward and humiliating it would be for Torvald – with his manly self-esteem – to know he owed me something. It would upset the entire balance of our relationship; our beautiful, happy home would no longer be what it is.” (p. 122).
She worries so much about what other people will feel, and the consequences of their emotions that she forgets that their own emotions and needs are equally important to anyone else’s.
This connection with Nora was very disconcerting. I didn’t like it, I didn’t like seeing aspects I didn’t like about myself in a book. So I refused to acknowledge it, or even think about it. I read the book in a very distant manner. But now, writing this PR, I need to face some of the questions that A Doll’s House brought up for me through Nora. Do people only show me love because I act as they want? If I unmasked, showing my “true self” (whatever that is) would my friends and family still stay? Or would they act like Torvald, furious at the change? Unconditional love is what I hope the people that surround me feel, no requirements are needed from me for them to enjoy my presence. But I honestly don’t know. Nora said, “I realized that the man I’d lived here with for eight years was a stranger and that I’d borne him three children -” (p. 187). That other side of people, the unknown conditions of their love, is something you can never truly know. Nora thought she knew Torvald, was married to him for eight years and knew him before then too. Yet she never thought that he would treat her in such a way that would reveal his conditional love for her. To relate to Nora’s tendencies automatically opens up the terrifying thought that the same might happen to me.