Who Is Really the Doll?

         In Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play A Doll's House there are many questions as to who the real dolls are. In the play and the 1973 movie, directed by Joseph Losey, the most obvious doll is a woman by the name of Nora Helmer.

         Nora (Jane Fonda) is such an obvious doll because she is the main person being treated so childlike throughout the entire play. Nora's husband Torvald (David Warner) treats her just like a child. He gives her patronizing nicknames, such as his little squirrel or songbird. However, Torvald is not the only person that treats Nora as a doll. Other patronizing characters are not so obvious about the way they treat her.

         Krogstad (Edward Fox), the dirty lawyer that Nora owes money to, also treats her as a doll. He pushes her around and blackmails her throughout the play and movie. He uses her crime to make her do things that he wants. He tries to get her to use her persuasion with Torvald so he can keep his job at the bank. She does every small thing that Krogstad asks of her and therefore is his doll also.

         Men are not the only ones that treat Nora as a doll though. She is also manipulated by her friend Mrs. Linde (Delphine Seyrig). Mrs. Linde just shows up at the Helmer's house one day and immediately expects Nora to stop everything to help her. Nora is talked into helping Mrs. Linde get a job at the bank also, which ends up costing Krogstad his position. Nora is continuously treated as a doll through the entire play and movie.

         Even though Nora is the most obvious doll, there are still other less obvious ones that are not noticed. Torvald is also a doll, though he does not realize it himself, as Nora realizes about herself. He is played with by Nora and also by Dr. Rank (Trevor Howard). Nora has deceived her husband about numerous things. She went behind his back to get money for them to take a trip and keep him healthy, and then she lied about how she got the funds because she had borrowed the money from Krogstad and had not inherited it from her father, as she told Torvald. She also never told him about her forgery of her dead father's name until she was forced to. A less obvious way that Nora plays with Torvald is her deception about her love for him. We find out at the end of the movie that Nora no longer loves Torvald and has not for sometime now. She makes him believe that their life is wonderful and that nothing is going wrong in it. She does this so he never gets angry with her and so things can run smoothly, the way she wants them to. Nora also plays with Torvald in making him give Mrs. Linde a job at the bank. The only way that she is not successful in her "doll play" is evident when she is unable to persuade Torvald into letting Krogstad keep his job at the bank.

         The main question still remains: who is really the doll in this story? Torvald or Nora? They both play each other and are played by other people as well. The only difference is that Nora realizes that she is being played with and finally does something about it; she walks out and starts a new life where she can be herself. Torvald, on the other hand, never realizes that he is a doll. Still in the end of the movie Nora plays with him when she walks out of the door. She leaves him there, begging and hoping she will come back to him as his little doll and start their life again.

Elizabeth Barrett

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