Love: Illusion versus Reality

     Love is a timeless source of literary fodder. Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play, A Doll's House is no exception. In it readers are presented with two very different relationship scenarios that in themselves deliver a second message hidden in the shadow of the first and most prominent. By comparing the relationship of Nora and Torvald Helmer with the relationship of Christine Linde and Nils Krogstad, one finds an important difference between the two.

     It is human nature to look for heroes and role models. Whether those people are parents, teachers, religious figures or famous celebrities, chances are they could never live up to our high expectations of them. It is that type of idealization that is ultimately the ruin of Torvald's and Nora's relationship. His rigid moral standards and impractical ideals along with the fact that he treats Nora like a silly child is what eventually leads to her resentment and unhappiness. In the 1973 film version of A Doll's House, directed by Joseph Losey, it can be seen how Torvald's (David Warner) unrealistic expectations brought about the termination of his marriage.

     Juxtaposed throughout the play with Torvald's and Nora's (Jane Fonda) relationship is the relationship between Christine (Delphine Seyrig) and Nils (Edward Fox). While Torvald makes the fatal error of over-idealizing Nora, Christine accepts Nils as he is, recognizing his flaws and shortcomings.

     It is this acceptance that distinguishes the two relationships from one another. It is also important to note that Christine and Nils have a relationship based on equality. To help illustrate the point, the film, A Doll's House (directed by Losey, 1973), elaborates upon the important scene between Christine and Nils in which they talk together seriously about life and together determine the new direction they want to take. This, of course, is very different from the interactions between Torvald and Nora in which"from the very beginning [they] have never exchanged a word on any serious subject"(Ibsen 66).

     Perhaps if Torvald had delivered the miracle that Nora hoped for then their marriage might have been salvaged. Instead, Torvald has to learn the hard way what Christine and Nils have already discovered, that illusions are for children and eventually one must give them up and face reality.

Emily V. Williams

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