A doll’s house by Henrik Ibsen was a really interesting play that made me ponder about the roles of women and men and the responsibilities and expectancies of a wife and a husband. I was quite triggered by how Torvald acted and engaged with Nora as if he owned her and she was his property. I also think it was quite disrespectful of him to say rude things about her father and compare those qualities to his wife. Appearance vs reality was a theme that really stood out to me because, at first, everything seems like a “dollhouse”, perfect and flawless on the outside. A good business, a husband who worked and earned money, a beautiful wife who seemed joyful during the holidays, and their children. What could possibly be wrong with a lovely looking family and money? However, within that dollhouse, the perfect dollhouse was not as pretty as it seemed. This play emphasizes that having a good appearance does not lead to a happy, contentful life. The three symbols and themes that stood out to me were money and its role at that time, healthy relationships, and the symbol of birds used to represent Nora in the play.
Money was a very critical symbol demonstrated in the play. Money showed men’s control over women as women did not have equal access to it as men did at this time. The play started off with Noras asking for money in a very childish way to get the money she needs. However, at the end of the play, Nora doesn’t want anything that belonged to Torvald. Because Nora was dependent on Torvald for everything, she was stuck in a toxic environment where she was treated like a doll. Her financial situation and reliance on Torvald gave Torvald a sense of power that he definitely took advantage of. On the other hand, Christine showed another perspective of a woman at this time. She could make money, therefore, she could make her own independent choices and not rely on a man.
Healthy relationships was a theme Ibsen demonstrated by comparing Nora and Torvalds toxic relationship to Christine and Krogstad who showed a healthier relationship. The relationship between Nora and Torvald was so toxic because of the dishonesty and miscommunication that happened, as well as Torvalds big masculine ego that took over him. Torvald not only was the man of the house, but was also the controller of the house. He controlled Nora to a point where she did not know who she was anymore and was therefore treated as a child. Nora was told what to wear, what to eat, how to act, and her primary purpose was to please her husband and be the best obedient wife she could be. As the man of the house, Torvald took charge of her, having her stuck in his manipulating toxicity. Ibsen shows us this toxic relationship where honesty and communication was a joke and meant nothing. He shows us how dependent Noras was on her husband and the power that it gave him over her. In contrast, Christine and Krogstad both struggled in their lives but valued honesty in their relationship. Krogstad, unlike Torvald, was happy with Christine supporting him financially. They had open and honest communication, showing a better representation of healthy relationships where two people are equal and are not there to control each other but instead supporting and respecting each other.
Although Torvald treated Nora like a doll, he calls her by animal names, specifically bird names throughout the play which was a significant symbol. For example, when Nora was happy in the way that Torvald wanted, he referred to her as “my sweet little skylark”, “my little songbird,” and “a hunted dove” more than five times (Ibsen 7, 30, 73). When she was upset, she was referred to as a “Dove” and Torvald said, “A songbird must have a clean beak to chirp with—no false notes!” (Ibsen. Act 1. Page 435). Birds represent how Torvald views Nora as a fragile creature who’s meant to look pretty, please, and entertain him as he wishes. Nora’s weakness and reliance on Torvald are conveyed by his insistence on calling her diminutive names. By the end of the play, the analogy of a bird can also be used where Nora, trapped in a cage, can set herself free and fly away, finding her identity.
Overall, I appreciated the play since it demonstrated Nora’s development and strength, showing that she is a self-sufficient individual with no defined role. She also tells Torvald that she considers herself a decent human being, just like him, establishing the equality of men and women in terms of rights and freedom.