Walking Away from Nothing

      The 1973 movie A Doll's House, directed by Patrick Garland and based on the 1879 play by Henrik Ibsen, is a story of the way in which one woman took it upon herself to become liberated after spending a life suppressed by those around her. She lived with no real ideas of her own, content to do as she was told. Freedom was an illusion in her world.

      Nora (played by Claire Bloom) never had a life of her own; she lived a life manipulated by men around her--first her father, then Torvald (played by Anthony Hopkins). She constantly responded like a child who was eager to please because that was all she had even known how to do. In her mind rebelling against the men was an offense as minor as sneaking a piece of candy or a macaroon. She contained the few feelings she had that were hers alone until they would burst forth in a torrent of emotion and words. In the movie we get a glimpse of how controlled she was in the scene where she says all the bad words she can think of to amuse her friends only to clam up and become meek again the moment her husband entered the room. As Torvald commanded, she twirled like his trained little pet. She existed because they said she did.

      The first major decision she made without either man involved to influence her would be the one that would return time and again to torture her. Faced with building debt and two very sick loved ones, she was forced into a scheme of deception. After living a life being convinced she had loved them beyond all others, she was cornered into thinking that love surmounted any other law or obligation. Like a child thinking only of the final outcome, she overlooked the implications of what forging documents could mean.

      She loved Torvald, and Torvald loved her; that was all that mattered as far as she could see; thus, she could do nothing that Torvald would not forgive. His reaction, his explosion of anger and hatred for what she had done "to him," could not have been more unexpected. It was the unexpectedness of it all that made her realize the harsh truth of her situation. She realized she had had nothing of her own in her whole life, not an item of value, not a thought or idea, nothing to lay claim to except this one life-altering mistake.

      Sometime we grow into situations; we get so accustomed to the things we see and live through until we get hardened and learn how to overlook the signs of what is actually going on. This is what happened to Nora. She had grown up in such a dominated situation and then married into another that it was not until she came to a point of losing it all that she realized what she would be losing. Torvald made a fateful mistake by showing her his real feelings of how little she mattered and how little respect he had for her. In the end it was not that hard for her to walk away from a situation where her presence was not necessary.

Melissa Stacy

Table of Contents