Torvald and Nora in in Ibsen's A Doll's House

Torvald and Nora in in Ibsen's A Doll's House

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The Character of Torvald and Nora in A Doll's House

In Ibsen's "A Doll's House", there are many clues that hint at the kind of marriage Nora and Torvald have. It seems that Nora is a type of doll that is controlled by Torvald. Nora is completely dependent on Torvald.  His thoughts and movements are her thoughts and movements.  Nora is a puppet who is dependent on its puppet master for all of its actions.

      The most obvious example of Torvald's physical control over Nora can be seen in his teaching of the tarantella. Nora pretends that she needs Torvald to teach her every move in order to relearn the dance. The reader knows that this is an act, but it still shows her complete submissiveness to Torvald. After he teaches her the dance, he proclaims:

          Torvald.  ...When you were dancing the tarantella,              

                 chasing, inviting--my blood was on fire;   

                 I couldn't stand it any longer--thats

                 why I brought you down so early--

          Nora.  Leave me now, Torvald.  Please!  I don't want all this.

          Torvald.  What do you mean?  You're only playing

                    your little teasing bird game with me;

                    aren't you, Nora?  Don't want to?  I'm

                    your husband, aren't I?  (Isben 447)

This shows that Torvald is more interested in Nora physically than emotionally.  He feels that it is one of Nora's main duties as his wife to physically pleasure him at his command.

     Torvald is not only demanding mentally and physically, but also financially.  He does not trust Nora with money. He feels that she is incapable and too immature to handle a matter of such importance.  Torvald sees Nora as a child. She is forever his little "sparrow" or "squirrel".  On the rare occasion that Torvald does give Nora some money, he worries that she will waste it on candy, pastry or something else of Childish and useless value.  Nora's duties, in general, are restricted to caring for the children, doing housework, and working on her needlepoint.  But overall, Nora's most important responsibility is to please Torvald. This makes her role similar to that of a slave.

     The problem in "A Doll's House" does not lie with Torvald alone.  Though he does not help the situation, he is a product of his society.  In his society, females were confined in every way imaginable.

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  Everything they did had to have their husband's approval, whether it delt with money, business, or anything else of significance.  At times, they could not even speak their true thoughts or feelings without a harsh reprimanding.  In this society, wives were to be seen and not heard.

     Throughout the the drama, Nora keeps referring to "the wonderful."  This "wonderful" is what Nora expects to happen after Krogstad reveals the truth of her forgery(a greatly forbidden crime in this era).  She expects Torvald to stick up for her and offer to take the blame for the crime upon himself.  She feels that this will be the true test of his love and devotion.  But Torvald does not offer to help Nora, in fact, he belittles her:

          Torvald.  You mave ruined all my happiness.  My

                    whole future--that's what you have

                    destroyed.  Oh, it's terrible to think

                    about.  I am at the mercy of an

                    unscrupulous man.  He can do with me

                    whatever he likes, demand anything of

                    me, command me and dispose of me just as

                    he pleases--I dare not say a word!  To

                    go down so miserably, to be destroyed--

                    all because of an irresponsible!  (Isben 451)

This is where Torvald makes his grave mistake.  Nora realizes that Torvald places both his social and physical appearance ahead of the wife whom he says he loves. This heartbreaking revelation is what finally prompts Nora to walk out on Torvald.  Torvald tries to reconcile with Nora, but she explains to him:

          Nora.  I have waited patiently for eight years,

                 for I wasn't such a fool that I thought

                 the wonderful is something that happens any

                 old day.  Then this--thing--came crashing

                 in on me, and then there wasn't a doubt in

                 my mind that now--now comes the wonderful... 

          Torvald.  Yes, then waht?  When I had surrendered  

                    my wife to shame and disgrace--!

          Nora.  When that happened, I was certain that you                         

                 would stand up and take the blame and say,

                 "I'm the guilty one."

          Torvald.  Nora!

          Nora.  You mean I never would have accepted such

                 a sacrifice from you?  Of course not.  But

                 what would my protests have counted against

                 yours.  That was the wonderful I was hoping

                 for in terror.  And to prevent that I was

                 going to kill myself.  (Isben 456)

Nora has been treated like a child all her life, by both Torvald and her father.  Both male superiority figures not only denied her the right to think and act the way she wished, but they also placed a limit on her happiness. Nora describes her feelings as "always merry, never happy"(Isben ).  When Nora finally slams the door and leaves, she is not only slamming it on Torvald, but also on everything else that has happened in her past which curtailed her growth into a mature woman.

     In today's society, many women are in a situation similar to Nora's. Although many people have accepted women as being equal, there are still those in modern America who are doing their best to suppress the feminist revolution. Torvald is an example of men who are only interested in their appearance and the amount of control they have over a person.  These our the men that are holding society down by not caring about the feelings of others.  But Torvald is not the only guilty party.  Nora, although very submissive, is also very manipulative.  She makes Torvald think he is much smarter and stronger, but in reality, she thinks herself to be quite crafty as far as getting what she wants.  However, when the door is slammed, Torvald is no longer exposed to Nora's manipulative nature.  He then comes to the realization of what true love and equality are, and that they cannot be achieved with people like Nora and himself together.  When everyone finally views males and females as equals, and when neither men nor women overuse their power of gender that society gives them, is when true equality will exist in the world.
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