Placing the Blame for Nora’s Unhappiness

         Readers of Henrik Ibsen's (1879) play A Doll's House will most likely agree that Nora Helmer's unhappiness was greatly caused by her husband Torvald. After reading the play, I myself agreed that Torvald's treatment of Nora was not at all healthy for her. However, after watching the 1973 film adaptation of the play (directed by Patrick Garland), I began to feel like I may have judged Torvald too quickly. Perhaps Torvald and his treatment is not the main cause of Nora's unhappiness after all.

         Torvald (Anthony Hopkins) is an authoritarian kind of husband who expects the utmost obedience from his wife Nora (Claire Bloom). He holds the honor and reputation of the entire family name on his shoulders. Torvald is a caring man. The film leads me to believe he truly adores Nora and wants nothing more than to see to her happiness. Torvald lives to spoil his "doll" and treat her like a princess.

         In the scene where Torvald discovers the news of Nora's act of forgery, though, Torvald does not seem quite so caring or merciful. This is undoubtedly where most readers and viewers develop their negative opinion of Torvald. He lashes out in a horrible rage against Nora and even strikes her. After all, she has ruined everything he has worked for and be completely disobedient. But, he clearly overreacted; he is only human. The news was totally devastating; and, in moments of tragedy, many people cannot control their emotions or actions. Torvald is quick to apologize to Nora once he comes to his senses and realizes everything is not lost. The look in his eyes shows that he truly is sorry for what he has done to Nora, and his character is saddened to the point of complete devastation when he learns that Nora is leaving. Just the expression on Torvald's face is enough to make me believe he is truly hurting inside. He is completely unaware of what he has been doing to Nora for the past eight years and that, to me, makes him less accountable for his actions.

         Nora is the one to blame for her own unhappiness. She allowed herself to be treated as nothing more than a plaything and never once said a word about it. She fell into her submissive housewife role and became trapped. Thank goodness she finally opened her eyes and saw what it was all doing to her. It may have taken eight years of marriage to figure it out, but at least Nora has the time and courage to start her life over and find her own identity. Nora is the key to her own happiness.

Jessica Warren

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