Emphasizing the Human Qualities in Ibsen's A Doll's House

         The 1973 film A Doll's House, starring Jane Fonda as Nora and David Warner as Torvald, tells the tale of a woman who has committed forgery in order to save her husband's life, and must keep this forgery secret from him, for if it is found out, his entire reputation could be ruined by the fact that his wife went behind his back to take out a loan.

         The film, as well as the source material (Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play of the same name) has a very human side to it as Nora struggles to keep her secret from Torvald. Warner's performance as Torvald is very believable as the strict husband of Jane Fonda's defiant and compliant Nora, forbidding her from macaroons while calling her pet names such as "chipmunk."

         Nora's predicament is made even worse when Krogstad (Edward Fox), the person to whom she owes the loan , is fired from his position at the bank (of which Torvald has recently become manager). His ultimatim is as follows: Nora must convince Torvald to rehire him, or he goes public about Nora's loan and the forgery of her dead father's name. This is a standout scene in the film because of its impact. Fox's Krogstad comes across as a man desperate to save his job, his family, and his reputation, while Fonda's Nora is equally desperate to save hers. Ultimately, Nora is unable to convince Torvald to re-hire Krogstad, and as a result, Krogstad sends Torvald a letter detailing Nora's loan.

         Eventually, Nora finally finds help in the form of her friend Christine (Delphine Seyrig). It turns out that Christine had left Krogstad in order to marry into money. However, Christine is now a widow; and Krogstad, with his two children, a widower. Christine and Krogstad reconcile their differences in a touching scene, and he offers to retrieve his letter and forgive Nora's debt. Christine, however, has seen the state of Nora and Torvald's relationship, and convinces him not to do so. In her mind, Torvald needs to see the letter, which he does.

         Shortly after raging at Nora, Torvald receives a second letter from Krogstad, explaining that the debt has been forgiven. His mood has drastically improved because of this; but, when he goes to forgive Nora for what she had done, it is too late. Nora has seen her circumstances for what they really are, and decides to leave Torvald and her children behind, so she may "find herself" and her truly human qualities, stifled all too long by the domineering and dehumanizing Torvald. Only now does Torvald realize the consequences of his actions, and this really ends the story very well. It is not a happy ending, which could come as a surprise for many.

Jeremiah Franklin

Table of Contents