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Research
Paper on “A Doll’s House”

11/20/17

Torvald’s
Dominance in “A Doll’s House”

A major theme that Ibsen introduced in
the drama “A Doll’s House” was the dominance of men over women in
relationships. He showed marriage as an unequal partnership, where Torvald
controlled Nora in all aspects of her life. In the play “A Doll’s House,”
Henrik Ibsen showed how Torvald’s dominance over Nora turned her character into
a secretive wife, deceitful friend, and neglectful mother as a secret from the
past unfolded.

 Nora
transformed into a dark and mysterious spouse as Ibsen created Torvald’s
character to overpower her. In Ibsen’s play, Nora lied to everyone she met by
hiding the truth of a forged document because she was afraid of how her husband
would react if the secret was revealed (869). Nora was concerned that this
secret would transform her into an outcast in her husband’s eyes. Penny Farfan stated,
“this forgery, however, is perhaps a greater crime in the less literal sense of
being a usurpation of the masculine privilege of authority.” Farfan argued that
the act of forgery was not the crime. In fact, she declared that Nora disrespected
the masculine authority of Torvald by securing the loan without his consent. Nora
was frightened that Torvald would see this crime as a move to overthrow his
authority. The fear caused her to take drastic measures to keep this secret
from reaching her husband. This lying nature spread throughout the Helmer’s household
and affected her relationship with Mrs. Linde.

            Tragically,
Nora’s deceptive life choices and her husband’s dominance negatively impacted her
friendship with Mrs. Linde. Torvald’s dominance influenced Nora as she used
deceitful tactics to achieve her goals. The audience can see in Act One that
Nora seemed happy to see her friend; however, she lied to Mrs. Linde about the
loan (Ibsen 866-68). Nora tried to control and overpower Mrs. Linde throughout
the dialogue. Guo Yuehua explained, “Nora completely monopolizes the conversation.
She constantly tried to stay one step ahead of Mrs. Linde in a small power
struggle over the issue as to whom has lived a harder life” (85). Yuehua stated that Nora tried to assert her
dominance over Mrs. Linde throughout their conversation. Nora had no
alternative since Torvald constantly emphasized his male dominance over her. Furthermore,
Nora’s fraudulent behavior with Mrs. Linde carried into her negative
relationship with her children.

            Another
major transformation that Nora’s character encountered was turning into a
neglectful mother. As the story progressed, Ibsen showed the reader that Nora
gradually detached herself from her children. Nora deserted her children and
realized that she was Torvald’s “doll” (Ibsen 915-17). Nora could not be the
mother she needed to be because she was trapped by Torvald’s domination. Rolf
Fjelde declared, “Nora, the doll-child of her father, the doll-wife of her
husband, unthinkingly transmitting her doll-identity to her own daughter”
(476). He was saying that Nora was changing her own child into a slave of male
authority. During the resolution of “A Doll’s House,” Nora found that her life
had been a lie, and she chose to desert her role as a mother. Nora felt that
she could no longer live under Torvald’s rule, which caused her to leave her
husband and children behind.

            In “A
Doll’s House,” Torvald’s dominance created a spiral downfall in the harmony of
the entire household. The play was set at a pivotal time in history when women
were portrayed as less dominant than men. Henrik Ibsen showed the authoritarian
nature of Torvald through his relationship with Nora. The audience watched as
Nora developed the shameful characteristics of dishonesty, treachery, and carelessness
which followed her throughout the drama.

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Farfan, Penny. “Reading, writing, and
authority in Ibsen’s ‘women’s plays’.” Modern
Drama, vol. 45, no.1, 2002. Academic OneFile. Accessed 7 Nov. 2017.

Fjelde, Rolf. “Introduction to A Doll House.” Ibsen’s Selected Plays, edited by Brian Johnston, W. W. Norton
& Company, Inc., 2004, p. 475-477.

Ibsen, Henrik. “A Doll’s House.” Backpack Literature: An introduction to
Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing, edited by X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia,
5th ed., Pearson, 2016, pp. 859-917.

Yuehua, Guo. “Gender Struggle over
Ideological Power in Ibsen’s A Doll’s
House.” Canadian Social Science,
vol. 5, no. 1, Feb. 2009, pp. 79-87.

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