Growing Out of Dolls; Nora Needed a Life

         At its time, Henrik Ibsen's 1879 A Doll's House, filmed twice in 1973 by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland, the story of a woman leaving her husband, was revolutionary, even blasphemous. It is a story about relationships, marriage, and what marriages are really supposed to be about.

         On the surface, Nora (Jane Fonda/Claire Bloom) and Torvald (David Warner/Anthony Hopkins) had a loving marriage. It was not that Nora wanted more; she just realized that it was not real. Torvald made all the decisions, held all the money, and took care of all the responsibilities. Nora basically spent her time finding ways to amuse Torvald and playing with the children.

         Nora's friend, Christine (Delphine Seyrig/Anna Massey), in contrast, had worked for most of her life, and had people depending on her. She noted that while it had been tiring to work all the time, once no one was depending on her anymore she did not know what to do with herself. "No Indeed, I only feel my life unspeakably empty. No one to live for anymore." With the stress and fear caused by Krogstad's (Edward Fox/Denholm Elliot) threats, Nora had been hoping that Torvald would turn out to be her hero, would stand up for her, and then let her refuse to let him do so. Instead, Torvald flipped out; then, after he realized that Krogstad was not going to do anything, he treated her like a babe that he would have to protect. Nora was already suffering from not having any responsibilities in the house. As she told Christine while relating how she had raised money to pay off the loan, "Last winter I was lucky enough to get a lot of copying to do, so I locked myself up and sat writing every evening until quite late at night. Many a time I was desperately tired, but all the same it was a pleasure to sit there working and earning money. It was like being a man."

         Nora wanted to be important, to have an effect on the household, a reason for living, like Christine. She found pride in doing things of importance and taking care of Torvald in return, instead of just living off what he gave her. She wanted him to need her for more than just playing around. She wanted a share in the responsibility and some respect, even if it was just self-respect and pride. At the end she realized Torvald would never let her have that, that he would treat her even more like a child, just because she made a mistake. Instead of letting her learn to have her own power, he would take even more to prevent her from making mistakes again. The only way she could ever be anything other than what other people told her she was supposed to be was to leave them behind.

Marissa Gentry

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