Saturday, 31 October 2015

A Doll's House (realistic play) by 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 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 is individual freedom and emancipation of self.  Nora, the protagonist of the play is the wife of Torwald Helmer and they have been married for the last eight years and have three children. Doll’s House is not only a realistic play but also a problem play. Ibsen in this play 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 mere doll or child who doesn’t know anything and she is called the squirrel, the skylark, doll, spendthrift etc. She is nothing but a doll for her husband.

When the curtain rises, Nora is seen on stage telling innocent lies in a child-like manner. Helmer treats her like an irresponsible child, a possession, anything except a woman. But underneath surface of Nora’s mind, there is lurking a strong protest against the male domination with its age old laws, religion and social customs, all trying to crush the individuality, freedom and dignity of woman. Her father, and later her husband, with the help of these social laws, tried to crush Nora with advises and advises. On many occasions Nora wanted to run away from her father to their maid servants. Both of them tried to keep “true realities of life” from her and made her ignorant of her reasonable rights and 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 and children, slamming the door against the worn-out male-dominated ideas, laws and social customs.
Nora’s father committed forgery while working as a government employee. Torvald Helmer was appointed to examine the documents of Nora’s father. It was during this verification of the documents that Torvald met and fell in love with Nora and married her. Nora made supreme sacrifice in order to save the precious life of her husband. She borrowed money from Nils Krogstad for the medical treatment of her husband in Italy. When Helmer was seriously ill, doctors advised her to make a trip to Italy and stay there for his treatment.. During this period, Nora’s father was on death-bed but she could not go to him. Not desiring to trouble her father at such a time for a loan and knowing fully well Helmer would never agree to take a loan himself, Nora secretly borrowed the loan without Helmer’s consent. Nora signs her father’s name on the back of the promissory note (bond) made by Nils Krogstad. Nora put the date of signature as 2nd of Ocober, whereas her father died on 29th September.  This is the forgery Nora has committed in the bond.
When Nils Krogstad is sacked from his job at the bank by Torvald Helmer, he tries to blackmail Nora in order to get back the job in the bank. Nora tries her best to get back the job for Nil Krogstad, but fails. The job is given to Mrs.Linde.

Nora made many sacrifices in her life with Torvald Helmer. Whenever Nora is given money for household expenses, such as new dresses, home needs, Nora never spends more than half of it and bought simple, cheaper, but good quality things. She also did a lot of copying work. She locked up and sat writing every evening quite late at night. Thus she saved every penny and paid the loan in  installments.

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. In the male-dominated society, laws are made by men for their own selfish interests. Nora has committed a forgery and she admits it and she is proud of it because she has committed the forgery for the love of her husband, to save his precious life. But her husband tells on her face that she has committed a crime, a sin and woman’s duty is to look after the needs of her husband and children. She has no duty to herself. Therefore Torvald Helmer accuses her of a cheat and she has no right to bring up her children, because she has committed a forgery.

Nils Krogstad is dismissed from the Savings Bank by Torvald as soon as he becomes the manager of the bank.  In retaliation, Krogstad writes a letter to Torvald Helmer revealing the forgery committed 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. At that moment Nora finds the real face of Torvald because his masked face if fallen and she learns that he is a hypocrite and has no love for her. Meanwhile another letter comes from Nils Krogstad with the forged promissory note (bond) and canceling all revengeful action against Nora. This made Torvald happy and forgives Nora for her sin and tells her that she is once again his ‘skylark’, squirrel etc.’ But Nora tells him that she had expected a wonderful thing from Torvald that he would certainly take up the blame of the forgery on his shoulder and tell that world that he asked her to commit the forgery for him and therefore he was guilty one and not Nora. But the wonderful thing did not happen. So Nora goes out of Torvald’s home slamming the door against the male dominated social laws and customs.

The play “A Doll’s House” has dropped a bomb in the male-dominated society all over the world. Social life in the cities began to change fast ever since the publication of this play and woman has gradually attained equal social status with man in all field of life.

The role and character of Mrs.Linde
Mrs.Linde is the best friend of Nora who calls her pet name Christine. Christine comes to the to get a job and she meets Nora. Christine and Nils 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 business man. Krogstad is  jilted by Christine and he gets married to another woman. But fate was cruel to her. Her mother died and the younger brothers ran away from her one by one. Soon her husband died and also his business ruined and Mrs.Linde becomes penniless and childless. A sense of loneliness seizes her and she finds life meaningless. So three years after the death of her husband, she has come down to city to meet her old friend Nora. She urgently wants a job to burry her loneliness and sorrow. Torvald Helmer gives Krogstad’s job in the bank to Nora’s friend. Now Nora tells her friend her dreadful secret to Christine and Christine promises to help Nora. She meets Krogstand and and both of them learned the truth that they are ‘shipwrecked’ man and woman. Krogstad is a widower and Christine is a widow. She is willing to marry andglad to look after Krogstad’s children. Thus Christine transformed Krogstand to a reformed character. Krogstand is thrilled with joy and promises to undo his mistake to Nora. He writes a letter to Torvald enclosing the forged bond and canceling all revengeful action against Nora. This made Torvald happy and tells Nora that she is once again his ‘skylark and ‘squirrel’ to him. Thus Mrs.Linde has played an important role in averting the crisis that faces the Helmer family.

The role and character of Krogstad
Krogstad is introduced in the Ist Act of the play “A Doll’s House” as a villain. According to Dr.Rank, the family friend of Torvald Helmer, Nils Krogstad is suffering from ‘a diseased moral character’. Krogstad is a lawyer and a widower with ‘several children’. His married life was very unhappy. Christine and Nils Krogstad are childhood friends and fell in love with eacher. But Krogstad is jilted by Christine and she married a rich business man and thus she became Mrs.Linde. This is why Krogstad married another woman and they had children. But Christine’s husband died and she is childless and penniless. By the time Krogstad also became a widower. Nora borrowed a huge amount from Krogstad for the medical treatment of her husband. But commited forgery by putting her father’s signature. The date of signature is 2nd October whereas her father died as early as 29th September.  Krogstad was dismissed from the Bank by Nora’s husband Torvald Helmer and the post was given to Nora’s friend Mrs.Linde who needed a job urgently to burry her loneliness and sorrow. Krogstand  comes to Nora and threatens her that if he does not get back the job in the bank, he will file a case in the court for forgery. Nora tries her best to persuade her husband not to dismiss Krogstad  from his post in the bank, but Torvald was adamant. Torvald tells Nora that while working in the Bank, Krogstad committed forgery and somehow he was excused from the punishment but he neither confessed his guilt nor underwent punishment. This is why Torvald dismissed Krogstad.. As soon as he receives the dismissal order, Krogstad sends a letter to Torvald revealing the forgery committed by his wife. But Mrs. Linde helps Nora and she meets Krogstad. Mrs Linde is willing to marry Krogtad and is glad to look after his children. Krogstad is transformed into reformed character. The villain turns a hero and Nora and Torvald are saved from legal action and humiliation. Krogstad sends a letter to Torvald enclosing the forged bond, and canceling all revengeful acts against Nora.
Kjt/29-12-2014


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