English Comp. II
A Marriage Like No Other
In the realist drama “A Doll House” by Henrick Ibsen. The dramatic tension on the play is heightened through Ibsen’s idea of the play and the sensational introduction at the beginning of each act. Ibsen provides dramatic conventions to expose the flawed value system of the family, regarding the institutions of marriage, prejudice gender roles and personal integrity.
Ibsen mocks the stifling moral climate of the family in conditioning an individual’s identity in the pursuit for self-determinism. The imposition of controlling gender roles are brought to life through the doll house metaphor, revealing the entrapment of the family. Metaphorically, the doll house is a moral safeguard for values of social determinism, which Ibsen exposes the limitations of external forces in conditioning Nora’s existence as a doll. Nora’s objectification is enforced through Torvald’s nicknames, “my songbird”, “lark” and “squirrel”. While Torvalds use of “my” implies Torvald’s ownership of Nora in their superficial marriage. At the same time Torvald’s strict adherence to male-controlled principles, limits his capacity to empathize with Nora’s cry for freedom. Essentially, Henrick successfully adopts the doll house metaphor to attack the mores of patriarchy, which forces Nora to compromise her identity and freedom to rigid social ideologies.
Ibsen’s rich exploration of the family, inevitably results in Nora’s separation from her doll metaphor. Kristine and Krogstad function as compounds for Nora’s transformation, through illuminating the truth of the Helmer marriage, “no more lies, tricks… they must understand each other”. According to Amy Grant, “Every good relationship, especially marriage, is based on respect. If it’s not based on respect, nothing that appears to be good will last very long”. Nora and Torvalds marriage is nothing like this, he controls everything that goes on while Krogstad inductees the catastrophic force of the play through his expressive letter in Act 2. Ibsen establishes the combination of the genuine relationship of Krogstad and Kristine to the tastelessness relationship the Helmers’ have in their marriage, convincing Nora to excel the limitations of the family.
The dramatic irony of the Tarantella dance “anyone’d think your life depended on this dance” and Nora’s statement “31 hours to live” foreshadows the impending death of Nora’s doll metaphor. This is further accentuated through Finney’s statement of Nora’s cry for emancipation from the Tarantella dance, evident in “she returns from her frenzied state, back to the role of a wife and mother, only as a springboard from which to emancipate herself.” Moreover, Nora evolves from a doll identity in Act 1, to an awakened woman in Act 3. Her transformation demolishes the artificial foundations of the doll house, revealing the harsh winter landscape, portraying reality.
Ibsen’s well-made play is evident in the final scene of the play, where Nora “slams the door” and leaves the audience with a climactic ending. Nora’s first appearance connotes her disempowerment in the family lifestyle, which is then contrasted to the final scene, where she puts on the cloak and turns on the lights. The illumination of the truth compels Nora to remove herself from the deception of the door house, abandoning the union of her shallow marriage and burden of motherhood. Nora is very unrecognizable by the end of Act 3, as Ibsen courageously abandons the doll metaphor, thus giving her a voice and the courage to stand up for herself. Nora and Torvalds marriage was toxic, they are better off alone.