Who Is the Doll Anyway?

         The 1973 film A Doll's House directed by Joseph Losey is a challenging film about abuse and male domination over the female. Or so it seems. Throughout the movie, we are constantly bombarded by dialogues and actions on the part of Torvald (played by actor David Warner) designed to make the viewer believe that Nora (depicted by Jane Fonda) is a victim in her own household. But if we look at the story between Nora and Torvald, it becomes apparent that their marriage was probably doomed from the beginning, and Nora, in fact, is not the true victim.

         Any marriage that begins with dishonesty is obviously going to have some problems. Nora's character from the very beginning seems to be self-absorbed and materialistic. When we see her character again several years later she seems just as materialistic than ever as she bustles around the town where she and Torvald live, spending her husband's money as though it is nothing. It is made known that several years earlier Nora had secretly borrowed money, while forging her dead father's signature, for an expensive trip to Italy because her husband was ill. While we do learn later in the story that she has been secretly saving money to pay back the loan she took out to pay for a family trip to Europe, her character does not come across as one who would be able to save money.

         Later, after Torvald learns of her deception concerning the loan and explodes, Nora accuses him of treating her a little doll for him to play with and then leaves him. The idea behind her actions is supposed to portray Nora as a forward-thinking woman. But if she is so forward thinking, she has not learned very much from the treatment she has received from Torvald. If she is Torvald's doll, then their small children are Nora's dolls.

         Whenever the children are in the room, Nora dotes over them, exclaiming things like, "Look how precious they are!" much as a small child might delight over a doll. But beyond her delighted expressions of her admiration for them, there is no apparent relationship between Nora and her children.

         For such a forward-thinking woman, one would think that she would have learned better lessons than she has done from Torvald's demeaning treatment of her. Instead, Ibsen's heroic Nora does nothing more than inflict the same treatment she has received from her husband on her children before walking out and leaving Torvald to continue the same demeaning treatment to them.

Charissa Acree

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