What happens when reality intersects with fiction? You get a product such as A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen. A big theme in A Doll’s House is gender roles in society.
Below, you’ll find my thoughts on A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, a book that is till relevant today.
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Initial Thoughts About A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
First published in 1879, A Doll’s House is loosely related to the story of Laura Kieler. Laura, a friend of Ibsen, related her story to his wife and when he found out, he advised her to inform her husband of her plight. So when Ibsen started to write A Doll’s House, he already new what the outcome was to Laura’s story, but he changed the ending of his play.
To place things in context, this was the 19th century and women didn’t enjoy the rights they do now. Their husbands were king and they couldn’t borrow money without their husbands’ consent.
What is A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen About?
The main character in the play is Nora Helmer and her husband Torvald Helmer is critically ill. The doctor tells her that Torvald will not survive unless he is taken to a more temperate climate to heal. The husband doesn’t believe in going into debt.
She loves her husband and feels like she has no choice but to borrow the money, so that they can go away. Nora gets the money from what we might call today a loan shark, Nils Krogstad. A stipulation of the loan is that she has to get her father’s signature.
At the same time that her husband is critically ill, her father is essentially on his death bed. Nora doesn’t want to bother him with her plight, so she forges her father’s signature. At the time, all she was thinking about was the welfare of those she loves. She tells Torvald that she got the money to go on the trip from her dad, and he believes her. Why wouldn’t he believe her, after all she is his doll wife.
Fast forward, their financial situation will be improved substantially very shortly because Torvald has been appointed manager of a bank. Nora’s childhood friend Christina Linden comes to visit her. They spend quite some time talking, but Nora often monopolizes the conversation, and she comes across indulgent and vain. Christina is penniless, her husband died and left her to fend for herself. She is also accustomed to taking care of others – mother and younger brothers. Her mother has died, and her brothers can now take care of themselves.
Christina has to find employment, and she doesn’t have many choices because she is a woman, but she is allowed to work because she is widowed. She learns of Nora’s new circumstances, so she wants her to ask Torvald for a bank job on her behalf.
The play is very well written with many intricate twists and turns. It so happens that Nils works at the same bank as Torvald, and he decides that he is going to dismiss him. In a desperate act, Nils decides to blackmail Nora. He tells her to make sure that her husband doesn’t dismiss him else he will tell Torvald about the forgery. Nora isn’t able to convince Torvald and he learns about the loan and the forgery.
He loses “it”, disparages her, and tells her she has her father’s bad qualities and not fit to raise their three children. He tells her that to avoid a scandal, she can continue to live in the family home. Shortly after, he opens a second letter from Nils, who has now had a change of heart and returns Nora’s IOU, and decides not to take action. He has found the love of a good woman, Christina, who brings out the best in him.
Torvald changes his tune, and once again Nora is his doll wife. Unfortunately it’s too late and the play ends with her leaving him and the three children. Despite that, one of those twists in the story leaves him feeling hopeful.
A Doll’s House 1973 Anthony Hopkins, Based on the Ibsen Play
Final Thoughts on A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
Women have come very far since 1879, but there are still many critical lessons to learn from A Doll’s House, which I recommend. I’ll leave you with the following three questions.
- Are your personal and professional relationships built on a strong foundation? Can they weather the test of time?
- How far would you go to protect the ones you love?
- Do you put the people close to you on a pedestal and worship them like an idol?
Center Players Presents: A Doll’s House – Full Play
Books by Henrik Ibsen
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