Breaking the Mold: a Doll House Essay
Breaking the Mold The pressure to conform to an ideal image is a reoccurring theme throughout literature and even in our culture today. In the highly repressive social climate of the Victorian Era, women, much like children, were seen rather than heard. The ideal Victorian woman is hardly descriptive of Nora in Henrik Ibson’s A Doll House. Through careful observation and questioning, Nora recognizes the injustice of the male-dominated society in which she lives.
Nora’s discomposure with as her begin treated as her husband Torvald’s subordinate, her realization of Torvald’s true character, and her desire to educate herself prompt her to become independent. The most important choice that Nora makes is to leave Torvald Helmer, because this choice is facilitates Nora’s personal growth. Nora’s choice to leave Torvald Helmer is influenced by her increasing discontent with his condescending, doll-like treatment of her. Torvald establishes his dominance by calling Nora his “little lark” among other pet names.
Torvald’s authority over Nora requires her to “dress up” in a costume, becoming what Torvald expects her to be. As Torvald’s subordinate, Nora fluidly bends and twists to his needs, conforming to his desires. Although Nora would like to be treated as an equal to Torvald, she knows him well enough to realize that equality is impossible in their marriage. In order for the marriage to function, Nora has to appeal to Torvald’s ego by flattering him to ask for money and rendering herself helpless in accomplishing the simplest tasks such as choosing a dress.
Small acts of disobedience on Nora’s part are the primary indicator of the growing weight of the facade that Torvald imposes on her. Eating macaroons and saying “to hell and be damned” are two ways in which Nora chips at the mold of behavior that Torvald sets for her. Nora’s outgrowing of the costume Torvald idealizes is marked by actions such as Nora’s remark that she would like to “rip it into a million tiny pieces”. Henrik Ibsen repeatedly illustrates Nora’s agitation over Torvald’s static doll-like control, an agitation tangible to the readers from the very beginning.
Nora’s initial discomfort in fitting Torvald’s mold is later a significant influence on Nora’s final choice. Despite Torvald’s outward broadcast of a perfect home, several unresolved issues bubble below the surface. Nora recognizes the fundamental issues that loom in their marriage when she sees Torvald’s reaction to the letter from Krogstad, and her realization encourages her choice to leave. Torvald leads Nora to believe that he is a righteous man through lecturing of Nora on the value of honesty and through promising to be her lifeguard in times of crisis.
Even right before opening the letter, Torvald remarks that he has often wished that Nora was in some terrible danger so that he could stake his life for her sake. Although Torvald tells her that he would take on “the whole weight” should Krogstad take action against the Helmers, Torvald’s reaction when the worst actually does occur is quite the opposite. Torvald is outraged when he discovers that Nora borrowed money from Krogstad, and he accuses her of wrecking his happiness. Nora, who originally borrowed the money to save Torval’s life, is shell-shocked by Torvald’s reaction.
All of his actions prior to this event led her to believe that he would have taken the blame for her, affirming his love for her. In contrast with her expectations, however, Torvald’s immediate concern after reading the letter is saving “the bits, and pieces, the appearance. ” His foremost fear of losing respect in the community is exhibited by his insistence that Nora remain in the household so that it appears nothing has changed. In the midst of Torvald’s panic, a second letter arrives, returning Nora’s bank note.
Just as quickly as Torvald exploded in anger, he rejoices in triumph that he is saved. Nora becomes aware of Torvald’s selfishness when she asks “What about me, am I saved too? ” Her awakening to the Torvald’s priority of the appearance of happiness rather than actual happiness in the Helmer marriage fuels her decision to discover a better life. Torvald’s outburst ignited Nora’s inner flame. Nora’s attempts at small freedoms can be compared to wet matches, whereas her final decision to leave Torvald is similar to a brilliant spark of fire.
Nora’s final motivation for her decision to leave the marriage comes from her realization that in addition to not knowing Torvald, she does not know herself. In leaving Torvald she seeks to educate herself determine if the teachings of religion, law, and society are true. In a sense, Torvald’s response to Nora’s attempt to save him causes Nora to save herself. Upon her realization of Torvald’s true character, Nora tells Torvald that she is “getting out of her costume,” both literally and figuratively paralleling Nora’s exit of the marriage.
Nora fell from the control of her father to the control of Torvald without ever being able to develop her own opinions. Nora breaks free from Torvald’s puppeteer strings with the certainty that she cannot be concerned about her duties to her husband and her children over her duty to herself as a human being. Nora expresses to Torvald that she must develop her own tastes out in the world. In conclusion, Nora’s exit can be attributed to her discontent in Torvald’s mold, her realization that Torvald was not the person she though he was, and her desire to become her own person.
Minor rebellions indicate Nora tolerates Torvald’s parental treatment but is clearly not fulfilled living according to someone else’s rules. When Nora sees Torvald’s reaction to the letter from Krogstad, she realizes that Torvald only cares about the masquerade, or how things make him appear. The appearance is all Nora has ever known with Torvald, and her critical decision to leave is reinforced by her desire to cultivate a person behind the appearance. These powerful motivators enabled Nora to slam the door behind her, rejecting the preconceived notions of society and developing new voice all her own.