Sunday, 27 April 2014

A Doll’s House- Henrik Ibsen

A Doll’s House                                Henrik Ibsen

1. “A Doll’s House” fell like bomb into contemporary life” – Explain
2. How far Nora’s life a representation of social reality?
3. Justify the title of the play “A Doll’s House”

A Doll’s House is a realistic drama written by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Johan Ibsen in the year 1879. His plays attacked the age worn values of male dominated society.  He discarded outmoded dramatic techniques such as soliloquies and monologues.  The theme of the play “A Doll’s House” is individual freedom and emancipation of self. The protagonist of the play Nora is the wife of Torwald Helmer and they are married for the last eight years. They have three children. “Doll’s House” is a problem play because Ibsen deals with a social problem. It is the status of a woman in relation to her husband and home. Ibsen shows the pathetic situation of Nora being treated by her husband as a mere child who doesn’t know anything and she is called the squirrel, the skylark and a doll.
When the curtain rises, Nora is seen on stage telling innocent lies in a child-like manner. Helmer treats her like an irresponsible being – like a child, a bird (skylark), a squirrel, a possession, anything except as a woman. From his speech, it becomes clear that she is nothing but a plaything (a doll) for him. But underneath the surface of Nora’s mind, there is lurking a strong protest against the male domination with its laws, religion and social customs, all trying to crush the individuality, freedom  and dignity of woman. Her father and later, her husband have with the help of these male dominated social laws tried to keep Nora ignorant of the “true realities of life”, of her reasonable rights, of her obligations. From the First Act onwards, the gradual growth of Nora is seen and it reaches its climax in the IIIrd Act when she goes out of Helmer’s home slamming the door against the male-dominated ideas, laws and social customs.
Nora’s father committed forgery while working as a government employee. Torwald Helmer was appointed to examine the documents of Nora’s father.  It was during this verification of the documents that Torwald met Nora, fell in love with her and married her. Nora made supreme sacrifice in order to save the precious life of her husband. She borrowed money from Krogstad, an unscrupulous man for a trip to Italy for the medical treatment of her husband. Helmer was seriously ill and her father too had been on his deathbed. Not desiring to trouble her father at such a time for a loan and knowing fully well that Helmer would never agree to take a loan himself, Nora secretly borrows the loan without Helmer’s consent.  Nora signs her father’s name on the back of the promissory note (bond) given by Krogstad. Whenever Torvald has given money to Nora for new dresses and such things for home needs, Nora never spends more than half of it and bought the simplest and the cheapest things.  Thus Nora made great sacrifices for her husband and family.
 In the concluding scene Nora questions the foolish male-dominated religious ideas, spiritual laws, the legal system and the social views about man-woman relationships. How can a woman be herself in a male dominated society where women are mere dolls in the palms of men? In the society laws are made by men for their own selfish interests with a judicial system that judges feminine conduct from a masculine point of view. Nora has committed forgery, and she admits her forgery and she is proud of it because she has done it out of her love for her husband, to save his precious life.  But her husband with his conventional outlook on religion and social etiquette cannot understand it. To him forgery is a crime, a sin and a woman’s duty is to look after the needs of her husband and children. She has no duty to herself. Therefore Torvald accuses her of a cheat and a misfit for her children.
Krogstad is dismissed from the Savings Bank by Torvald Helmer as soon as he becomes the manager of the bank. In retaliation, Krogstad writes a letter to Torvald Helmer revealing the forgery commited by his wife Nora. Torvald reads the letter and is angry with Nora and tells her that she is a cheat and dishonest and not fit for bringing up their three children and in that moment Nora sees him for what he is actually is. His masked face is torn to pieces in the mind of Nora. She learns that Torvald is a hypocrite and has no love for her. Meanwhile another letter comes from Krogstad with the forged promissory note and cancelling all revengeful action against Nora. This made Torvald happy and relieved and he forgives Nora and tells her that she is once again his skylark and squirrel.  But Nora tells him that she had expected a wonderful thing from Torvald that he would certainly take up the blame of the forged bond on his shoulder and say publicly that it he who committed the crime and that he was the guilty one and not Nora. But that wonderful thing did not happen. So Nora goes out of Torvald’s home slamming the door against the male-dominated laws and social customs.
The play “A Doll’s House” has dropped a bomb into the male dominated society not only in Europe but all over the world. Social life in the cities has changed fast since the publication of this play and woman has gradually attained equal status with man in all fields of life.
4. The role and character of Mrs. Linde
Mrs.Linde is the best friend of Nora who calls her pet name Christine. She narrates her tragic story to Nora. Christine and Krogstad are childhood friends and they fell in love with each other. But Christine had to look after her ailing mother and two younger brothers and she needed money for them. Being highly practical minded, Christine consented to marry a rich man so that she could provide money for the education of her two brothers and the sick mother. Krogstad is jilted by Christine and he gets married to another woman. Christine does not want to lead a poverty striken life and this is why she has rejected the love of Krogstad and married a rich man. But fate did not allow her to continue enjoying the happy rich life. When her husband died, and his business has collapsed, leaving Mrs.Linde penniless and childless. But when her mother dies and her brothers begin to earn their livelihood, a sense of loneliness seizes her and she finds her life meaningless. So three years after the death of her husband, she has come down to city to meet her old friend Nora, because Christine urgently wants a job so that she can forget herself by doing the work. Nora tells her that her husband is going to become the Manager of the Savings Bank and he will give her a job in the Bank. Torvald Helmer gives Mrs.Linde a job in the Bank in the place of Krogstad. Nora tells her dreadful secret to Christine and Christine helps Nora. Mrs.Linde offers to marry Krogstad who is now a widower with three children. Krogstand is thrilled with joy and promises to undo the mistake he has committed. He returns to Nora the bond and cancels all revengeful action against Nora. This made Torvald happy and relieved and he forgives Nora and tells her that she is once again the skylark and squirrel for him. Thus Mrs.Linde has played an important role in averting the crisis that faces the Helmers.
5. The role and character of Krogstad
 Krogstad is introduced in the Ist Act of the play “A Doll’s House” as a villain. He is a lawyer and a widower with “several children”. His marriage life was very unhappy according to Mrs.Linde. He is dismissed from the Savings Bank by the Manager  Torvald Helmer and Mrs.Linde is appointed in his place. According to Dr.Rank, the family friend of Helmers, Krogstad, the lawyer suffers from a diseased moral character. Krogstad comes to Nora and threatens her that if he does not get back the job in the Bank, he will file a case against her in the court for forgery. He has paid her a loan of two hundred and fifty pounds for the medical treatment of her husband in Italy. Krogstad reminds her that she has committed a major crime by forging her father’s signature on the bond given to him for the loan. In the court Krogstad can easily prove the case against her because her father had died before the date on which the bond was signed.

 Nora tries her best to persuade her husband Torvald not to dismiss Krogstad from his post in the Bank but Torvald was adamant said that he made up his mind to dismiss Krogstad and appoint Mrs.Linde in the post. Torvald tells Nora that while working in the Bank as a clerk, Krogstad committed forgery and has never confessed the guilt. This is why Torvald has decided to dismiss Krogstad from the Bank. As soon as Krogstad receives the order of dismissal, he again comes to Nora and threatens to reveal the truth about the forgery of Nora to her husband. Krogstad sends a letter to Torvald revealing the forgery of Nora.  But here Mrs.Linde comes to the help of Nora and she offers to marry Krogstad who was once upon a time the lover of Christine. The love of Mrs.Linde has changed Krogstad from a villain to a kind-hearted human being. He sends his second letter to Torvald cancelling all revengeful acts against Nora and also the forged bond is attached with the letter.


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