The Rights of a Woman

         In the Victorian era, women had almost no rights. They were not allowed to own land, take out loans, or even take their children and leave their husbands. Women were very much oppressed during this era, and many people had differing opinions over this oppression. In 1879, Henrik Ibsen wrote A Doll's House, a social commentary on the oppression of women during the Victorian era. Joseph Losey's 1973 film adaptation of A Doll's House and Patrick Garland's A Doll's House, also filmed in 1973, also comment on the oppression of women during the Victorian era and display a negative view of such social conditions.

         A Doll's House is about the oppression of Nora (Jane onda/Claire Bloom) by her husband, Torvald (David Warner/Anthony Hopkins). There are any examples throughout the play and films that demonstrate how Torvald, as well as society, opresses Nora.

         As the play and Garland's film opens, Nora is seen entering er house with packages for Christmas. She busily takes off her outerwear and starts unwrapping ackages. In Losey's version, this occurs after some preliminary background scenes. The first words spoken by Torvald demean Nora with nicknames such as little lark and little squirrel, as if he is more of a pet to him than a wife. He then goes on to demean Nora about her spending habits, calling her his little spendthrift and little featherhead and telling her, "That is like a oman!" In the Garland film, Nora makes squeaking animal sounds, as if she really is a squirrel or even a dog doing tricks for a treat or, in this case, money. She waltzes over and sits in Torvald's lap, giving him sad puppy dog eyes and baby talking to him, hoping that begging will get her what she wants.

         After Nora gets the money she wants, Torvald shows the audience another example of how he oppresses Nora. He looks at her, tells her she looks uneasy, and wags his finger, asking, "Hasn't Miss Sweet Tooth been breaking rules in town today?" He then explains to the audience what he means: As it turns out, Nora is not allowed to eat macaroons. The audience discovers why a little later in the story when Nora explains that Torvald is worried that they will harm her teeth. There is nothing wrong with concern over a spouse's health, but it is obvious that Ibsen and the film makers think it is a silly rule because Nora ends us making the decision on her own.

         The major theme of the oppression of Nora is revealed when she explains that she had acquired an amount of money many years back in order to go on vacation in Italy for Torvald's health. Mrs. Linde (Delphine Seyrig/Anna Massey) shows the audience how women are oppressed by society when she explains to Nora, "No, a wife cannot borrow without her husband's consent." Society is shown to be even more oppressive when the audience discovers that Nora is in serious trouble because she had known that a woman is not allowed to borrow without her husband's consent, but her actions indicate she does not agree with such an idea.

         The audience soon discovers that Nora has borrowed money by illegally forging her father's signature. Because of this act, Nora becomes oppressed by Nils Krogstad (Edward Fox/Denholm Elliott), the man who loans her the money. He blackmails Nora in order to keep his position at his job. The whole situation had transpires because Torvald had been sick, and Nora had no one to sign for the money because her father was dead.

         When Torvald discovers that Nora had borrowed money illegally, it is shown that he agrees with society. He agrees that Nora should be oppressed because she is a woman. He does not support her or thank her for going to such lengths to save his life. He criticizes her, calls her a miserable creature, a hypocrite, a liar, and a thoughtless woman. In the Garland film, Torvald shouts very loudly and calls her a stupid woman. In the Losey film, Torvald is surly in his putdown of Nora, and he proceeds to oppress her further by telling her she will live in his house only to pretend to be his loving wife, that she will not be allowed to raise the children, and not allow her to read a letter from Krogstad.

         When his name is cleared, Torvald tells Nora she is forgiven. He says, "But do you suppose you are any less dear to me because you don't understand how to act on your own responsibility? No, no; only lean on me; I will advise and direct you." He does not feel that Nora should think for herself. He tells her she is more attractive to him because she is a helpless woman.

         At the end of the play and the films, Ibsen, Losey, and Garland display their opposition to the oppression of Nora and all women during the Victorian era. Nora leaves Torvald. She explains to him that neither he nor her father had allowed her to develop any of her own opinions. She tells him that the children have become the same thing for her. She says he is "not the man to educate her into being a proper wife" for himself and that she is not fit to take care of the children. Her reason for leaving is that she must educate herself. She wants to stand alone so she can understand herself. When Torvald tries to forbid her, she will not listen. She goes out to try to understand society, to try to decide for herself what is right and wrong, what should or should not be allowed, and what she believes.

         Throughout the play and the films, Ibsen, Losey, and Garland display their dislike for the oppression of women in the Victorian era. They take one woman, show how she is oppressed, and then allow her to walk away. The ending of the story shows that a woman should be allowed to make up her own mind, live her own life for herself, and have her own beliefs because she is obviously quite capable of it. After all, Nora walks away quite ably, despite the fact that Torvald forbids it.

Adrienne Haley

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