A Doll's House: A Woman's Quest of Self Value

         Henrik Ibsen wrote a play in the nineteenth century that deals with the oppression of woman; and in this play, a particular woman comes to the self realization that there is more to life than that which the world has offered her. A Doll's House (1879) takes a journey of a young lady from being betrothed through dealing with a grave family illness to being a mother and wife. It seems to be a good story line except for the fact that it is set in the 1800s; and, from a modern perspective; it seems to labor its theme. Women are given little regard as worthy contributors to the family except as mothers and objects, often treated as little more than playthings, such as pets or dolls. This fact is made painfully clear in the 1973 adaptation of the play A Doll's House, directed by Joseph Losey and staring Jane Fonda as Nora and David Warner as Torvald.

         As the story goes, soon after their marriage, Nora is faced with a stubborn husband that would rather die than borrow money and move to a warmer climate to recover from his illness. As she is faced with a dying father, the pending birth of her first child, and a close-to-dying husband, she borrows money to get him out of the cold climate so that her husband might recover in the warmer Italy. To her it is a logical solution to her problems, and she goes to great pains to be resourceful and repay her debt. She takes great pride in the fact that it was she who had saved the day and that she had done it on her own.

         Circumstance rears its ugly head and discloses her secret, a secret that threatened her husband's prominent position in society because in the nineteenth century, a woman could not borrow money on her own, and Nora had forged a document to do so. She sees her proud sacrifice become little more than a foolish action because, when it is found out, there are no thanks, only negative reactions. Even worse, the man she had loved and had sacrificed for was willing to pay to keep a secret rather than to stand up nobly for her even though he would suffer the indignity of having the family name soiled. He is more worried about what people thought, especially of him, than proud enough to acknowledge the fact that his wife had done something wonderful for him.

         I enjoy the story to this point, but this is the point at which things go bad for me. Nora's reaction to leave her children with the nanny and leave her husband on a quest of self realization is the punch line to the play. True enough, it sounded a chord with woman across the world searching for more in their lives, but I will never accept that a mother should ever walk out on her It seems a bit short-minded, as if children are parts of the shackles that kept the women in oppression.

         All in all I enjoyed the acting of Fonda and Trevor Howard as Dr. Rank, but the emotionless performance of Warner and the questionable moral ending made this film a bad experience for me.

Ron Watkins

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