Henrik Ibsen is reckoned as the father of modern prose drama. At 25 he wrote his fist play and it can be the influence of the theatres he was working in Bergen, Norway, Since his father’s business went bankrupt , he was forced to take up a job early in life. He went on to write many plays but they were all verse plays. His famous plays were Peer Gynt, Brand and A Doll House. It was only A Doll House that was made into a prose form. A Doll’s House is also another way this drama is titled but the correct translation of the Norwegian title “Et dukkehjem” is “A Doll House”.
The three-act play was premiered in Copenhagen at the Royal theatre on December 21st in the year 1879. It brought in a lot of criticism because the play went against the existing norms of society regarding marriage. It is said that Ibsen appreciated his wife’s individuality and gave her the freedom to do what she wanted. This also drew flak from the people. A Doll House is also based on a true life incident in the life of Laura Kieler. Laura got a loan to save her husband and he is angered when he knows it and sends her to an asylum. She eventually is called back and she became a famous writer herself. Ibsen could not save that marriage at the crucial point and it was his tribute to his friend Laura that came as A Doll House.
A Doll House is considered to be a voice for the feminist movement but Henrik Ibsen did not make any such claims. He merely said that he felt that individuality of people, be it a man or woman, should not be suppressed. Of the three acts the first one is the most lengthiest and it is towards the end of that act that we realize that Nora is not bird brained girl as she depicted and that she had done a lot to save her husband from his illness. The scene opens with Nora coming back from Christmas shopping and has spent more than she should have and is playfully chided by her husband Torvald Helmer. Helmer is so much in love with his wife and uses endearments like “my little squirrel”, “my little skylark”. Even when disapproving her spending ways he calls her “my little spendthrift”.
Turn Of Events
All is well and Nora is happy till her friend Christine Linde walks into her house. She is happy to see her friend after a long time and soon she is sharing a secret that was well kept. When Helmer was ill she borrowed money from an admirer and has been working hard to repay that loan. Helmer is made to believe that her father had given the loan so that his male ego is not bruised. He would never accept that his wife had borrowed money and was doing odd jobs to repay it. He thinks she was working to make that extra income to live life lavishly. Christine is let into her secret.
Christine comes to Nora seeking help, asking for a job. And as her husband was to become the manager of a bank soon, she asks him to give her a post which he is about to consider. Here walks in Nils Krogstad whose sight unsettles Nora. We and Christine soon realize it is this man who had lent money to Nora and he was working in the same bank where Helmer was going to join. Not just that, Helmer had got his dismissal order ready because Krogstad had forged signatures and was also involved in many other immoral activities. He had decided to give that job to Christine.
The Truth Is Exposed
Krogstad comes back into Nora’s life to tell her that he would expose her to Helmer if she did not plead his case and bring him back to his job. His trump card was that Nora had forged her father’s signatures in the bond. Then the play moves on the agony Nora goes through. Despite all her pleading Helmer refuses to accept her request and Krogstad puts the letter with all the details in the letter box. Meanwhile we get to know that Christine and Krogstad were lovers but did not marry and Christine promised Nora that she will ask Krogstad to take back the letter. It does not happen; not because Krogstad does not listen to her but because Christine wants the truth to be exposed to Helmer. She does this out of love for Nora for she realizes that Nora has been suffering great mental agony because of the secrecy.
When Helmer gets to read the letter he is shocked and scolds her in words that he would have never uttered in all the eight years of their marriage. He calls her a hypocrite, liar and criminal. She hears all this silently. Then a letter arrives which has the bond Nora had forged her father’s signature and the letter also stated that Krogstad did not want the job for he had found happiness now that Christine had come back to him. At that instant Helmer is all his sweet self and goes back using all the endearments that he had used earlier. This comes as a revealing shock to Nora.
The Revelation That Hits Nora
Nora realizes that he was relieved that his reputation in the bank was saved and not that Nora was saved from defamation. She sadly realizes that she was merely a doll in his hands and she then breaks free and walks out on him, even not considering that the children would become mother less. She suddenly realizes that her individuality is more important. There was no love in the marriage but it was a doll play; all her life. For her father she was a doll child doing all that he wanted and after marriage she was the doll wife living up to Helmer’s whims and fancies and she had to be satisfied with the little pleasure crumbs given to her.
Along with these characters there is Dr. Rank who professes his love towards the end but his character does not affect the main plot very strongly. Then there are minor characters like the maid, nurse and children. The last act makes Nora a woman of substance and in the modern times her act will be easily accepted but in the late nineteenth century it must have been blasphemous.