Actions Lead to Omission of a Happy Ending

         A Doll’s House is the perfect film when I think of the basic human concept of “A happy ending.” The play, written by Henrik Ibsen in 1879, was well written, as was Joseph Losey’s film, directed in 1973. The main character in A Doll’s House was Nora Helmer (Jane Fonda). Nora’s character was brilliant and acted very well. Nora is a very independent lady who is smart and knowledgeable but also enjoys nice material things. The play was well portrayed throughout, and the ending left me stunned. The thought of “a happy ending” disappears at the last scene in the film. Throughout the film the viewer can tell how much Nora loves her husband, material things, and her life practically in a fairytale.

         At the end of the play and film Nora decides she no longer wants to live in a doll’s house, and she has wronged her husband and must leave the house. Nora had in fact broken the law by using forgery when she signed her dying father’s name to borrow money to take her sick husband to Italy. During the time in which the play and the film were set, women were not able to make the same decisions as men. Nora, who lived in a masculine society, was being blackmailed throughout the film by Krogstad (Edward Fox), a man who wants to keep his job at the bank with the new bank manager, Nora’s husband, who refuses to hire him because of his past. The man is very insistent about trying to keep the job at the bank with Nora’s husband, making it hard for Nora to be happy in the play and film.

         The actions of Nora were not expected to the viewer. At the beginning of the film the viewer can tell how much Nora enjoys nice macaroons, toys for her children, and rich materials. Nora had signed her father’s name to get money so that she could live the life in Italy she dreamed for her and her husband. Nora committed forgery with her father's name and hid the truth from her husband. Nora’s husband, Torvald, is a banker and strongly believes in obeying the law, making it hard for Nora to tell the truth to her husband. Nora’s secret came back to haunt her.

         Perhaps the actions of Nora are what led the story to such a strange ending. The happy ending the viewer expects throughout the movie was not established; instead Nora was torn to pieces. Nora’s husband had found out about her actions and was angered. Even though her husband knew about her mistake, disagreed, and was angry, he still wanted Nora to stay. Nora decided she could not. Nora felt that she had wronged her family and was no longer capable of raising her children. This film brought me to the question, “Are material things always worth sacrificing happiness, and lying?”

         Giving up one’s children and basically abandoning them was not a normal action during the time period of the play and movie. A mother leaving her children was frowned upon, but Nora felt she had let her family down. Perhaps Nora giving up what had made her happy for so many years was her way of punishing herself.

         The depiction in the last scene is what really tied the movie together. Nora no longer wanted to live in a doll’s house. In the last scene Nora explained her actions, which automatically made the viewer realize what a strong emotional scene it was. Nora explained how she felt she must leave her children. The actions of Nora leave the viewer feeling confused and sad. The omission of “the happy ending” also leaves the viewer feeling sorry for Nora. Nora was a woman of expensive taste, and had broken the law, but loved her husband very much. In the last scene Nora walked out on her husband, Torvald, and family, when realistically this is not what she wanted throughout the movie. Idealistically, the viewer usually believes that everything will work out in the film and end happily.

         I felt Nora’s pain, wants, and emotions in the end, making me feel pity for her and yet happiness for her future at the same time. The ending was not the expected happy ending, but it left me feeling hope for Nora’s future. I truly enjoyed A Doll’s House, and would recommend it to anyone, but be aware: the typical “happy ending” is not what the viewer would think.

Ashley Henderson

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