Essay on Investigation of Power in Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’

Essay on Investigation of Power in Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’

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Investigation of Power in Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’

Nora Helmer is introduced in Act I as a character subjugated to the
wills and desires of her husband; she is merely an object which
Torvald, possesses. At the conclusion of Act III however, she has
become sufficiently independent to arrive at her decision to leave the
children, her husband and what life she had behind, as she slams the
door on the family home. A significant transition of power has
occurred and this is one of the major themes that Ibsen raises in his
dramatic text ‘A Doll’s House.’ However, in examining the underlying
issue of power presented by the text, one cannot simply look at the
plight of Nora’s character, three major aspects of this theme need
also to be considered. They are the demonstration of power at home,
the power and control of society over the actions of Ibsen’s
characters and finally the causes and effects in the shift of power to

From very early on in the text, in fact from Helmer’s first line, we
are introduced to an obvious imbalance of power present in the
domestic setting. “Is that my little songbird piping away out there?”
The manner in which Torvald talks down to his wife and the apparent,
unopposed acceptance of this by his wife, is evidence that, at least
initially, power firmly rests in the grip of Nora’s husband. Nora’s
language is full of indefinite, qualitative statements, demonstrated
especially when talking about Torvald's salary, however, when Torvald
speaks he uses many imperatives and speaks to her in the 3rd person.
The difference in each characters’ use of language is a
personification of the power they have in their relationship. While
Nora uses general descriptors indicating a lack of finite knowledge
Torvald delivers commands in a belittling way, a constant affirmation
to his wife (and himself) that he is the man of the house, and
therefore, he believes, entitled to control.

Ibsen further demonstrates this through Nora’s desire to have some
pennies, some financial power of her own. It is made clear in this
conversation that Torvald has power over the household assets and
through his reluctance to give Nora any money of her own and his
disparaging explanation as to why, Ibsen further sets up the imbalance
in power. However not all of the opening act focuses on Nora’s
subservience, for example, the device of...

... middle of paper ...

...on, a toy doll
which he is able to show off at party’s to the admiration of fellow
members of powerful society, ‘curtsy here curtsy there – and the
vision of loveliness was gone as they say in fairy tales.’ However
when this ‘possession’ of his shows any sign of independence and when
he realises the consequences of her leaving, he is forced to make a
series of desperate appeals to Nora’s religion, morals and marital
duty in order to attempt to persuade her to stay.

The theme of power is a central issue in Ibsens ‘A Doll’s House.’
Through the presentation of power in the home, the power of society
and the transition of control between characters Ibsen is able to
create a commentary on the rights and values of a society devoid of
many gender equalities that are present today. The change in Nora,
from being under the power of Krogstad and Helmer to eventually
leaving the house and the children was a ground breaking power shift
to portray in the social setting of late 1880’s and it is due to this
radical shake up in the community’s view on the power of independence
that ‘A Doll’s House’ became arguable the most significant piece of
Scandinavian theatre of all time.

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