Other Forms of Abuse

         Many women and girls live in violent environments in our society. Much of the time, these violent circumstances are the result of physical abuse by a father, husband, or boyfriend. As a young woman, I have heard countless times about how easy it is to fall into an abusive relationship. I have also heard about how hard it is to get out of one. Of course, abusive relationships will cause a marriage or relationship to fall apart. Many times, they can fall apart for reasons other than physical abuse. But I believe to a certain extent, these types of relationships can be abusive.

         A Doll's House, by Henrik Ibsen, published in 1879, filmed twice in 1973 by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland, respectively, tells the story of Nora and Torvald. They both seem as though they are perfectly happy to outsiders. On the inside, however, there are some serious problems with their relationship. Nora has borrowed money and is trying to pay off the loan behind her husband's back. Her husband would be ruined if it came out that Nora had forged her father's name to borrow the money. Though Nora only did it in order to save Torvald's life, she is terrified that her marriage would be ruined if he knew the truth.

         The truth is that Nora is right. Their marriage would probably be ruined. This brings up another question. How strong was their marriage in the first place? In the 1973 movie versions, the audience gets a visual image of Nora and Torvald's marriage. Jane Fonda's and Claire Bloom's Noras are shown many times holding one facial expression and then a completely different one the second that David Warner's and Anthony Hopkins' Torvalds enter the room. Nora is used to pretending around Torvald. Her father had treated her like a doll, and now her husband does the same. This, added to Nora's secret loan, has caused their marriage to be nothing but a show.

         The play and movies are highly effective in getting the point of the story across. However, I believe that the movie versions of this story are more effective in visualizing the dynamics in this type of relationship.

         Nora is not given the chance to really develop her own opinions and character. She just fits into whatever the men in her life wish her to be. This is a type of abusive relationship. While Torvald never physically hurts Nora, he represses her individuality. The exception to this would be the one time that Hopkins' Torvald slaps Bloom's Nora But besides this one act, Torvald barely says any negative words to her. He does call her a lot of condescending names though. While they do not seem harmful on the outside, they are all names referring to small and weak animals. Nora is a small and weak thing to Torvald. Treating her like this is abusive to her individuality and character. When looking at it from this way, one can see that Nora is in an abusive relationship.

         Nora wises up at the end of the story and realizes how she has been treated her entire life. She leaves Torvald and sets out to find herself. I believe that the movie versions of this story could help some people "see" how the dynamics that appear to be the case in relationships are not always true. Perhaps these movies have helped a woman realize what was really going on within one of her relationships. Or, someone may realize that a relationship that he or she sees as really happy, may not be what it seems. In this way, the movie versions are much more vivid and effective at showing the dynamics between Nora and Torvald.

Jennifer Stafford

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