A Whimsical Child Becomes an Independent Woman

         Imagine a young child frolicking through the house, dancing around tables, and playing hide and seek in the closet. Imagine this young child to be a married woman, a giddy lady dancing around the dining table and playing hide and seek with her children, and she chooses to hide underneath the table. This woman appears in Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play, A Doll's House, and in comparison to Joseph Losey's 1973 film, A Doll's House, we begin to see just how childish Nora Helmer, played by Jane Fonda, can be. She acts as a whimsical child with not a care in the world. She has no worries, no responsibilities, and not much sense of control. She does whatever she pleases on any given day and does not stop and ask herself "why?" much like a young child just having fun and living up the youth.

        This 1973 film opens up during the winter to an ice skating rink with Nora and her good friend, Christine (Delphine Seyrig), playing almost as merrily as children. Thus, we begin to see the youth in Nora, although she is about to be married to Torvald Helmer (David Warner). The audience is then drawn into the household of the Helmer's (as the couple is now married with three children). Nora gaily and secretly munches on macaroons, which she is not supposed to be eating as ordered by her husband. Why? They might give the "young girl" cavities. Now, if I am not mistaken, a parent would tell a child not to eat too many sweets. Here an adult is telling another adult not to eat too many sweets. Torvald looks upon Nora as a little girl, his little sweetheart; and then the cutesy little pet names make her youth even more.

        "Oh, how is my little squirrel, my little chipmunk?" Torvald inquires Nora, and in such a way that an adult might talk to a baby. Nora practically hangs on Torvald, and she begs him for just a little bit of money… "Oh, give me just a little money so that I may buy gifts for the children." Nora pleads. Then, Torvald flashes the money before her and teases her with it making her jump and reach to snatch the money from his hand. He dangles it there, much as a parent would do as if to tempt a child. And if that child was good and did as he/she was told he/she would be rewarded. Torvald himself treats Nora as a child, and she "plays" along so well with the same mannerisms of a child.

        Nora prances around the house with not a care in the world. She has nothing to do but to please her husband and the children. The children?--well, she does not even do that much with the children-her own children. She only plays with them. She engages herself in games such as hide and seek, and who should hide… no one other than herself. She crawls under the dining table while the children seek about the house to find her. Now, a mother should not act so childish. It may be okay to play with your own children, but to actually take full delight that you can hide under a table is taking measures a bit too far. Nora is never seen taking her children places or teaching them, and only once does she stop and read to them.

        Nora is like a child playing with her dolls (the children) and Torvald plays with Nora as his doll. So, we have a child in a woman's body, never looking after anything. Nora has no responsibilities other than to please her husband. She is like a glass figurine, and if rubbed the wrong way will fall over and break, which is exactly what occurs in the film.

        Nora pleads with Krogstad (Edward Fox)--the man who had loaned her money to save her husband's life. She begs Krogstad (Edward Fox) not to reveal to her husband that she, a woman, borrowed money outside of her husband's consent, and then further went so far as to forge her father's signature to get it to save Torvald's life by taking him to Italy for the winter. Again, when deeply taken into context, Nora acts as a child. She sneakily takes these matters into hand and then keeps it all from her husband. Then, she toys with her husband asking him not to fire Krogstad from the bank and later, not to open the letter in the letterbox. She pleads with him and sweetly questions him, "Now, you would do anything for your little squirrel, Torvald, would you not?" And, of course, Torvald listens attentively to the "child's" plea whether or not he takes any action.

        In the end, Torvald becomes angry with Nora after the loan note is revealed, and it is then that Nora and Torvald sit down together to have, for the first time in their whole married life, a "serious" conversation. This is when Nora reveals to the audience the adult woman in her. She gets up out of her chair and finally realizes that every fancy little thing she has is like lots of pretty, amusing little toys given to children to play with. Nora had been nothing but a child playing with her fancy toys. Now, she realized that she had to go into the real world and make something of herself, for herself. She had to learn to do things on her own, to educate herself, and become an independent woman. She did not want to be someone else's toy or pleasure; she wanted to be an equal partner-equal in her marriage, equal as an adult. Nora wanted to be presentable, established, and an adult that could introduce herself with accomplishments. She needed to step out of her whimsical costume: ("Ooh, I'll do this today and that tomorrow; I have nothing else in the world to do") and into a sophisticated and educated independent woman-and that she did, leaving Torvald and her children behind.

Jonetta Tabor

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