In 1973, director Joseph Losey brought Henrik Ibsen's magnificent play, A Doll's House, to the screen with Jane Fonda as Nora Helmer, a woman who is mentally and physically abused by her husband, Torvald (David Warner). Nora lives during a time when women are accustomed to submissive relationships.
Nora has no individuality or independence in her own home. Torvald expects her to be the perfect silent wife. Nora's situation would set the perfect platform to speak about women's issues. This film and literature combination would be a wonderful learning tool for women in abusive relationships today.
By nature, the woman is the weaker sex. Men and women differ in many ways but mainly in physical and emotional structure. A woman is much more likely to be suppressed by a man because of these two factors.
There are still too many men today that see their wives as "dolls." Traditionally, men work, and women cook and clean. In today's society, this job label is offensive to many women, and rightfully so. Women are capable of going to school and attaining goals that were unattainable years ago.
There is nothing degrading about doing housework or being a housewife. The problem occurs when men see women as unequal. It is at that point that the abuse starts. Many people have misconceptions about what abuse entails. It can be defined in different ways: wrong or harsh treatment, insulting language, and misuse.
Typically, when the word "abuse" is used in the context of relationships, many immediately think physical abuse is occurring. People tend to overlook language as an abusive act. The definition of misuse, in the word abuse, can be associated with A Doll's House.
Torvald definitely misused his little doll. He tortured her until she was almost broken. So many battered women today should take the same stand that Nora did. There are so many women today with porcelain faces. They might have nice makeup and beautiful things, but they are not happy.
Mothers would argue that Nora was a terrible person for leaving her children. In reality, she would have been doing them a greater injustice by staying with Torvald. She would have taught her children by example that abuse was acceptable. Her boys would have probably suppressed their wives, and her girls would have been submissive. Even though Nora's children might have held some resentment toward her, they were probably more independent as adults.
It is a shame that any child has to be witness to an abusive relationship, but so many learn to overcome what they have witnessed as a child. In many cases, children that were abused make wonderful parents. Adult women who are experiencing abuse need to have the same attitude.
It is much easier to make judgments about women in abusive relationships. It is hard to understand why so many lack the courage that Nora possesses. Much of it can be blamed on the emotional state of women. Success to some is getting married and having children. It makes some women very happy to pick up after their husbands and cook them dinner. Women get so emotionally attached to things that, when something does not go right, they feel like failures.
Some of this is simply the nature of being motherly. Women want to be able to fix things that are broken. Nora realized that her home could not be rebuilt. Women tend to forget their true identity and let their husbands and children create it for them.
I think that most women would react in a positive way to Ibsen's message. I think that their greatest fear would be leaving their children as Nora did. As I presented my case, I would not encourage the women to leave their children. In many situations, it is not appropriate to walk out on an entire family.
I would encourage women to be strong and believe in themselves. Too many women are representative of the doll-like wife. I think that Nora's example would encourage them to stand up to their husbands, before they are broken.