Who Was the Doll?

         When reading the 1879 play, written by Henrik Ibsen and watching the 1973 movie of A Doll's House, directed by Patrick Garland, I caught myself wondering who the doll was. A doll is a toy that a person, supposedly a child, can control and manipulate as the child wishes. However, in this play and movie, who controlled whom?

         Nora (Claire Bloom) was assumed to be the doll because she was allegedly controlled by her father, when she lived with him, and then by Torvald (Anthony Hopkins), when she got married. She told Torvald, in the last scene, that she had taken on their ideas and acted as they had wanted her too. In all actuality, however, Nora controlled Torvald, whom she had made her doll.

         In the movie, Claire Bloom's chirping and goggling as Nora was worse than in the play; indeed, the movie was almost sickening. She did that on her own, not because anyone made her. Nora knew that is what Torvald liked, and that is one way she controlled him. If she wanted money, she would play her tricks, especially her squirrel act; and she would get what she wanted.

         Nora's games of stalling Torvald were another way she controlled him. By trying to keep him away from the mailbox, she convinced him she needed help or attention with trivial things. For example, Nora said that she needed help with a dance, the tarantella that she, not he, had learned. How could he know that much about the dance? Nora also made Torvald believe he had been working too hard, and that she desired his attention more than anything. Yet, her best friend and children were there to keep her company.

         There is, of course, the big deception. Nora had made Torvald believe that she had been given the money from her dying father to finance the trip, when she had really forged his I.O.U. after he had died. She had lied to Torvald for years about how she was repaying the loan. She probably could have deceived him longer if she had wanted to.

         I know that Nora was the one who was supposed to be the doll, but I believed she manipulated Torvald like a toy. She played him to the best of her interest. Nora was not the doll because she knew how she felt. If she felt that she was the doll, she should have changed the way things were before the situation got as bad as it did. However, she had gone so long playing the doll wife to her doll husband that she could not change when it became necessary. Then it was too late to change, for the damage had been done to the marriage.

Magen Marksberry

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