Whatever Happened to Loyalty?

         A Doll's House, directed by Joseph Losey in 1973 was based on the book of the same name written in 1879 by Henrik Ibsen. The movie portrays Nora Helmer (played by the ardent feminist advocate, Jane Fonda) and her marriage to her husband, Torvald (David Warner). Nora and Torvald have a close friend in Dr. Rank (Trevor Howard), who is about to die. One of Nora's long-lost friends, Christine (Delphine Sevrig), comes back into her life right before Christmas. Torvald is about to be promoted to bank manager and decides that Nils Krogstad (Edward Fox) needs to be let go. But little does Torvald know that Nora had borrowed a large sum of money from Krogstad and forged her father's name in the process to save her husband's life by taking him south to Italy for the winter. It all blows up on Boxing Day after Torvald gets a letter from Krogstad outlining everything. He says some things that he surely does not mean (heat of the moment comments), so she gets mad and runs away from him and her children even after Torvald apologizes for his temper after receiving the letter from Krogstad that lets him off the hook.

         I have a problem with this play and especially this egregiously feminist-oriented movie adaptation because both shine a light into the consciousness of today when almost everyone says that it is okay for her to leave. I cannot fathom that line of thinking. It is called responsibility for actions, and the lack of it in society, particularly with females. The leaders of the feminist movement talk out of both sides of their mouth. To these feminists, it is perfectly legitimate for a woman to walk away from this situation, whereas a man who would walk away from a woman under similar circumstances would be excoriated by these same feminists.

         Because she had put up with his calling her cute names for so long, for her to turn right around and say that she cannot stay because he had talked like that to her is infuriating. When one looks at the relationship, Torvald calls Nora cute little names that she acts as if she loves and repeats them back to him when referring to herself. She complains that they never had an adult conversation, but she did not attempt to initiate a conversation, although the aggressive and late twentieth-century way that Jane played Nora throughout the movie, her character could easily have told Warner's surly, unattractive Torvald off about his behavior to her any number of times.

           Therefore, especially as she was played by Jane, she is also clearly responsible for the way he had treated her because she had never raised any objections before now. If people do not want to be treated in a certain way, they have a responsibility to speak out against it to let their partners know their feelings. If Torvald had done the same thing to her and then left, he would have been a pariah in the eyes of the feminists.

         The same responsibility must be assumed by both men and women in partnerships. They both must be able to communicate their feelings and desires and try to work out their differences in an adult fashion before cutting and running away. Admittedly there are times when this cannot work, and separation is the only solution, but this would be much rarer if the people--both men and women--involved acted like grown-ups and interacted appropriately.

         I, obviously, did not like this play and especially this particular movie version because of the message that was sent. It is my opinion that this play and movie advocate that individuals should run away if things are rough, or if a man does not react the way that the woman thought he should, regardless if she had children or not. A man that runs away is a deadbeat dad, but Nora is seen as a feminist hero.

Christian F. Runyon

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