Thursday, November 24, 2011

Book Review: A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen

A Dolls House, a play by Henrik Ibsen remains still a classic of drama. It touches on issues of womanhood, but also on issues on parenting and money. Through its characters we learn a lot about the society of its time, giving us historical insights into the context of the play text.

Nora, the protagonist of Ibsen's play isn't really what the appearances give out. Treated like a child by her husband, she seems like the ideal wife of a man who's power in business is rising. But the truth is that Nora has a secret, a secret that would change everything.

Torvald, Nora's husband, is a man of strong principles. The loan, which Nora has taken behind Torvald's back fights against all of Torvald's principles and values. Torvald sees women belonging to their homes to take care of children and their husbands (probably a very common view during the time the play was written). He despises the independence of women and is strongly against borrowing money. 

The role of women is one of the main themes of Ibsen's play. Nora eventually breaks out from the mold designed from women by the society (and men). But this is not done without consequences; her self-sacrificing decision to leave her children to the hands of the nanny. Throughout the play the characters have talked about how children end up bad if their parents have been acting morally wrong. This is a thought that must be in Nora's head when she leaves her children.

Readers of Ibsen's play probably have very different types of reactions to Nora's actions, especially to her final decision. I myself cannot identify with Nora because I do not have children, but for a reader who is a mother (or father) the situation must seem quite different. Nora is stuck in a dolls house built up by her husband and the society and is tired of keeping up the appearances. 

But are her actions justified? Are we still, today, living in dolls houses we've built for ourselves and people around us?

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