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Rebellion of Nora and Mrs. Linde in A Doll's House
An underlying theme in Ibsen's play, A Doll's House is the rebellion of Nora and Mrs. Linde against society. Over the course of the play, Nora and Mrs. Linde both experienced an evolution from passive victims in a life pre-programmed for them by society to active agents in an uncertain and insecure life.
In an effort to save her husband's life, Nora has committed forgery and Krogstad is ready to use this information in order achieve his goals: ''(...) if I produce this document in court, you'll be condemned'' (Ibsen 791). This element gives us a hint of women condition in a deeply- rooted man thought society. In addition, Dr. Rank, who had a lethal disease, confesses his love for her: ''You know now that I'm at your service, body and soul'' (Ibsen 802). All these events make the circle tighten and spin faster around Nora, who can hardly resist to this pressure and seeks the relief in wildly dancing the 'tarantella', a dance which she transforms into a ' life and death' one.
This dance can also be viewed as an one of the key element that permits us to say that she's passing from a state of passive victim to an early state of active agent : '' Nora dances more and more wildly. Helmer stands by the stove giving her repeated directions as she dances ; she does not seem to hear them. ''(Ibsen 808). All the other characters' reactions, words and attitudes form the chain which unbearably surrounds Nora and which she will finally break, liberating herself from the lie she has been living in for many years-she firmly tells Helmer her decision : '' I can't stay here with you any longer (...). I'm leaving here at once''(Ibsen 821). In addition to this intimate inter-independence between Nora and the other four important characters viewed as a whole), is the complexity of Helmer's wife as a dramatic personage. Compared to the others, Nora is the most ' round' character, one who we see evolving, in contrast with Helmer or Dr. Rank. More precisely, we discover two forms of evolution of this character :
1.an 'external' one, produced in the reader's mind, as he discovers the purpose of her always asking money to the husband and having a 'toy attitude' with him ;
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2. and the second evolution, more profound, which implies the inner transformation of the character, tired of representing someone's toy and desiring independence.
The beginning of the play presents us a 'squirrel-like' (Ibsen 775) woman, always wanting to please her husband in order to get money from him. She voluntarily accepts Helmer comparing her with a little animal and even seems to identify with this image : '' Ah, if you only knew how many expenses the likes us sky-larks and squirrels have, Torvald''(Ibsen 777). Nora appears completely submitted to her husband, ready to accept whatever he would say or do : '' I would never dream of doing anything you didn't want me to.''(Ibsen 777) in order to satisfy her ( apparent) only preoccupation : '' You could always give me money, Torvald'' (Ibsen 776). The fog and confusion wich surrounded her and her attitude begin gradually to disappear as we find out that she had borrowed money to save Helmer's life and she saves almost every penny her husband gives her in order topay the debt off. This stage of Nora's 'external' evolution enables us to see a woman who deeply loves her husband, but who is not strong enough to fight against his prejudices : '' Torvald is a man with a great deal of pride- it would be terribly embarrassing and humiliating for him if he thought he owed anything to me''.(Ibsen 782) Moreover, she prefers fancying about a rich man who would give her the money she needs( a psychological escape from the constraints she lives in) than facing her husband.
The two evolutions begin to coincide from the moment when Krogstad threatens Nora with telling Helmer that she has committed forgery. We 'feel' that something begins to change when contradictory feelings 'invade' her- love for the children, for the husband, and the desire to commit suicide : ''(...) never see the children again(...)Oh, that black icy water. Oh, that bottomless... (Ibsen 817)! On the other hand, she would do almost anything in order to regain her old lifestyle (that of a 'doll' who passed from the father's hands into that of the husband's). The transformation seems to end with the firm decision to throw herself into the water after Helmer would have found out the hidden truth : ''Now you must read your letters, Torvald'' (Ibsen 816). But it will not come to an end until Nora really 'discovers' her husband : '' Miserable woman... what is this you have done ?(...)Do you understand what you have done ''(Ibsen 817)? contrasting with his reaction after finding that Krogstad has sent them back the 'IOU' : '' Helmer :I am saved ! Nora, I am saved ! Nora : And me ? Helmer : You too, of course... '' (Ibsen 818). From this moment, we assist to an incredible change from the submitted wife to the firm, decided Nora, who has the courage to leave her husband and children in quest of independence. Having dealt with Nora and Mrs. Linde's attitudes and their relations with the other characters, we now turn to the author's 'relation' with his main characters :'women'.
Being a drama, 'A Doll's House' has only the dialogues and the characters' actions to reveal their emotions to the reader. Therefore Ibsen places Nora for the most part of the play in the center of the action ( she appears in all scenes except for the discussion between Krogstad and Mrs. Linde) and eliminates any dialogue or event that would not have contributed to her evolution from passive victim to active agent of her life, and would not have been an argument for his thesis. We have the conviction that Nora not only represents a form of protest against women's very limited rights in the 19th Century : ''Helmer : But nobody scarifies his honor for the one she loves Nora : Hundreds and thousands of women have''.(Ibsen 823), but also becomes an 'instrument' in Ibsen's hands, an 'instrument' for pleading in favor of personal freedom and individuals' liberty to choose their destiny in becoming a social responsible agent. The materialization of this idea, in terms of liberation of the main character (women), comes naturally after we have discovered the constraints surrounding Nora, especially coming from her husband '' I wouldn't find a woman doubly attractive for being so obviously helpless.(...) It's as though it made her his property in a double sense : he has, as it were, given her a new life, and she becomes in a way both his wife and at the same time his child''.(Ibsen 823)
For having demonstrated that Women in Ibsen's 'A Doll's House ' were very consistent and complex characters of the play and that they become the weapon that Ibsen uses for expressing his convictions, I clearly hope having achieved the goal of this paper. That is to point out that Nora and Mrs. Linde both experienced an evolution from passive victims in a life devoid of any rights for them to active agents in a life somewhat difficult for the adversities that a woman, who wants to claim her rights to live her life as she think best, has to face . Ibsen's 'A Doll's House' is in some extent a hymn for sexual equality that Society should one day achieve.
Works Cited :
Ibsen, Henrik. 'A Doll's House'. Literature for Composition.Ed. Sylvan Barnet 5th ed. New York : Longman, 2000.774-824.