A Cure for All

         In Patrick Garland's 1973 film version of A Doll's House, written in 1879 by Henrik Ibsen, Torvald, played by Anthony Hopkins, briefly mentions his need for rest cure. In Joseph Losey's 1973 version of A Doll's House, it is only mentioned that Torvald, depicted by David Warner, needed to be in a warmer climate. That need is what caused the whole controversy to come about. If Nora, played by Jane Fonda and Claire Bloom respectively, had not been sensitive to her husband's need for treatment, there would have been no need for her to take out a loan, and forge her dead father's signature in the first place. But rest cure and needing to be in a warmer climate are not the same things.

         Rest cure was mainly used as a treatment for women with nervous disorders. Silas Weir Mitchell was the physician who created the treatment in the late 1800s. The treatment called for the patients to be taken away from their families and their homes for around six to eight weeks. They were not allowed to get out of bed or perform any type of action other than brushing their teeth. Their spouses cared for the patients. This was said to be a moral medication.

         The term "rest cure" could have been improperly or loosely used in Garland's film. Ironically, rest cure was actually thought of as another way that men put restrictions on women during this time period. The treatment was not used for life-threatening illnesses. Also, rest cure patients knew what was happening to them, and Torvald simply thought he was going on vacation. Rest cure was a popular treatment at that time, but it was not a very viable one. Many of the rest cure patients worsened after their treatment. The short story "The Yellow Wallpaper," written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, made Mitchell reconsider his method of treatment.

         Illnesses such as pneumonia do worsen in bad weather. During the winter season, Norway can become very unbearable. The time away from work, responsibilities, and the cold weather could have possibly saved Torvald's life; but I do not think rest cure would have helped him.

Allison Webster

Table of Contents