A Doll's House: The Liberation of Nora Helmer

`           A Doll's House, written in 1789 by Henrik Ibsen and filmed twice in 1973 by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland, might be classified as a study in misconceptions about men and women, marital happiness, and the illogical foundations of modern society. All of these things can be found in the surreal, domestic life of Nora Helmer (Jane Fonda/Claire Bloom). On the surface, Nora leads a happy life of marital bliss. However, a closer examination of Nora's character reveals a woman who has come to realize that her true happiness can only come after a profound ending of everything she had once thought to be of great importance.

         Although Nora's position within her society and household could be considered economically sound and secure, still she leads a life of difficulty. Her difficulty comes about when she realizes that men like her father and husband refuse to sacrifice their personal integrity for the sake of their women but expect their women to sacrifice their own integrity for the sake of their men. Nora finally sees that her father and her condescending husband have treated her more like a doll than a person. In a discussion with Torvald, Nora realizes that she has never really been treated like a person. Rather, she suddenly feels that she has been treated more like a toy, something that had been given to her father and husband for their personal entertainment.

         When Nora comes to this conclusion, we see an abrupt change in the personal dynamics of the characters and their place in the drama.  Nora, who had always shown signs of being weak and childlike, suddenly becomes aggressive and strong. Torvald, who had been portrayed as strong-willed and dominant, suddenly becomes weak, selfish, and petty.

         In the end, Nora realizes that she is an independent individual with the power to think for herself, and she finds that she has no need for the shallow, condescending relationships that has previously smothered her. Essentially, Nora recognizes that she has found strength in the weakness of others, and she closes the door and separates herself from that weakness. When she does this, the liberation of Nora Helmer has begun.

Tasha Stewart

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