Who Is The Villain Here?

         If you ask most people who the villain is in Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House, filmed twice in 1973 by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland respectively, the vast majority of them will answer either Torvald or Krogstad. I offer you a different solution. Perhaps the villain in this play is none other than the main character, Nora. How do I draw this conclusion? I will take you through it with me.

         Why is Krogstad looked at as a "bad guy?" The reason is that he committed an act that violated the rules of society, and then he threatens to reveal that Nora did the same thing. This makes him appear to be the evil one, yet neither of these characters actually did anything for which they should be ashamed. Edward Fox, the actor that portrayed Krogstad in the first film, demonstrates these traits very effectively.

         Torvald actually does more wrong in the play than Krogstad. He refuses to accept Nora as a competent person. He constantly belittles her, and his overwhelming oppression stunts her growth as an individual. However, we have to remember that we are watching this story unfold through glasses of cultural bias. Our modern perception of women and the perception of women at the time the play is set are diametrically opposed. Too many people did not see women as competent individuals at that point in history, and we now recognize that women are the equal of men. I am not necessarily defending the actions of Torvald; I am merely presenting the basis for his behavior. I thought that Anthony Hopkins' depiction of Torvald was easily more convincing than David Warner's. Hopkins' Torvald seemed more emotionally connected and loving in regards to his Nora, portrayed by Claire Bloom. Given these attributes, I found his Torvald to be a man that could easily be forgiven for his actions, especially since he is willing to change.

         Is Nora the villain? I say yes for the following reasons. First, she is living a lie. The aforementioned men at least come by it honestly. The make no apologies for their actions and are more than willing to face the consequences that they create. She hides from the ramifications of her actions and seeks to bury them. Next, she only cares about herself. She has no desire to help Krogstad until he threatens her. She should have been willing to help him in any way possible. Not only had bailed her out when she was in need, but he had also lost his standing in society for committing an act very similar to hers.

         Finally, at the end of the story, she is still running from the consequences of her actions. While it is true that this story is one of self-discovery, and the point of the play is most likely the self-actualization of Nora, she has made decisions over the past eight years of marriage that she cannot run from. Yes, she needs to find herself, but at the same time her children need a mother. If she could act as such a mother, then maybe her children would grow up to be better people than did she and Torvald. Claire Bloom seemed much more in tune with the role of Nora. On the other hand, Jane Fonda's Nora seemed disconnected and on some sort of hidden agenda. Claire Bloom felt the role more and was therefore more effective in communicating with the audience. However, I did not think that either portrayal gave any concrete justification for the actions of the character.

         In the end, we are forced to draw our own conclusions. Most people would still disagree with my assessment of the situation. However, I believe that my point is justified, and I hope that it might open up a new venue of perception for those reading this play.

Josh Gibson

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