In Defense of the Slap

     I am not one to condone domestic abuse in any form. Domestic abuse is a horrible, traumatic experience that no one should have to go through. It is wrong, plain and simple. That having been said, Torvald (played by Anthony Hopkins in Patrick Garland's 1973 film version of Henrik Ibsen's 1879 A Doll's House) did a good thing when he slapped Nora (portrayed by Claire Bloom).

     Nora was a silly girl. I cannot even call her a woman, as her perceptions of the world and her actions were completely childlike. She scampered about, playing with her children and acting like a squirrel for special favors from her husband. She had no idea how the real world worked or how serious her crime of forgery was.

     Torvald literally smacked some sense into her. Suddenly, the world was not so much fun anymore. The gravity of Nora's situation finally began to sink into her head. She came to realize that she had not known Torvald was capable of such violence toward her and, thus, had not known Torvald at all. She realized that there were a lot of things she did not know and that she should try to learn them.

     Apart from starting Nora's journey into self-discovery and adulthood, the slap was a good thing for one other reason. In Ibsen's play A Doll's House and in Joseph Losey's 1973 film version, Torvald (David Warner) does not hit Nora (Jane Fonda). She is completely changed by only his harsh words to her, which I found completely unbelievable. After years of total dependence upon and fatherly protection from Torvald, Nora would not suddenly take off after a few words spoken in anger. The slap in Garland's version makes her decision to leave much more believable. It is not only believable but also applauded. Viewers do not want to see the heroine stay with an abusive husband.

     No one, onscreen or off, should abusive his or her spouse. No one should have to endure that kind of treatment. However, in this case, the slap was a much-needed wake-up call. Nora was able to realize that she was not a child or a squirrel and move on with her life.

Meg Schoenman

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