Nov 10, 2017 in Literature

Beauty in Madness An Analysis of A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen

Analysis Essay Sample on A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen

People the world over have asked in various ways and in different events what the essence of a woman is. The question does not necessarily aim to compare women to men but to explore further into the importance of womanhood in relation to all the other aspects of life and living. Henrik Ibsen brings out in his play A Doll’s House the significance of women’s sacrifices in the roles that they play within the family. History has shown how women have always been regarded as inferior beings. Ibsen suggests otherwise, believing that in marriage both men and women must set off to do their tasks and enjoy their individual lives as much as their married life together. In A Doll’s House, he focuses on the sacrifice that the lead character, Nora Helmer, has to make to keep her husband’s health and her family’s happiness. All the while, Ibsen parallels Nora with her husband Torvald who is too absorbed with his wife’s beauty to care about her other qualities.

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The Conflict of the Story

The conflict of the story starts when Nora admits to having forged her father’s signature in order to authorize a loan that was supposed to help shoulder the costs of Torvald’s recuperation from illness. Knowing that her husband would disapprove of loans or borrowing money, Nora kept this secret to herself. Meanwhile, the employee of Torvald, Krogstad, also knew about Nora’s secret. When Krogstad was informed that he was about to be fired, he blackmailed Nora into convincing Torvald not to fire him in exchange for the information that he knew about Nora’s forgery and loan. Nora tried persuading her husband to keep Krogstad in the company, but Torvald would not hear of it and fired Krogstad nonetheless. When, finally, Torvald knew about his wife’s secret, he was deeply dismayed and called her a hypocrite and a liar.

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen Summary Example

A Doll’s Play showed that the essence of a woman is found in the intricacies of her role. Nora was not just the little "silly girl" that her husband fondly called her. Because she was smart, she kept her loan in a secret from her husband. She knew that he loved her only for the beauty and she would be useless for him once it is gone. She planned to remind her husband about her sacrifice when he was in poor health when she will be no longer able to delight him. She had visualized that Torvald would accept the blame as a good and protective husband would. Instead, in the end, Nora saw her husband’s selfish concern for his own reputation. Henrik Ibsen presented how marriage always requires honesty and understanding of each other’s needs. A married couple is still composed of two human beings who are not perfect, who may have faults and differences. These differences have to be understood well and accepted by both parties in order for a marriage to work. A woman’s essence as a mother and a wife lies in the sacrifices she voluntarily makes to keep her family. Her roles do not define her. More than anything, a woman’s role strengthens her into discovering herself and her value as a woman.

Additional Analysis of A Doll’s House Themes

The play A Doll’s House tells the stories of several couples struggling with their love life. The main story is the one between Nora and Torvald who are married to each other. Through them, the author exposes the meaning of true love. The two characters love each other a lot, but unfortunately, tradition overrides this love. However, Mrs. Linde and her husband form a relationship in which there is no love, but rather a dictate of financial security. At the end of the play, the audience is left to decide whether true love exists in marriage. The paper seeks to investigate whether there is love in marriage by examining the themes of marriage, friendship, and gender inequality and their implications in the play.

The Theme of Marriage

The theme of marriage is of utmost importance in the play. The author seeks to unveil the answers as to whether love exists in a marriage. The marriage between Torvald and Nora reflects this struggle. The author shows that love, at first sight, disappears when couples decide to settle down and get married. For example, the marital relationship between Torvald and Nora is defined by great happiness in the beginning. However, the joy is only short-lived. The author demonstrates the couple’s relationship to be very compassionate and one in which the husband and wife respect each other (Noorbakhsh and Torkamaneh 40). It is for this reason that they keep on referring to each other using very sweet names and sometimes even using pet names. The family, therefore, represents a perfect marital relationship based on love.

Mrs. Linde and Krogstad, on the other hand, represent the theme of an unhappy marital relationship (Noorbakhsh and Torkamaneh 40). The couple’s relationship is founded on necessity rather than love, something which has made them miserable in their marriage. One fascinating thing about the marriage between Nora and Torvald is the fact that despite being cemented on the foundation of love it is dictated by the traditional societal rules that define the roles of couples in a marriage. In this relationship the society expects the woman to obey the man and, in return, for the man to act responsibly and provide for the family. The family decisions lie in the hands of the husband and, therefore, the wife is expected to be submissive and respect the husbands’ decisions.

Further, the marriage experienced by Nora and Torvald shows that as much as the society hates the disrespect of the laws of marriage, it may be necessary to break them for the sake of one of the spouses. The family had acted obediently and respected the customs and laws of marriage, but Nora, later on, hints to Mrs. Linde that she had acquired some money behind the back of her husband, but that the money was intended to be used for his benefit. In this situation, Nora has disrespected the traditional laws of marriage which call for obedience and respect of the husband, but, on the other hand, she saved the husband from shame and rescued him (Noorbakhsh and Torkamaneh 33). While many traditionalists are against the act, it shows how much Nora loves and appreciates her husband. While cases of disrespecting the husband are severely punished and shamed, Nora never developed any fear because she knew she would not be blamed for the act if the society found out and she was also quite certain that her husband would protect her from any harm by taking the blame on her behalf.

Nora’s act of borrowing money for the purpose of saving her husband is a lovely and admirable action, but her husband is not ready to make sacrifices for her sake. Torvald cares too much for his reputation which is a common trait most traditional men share because of their customs and beliefs. It, therefore, means that there is no love in a marriage and that the institution of marriage is governed by laws. For Nora, however, love for her husband is important and potent in her heart. She believes that the husband would love her back too in the same way, which eventually turns out not to be true (Noorbakhsh and Torkamaneh 41). While Nora ends up disillusioned about her marriage due to the conflict between her love and the society’s customs, Mrs. Linde and Krogstad’s marriage is quite different. In this marriage, Krogstad does not care about his reputation, but rather acknowledges his wife as a source of the recognition of his integrity. To this extent, it seems that there is no love in marriage.

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The Theme of Friendship

The theme of friendship is manifested in both the relationship between the friends and the lovers in the play. One such story of friendship is depicted between Nora and Dr. Rank. The friendship is strengthened by the fact that Dr. Rank visits Nora every day (Fabienne 84). The fact that Nora is married doesn’t seem to be an obstacle to the friendship between the two. Dr. Rank is unmarried, and this situation has made him lonely and in need of friends to talk to. He is also stressed by the illnesses he suffers from, which he believes have been inherited from his parents. During his last moments, while suffering from a terminal disease, his only hope was that either Norah or her husband would visit him (Fabienne 84). The story of Dr. Rank and Norah showcases the importance of friendship versus that of a marriage. Nora never chose to abuse Dr. Rank even when she knew he loved her while she was married. The friendship was very pure and, despite this, Nora loved her husband, Dr. Torvald, with all her heart.

Secondly, while Torvald and Nora are married, a theme of friendship also arises. In this case, what we learn is that when lovers are friends they will always make sacrifices for the sake of each other. Norah, for example, had to take out a loan to use for building the house in order to stay with her husband, despite knowing the consequences for a woman doing this within the community (Fabienne 85). Inasmuch as the action was an insult to culture and tradition as well as a show of disobedience to the husband, it was done purely with the intention of saving Torvald. Nora, therefore, exercised true friendship towards her husband as she was willing to sacrifice and also take any risk for the best interests of her husband.

Another expression of the theme of friendship is the relationship between Mrs. Linde and Nora. The two characters are old and true friends. Their friendship makes us understand that there is a need for honesty and transparency necessary to be able to face problems together. For example, Nora goes to her friend Mrs. Linde and explains how she took out a loan for the sake of building a house and covering the shame of her husband (Fabienne 87). As a good friend and one who believes in traditions, Mrs. Linde decides to keep the secret, but it is not long till she reveals the situation to Nora’s husband.

While this action seems like a betrayal of friendship between Nora and Mrs. Linde, it, however, turns out to be beneficial to Nora (Fabienne 87). At last, Nora realizes that her husband does not love her the way she loves him. If it were not for Mrs. Linde's action of exposing the issue, Nora would never have known whether her husband had a true love for her. Mrs. Linde was a true friend to Nora and the husband, and that’s why she let honesty prevail over lies and saved the marriage of her friend from deceit. It may, therefore, seem that there is no true friendship because of the betrayal witnessed, especially in the case of friendship between Mrs. Linde and Nora.

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The Theme of Gender Equality

The theme of gender equality also plays a center stage in the play. The need to strike a balance in a marital relationship, for example, supports this theme. The play addresses the imbalance created by the society between the men and women through the definition of their roles. For instance, the author explores a situation where women seem to be insubordinate to the society’s rules. The story of Nora in the play is one that gives power to such a scenario. Nora is treated as a child by the majority of the actors who call her all sorts of funny and undermining names. Torvald, for example, refers to her as his “property” and goes even further to refer to her as a “pet.” (Michael 20) He also states that Nora cannot be trusted with money because she is not responsible. In this case, the author indicates that women are treated with prejudice simply because of their sex. Despite all these, Nora vows to always respect and obey her husband no matter the titles he gives to her (Michael 20). It is quite clear that Nora is expected to withstand the treatment because she is a woman. Otherwise, Nora detests the treatment. One of the incidences reflecting this is when she had borrowed money to finance her trip to Italy. This proves Nora’s ability to manage money on her own, which makes her feel like a man.

The desire for independence as a lady in equal stature with men manifests towards the end of the play where Nora discovers and argues that the manner in which she is being treated does not give her the chance to live a life of her dreams (Michael 22). She, therefore, admires the life that men live and the privileges that come with being a man. From this, we can deduce that the culture and law of various communities equate women to children and prevent them from realizing their full potential as human beings. The life led by Krogstad and Torvald, however, reflects another perception about the bitterness of the life led by men as compared to their wives and other women around them. For example, unlike women, men are motivated by the drive to acquire high status in society and provide for their families. The man has to work on behalf of his family to ensure that the family lives a comfortable life (Michael 25). In this journey, men value respect more than any other thing.

For example, in the case of Nora borrowing money for a trip to Italy, Torvald was left more worried about his reputation as it portrayed him as a lazy man who had failed in the provision of his family’s needs. The author also recognizes the fact that power belongs to men and that they will do anything within their capacity to gain power, unlike the women who are led and controlled. Krogstad, for example, admires the position held by Torvald as the head of a bank and hopes that one day he would be able to take over Torvalds position in the running of the bank.

In a nutshell, the position of a woman in society is domestic as opposed to being public. They are treated with less seriousness as compared to their male counterparts, and it is for this reason that Torvald and Krogstad repeatedly refer to Nora as a child. It may, however, seem that inequality does not only hurt women but men as well. The story of Mrs. Linde and Krogstad represent this, as Mrs. Linde chastises him for failing to provide for the family.

Play A Doll’s House Conclusion

In conclusion, the play A Doll’s House exposes several scenarios connected to the themes of marriage, friendship, and gender equality. The marriage set up portrayed in the play is one that is dictated by the traditional family roles with the husband depicted as the final decision-maker. The wife, on the other hand, is expected to be respectful and obedient to the husband. Unfortunately, the creation of these roles gives men more powers than women, leading to a lot of gender inequalities. Nora, for example, is looked upon as childish and incapable of making a decision by her husband. The husband, however, also has the onus of providing for the family, and that’s why Mrs. Linde decides to live independently because her husband is incapable of providing for her. The play also exposes a theme of friendship where sacrifice and honesty are deemed essential to true friendship. It, however, remains debatable whether true friendship exists, whether gender inequality is only hurtful to men and whether love can exist in marriage.

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