A Doll’s House: Appearance vs Reality
Keywords: dolls house analysis, ibsen a dolls house, ibsen play analysis
Choosing to live your life independently or dependently is a life changing moment: it comes without warning, and can turn your whole life upside down. Either way, nothing will ever be the same. The book, A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen, is about characters who are all dealing with the transition of becoming either dependent or independent. They may seem happy to other people and to the readers at first, but their appearances are really a lie. Appearance and reality are often misunderstood; just because someone may seem happy, this does not mean they lead a rich and more compelling life in comparison to someone else.
Mrs. Linde’s journey from independence to marriage is a foil to Nora’s life. At the beginning of the play Nora may seem dependant but she is actually just as independent as Mrs. Linde claims to be. In order for Nora to pay the loan that she owed Krogstad, Nora saved money that Torvald gave her for dresses, and she also found a little job. Nora says,
[she] was lucky enough to get a lot of copying [done and] to do so, (â€¦) [she] locked [her]self up and sat writing every evening until quite late at night. Many a time [she] was desperately tired, but all was the same it was a tremendous pleasure to sit there working and earning money. It was like being a man (Ibsen 13).
When Nora says she felt like a man it meant she felt like she was taking on responsibilities, and having a sense of purpose in life. In other words to feel like a man in the eighteen-hundreds it must have meant you were more independent. In Nora’s mind she must have thought she was just as self-ruling as Mrs. Linde. Although Mrs. Linde may work, she dislikes it, and it has also aged her terribly. Mrs. Linde says she needs someone to depend on because she is “quite alone in the world-[her] life is so dreadfully empty and [she] feel[s] so forsaken. There is not the least pleasure in working for ones self. Niles, give me someone and something to work for” (53). Mrs. Linde may seem to be a strong willed women, but in reality she needs someone to provide for her and depend on. At the end of the play Nora chooses a life of independence by leaving Torvald while Mrs. Linde reunites with her long love Mr. Krogstad, and chooses a life of dependence.
Although Mrs. Linde and Nora may have lived their lives in an opposite direction; Mrs. Linde and Nora Helmer both started a life of marriage without true love for their husbands. Mrs Linde married her ex-husband because her father passed away and she had to raise her younger brothers. She married him primarily for financial stability because her “mother was alive then [but] was bedridden and helpless, and [she] had to provide for my two younger brothers; so [she] did not think [she] was justified in refusing his offer” (9). The fact that Mrs. Linde refers to her ex-husband’s proposal as an offer means she saw it as a business transaction. In other words this is a symbiotic relationship. Mrs. Linde needed financial stability and her ex-husband needed a wife. On the other hand Nora married Mr. Helmer even though she didn’t love him. It seems as though she was influenced by her father’s opinions:
when I was at home with Papa he told me his opinion about everything, and so I had the same opinions; and if I differed from him I concealed the fact, because he would not have liked it. And when I came to live with you — I simply transferred from Papa’s hands to yours. You arranged everything according to your own taste, and so I got the same taste as you-or else I pretended to (66).
Nora’s father had “brainwashed” Nora to such a point that she took on the same beliefs as him with out even noticing it. Nora then married Torvald and became even more oblivious to fact that she was being controlled. It is quite stumbling how life has forced both Nora Helmer and Mrs. Linde to start a life of marriage without true love for their husbands.
As the play progresses we see how Nora is actually more independent then we expected her to be. We also find out that although Mrs. Linde works for herself, she needs a purpose in life, which to her means having a family. Although we only discover that Nora never loved Mr. Helmer at the end of a Dolls House, throughout the whole play there have been small amounts rebellious behavior from Nora towards Mr Helmer. Although Mr. Helmer had forbidden Nora from eating macaroons, she still does it anyways: “What, macaroons? I thought they were forbidden here. Yes, but theses are some Christine gave me.” (17). Throughout the play Nora has shown signs of independence even though the readers were to believe she was not. Also Nora was forbidden to take out a loan by Torvald and by the law. Nora had taken out the loan despite the laws and Torvald’s wishes.
Appearances can be deceiving; just because a person may appear to be content, and carefree with their life, it does not necessarily mean they actually life a life of glamour. In the book A Dolls House Mrs Linde is the force of truth in Nora’s life. Although Mrs. Linde may not be the person to ask for marital advice she has lived a life similar to Nora’s just backwards. At the beginning of A Dolls House readers believe Nora is just a silly, selfish and spoiled character, but later readers find out that she is actually a strong willed and intelligent woman. Just like Mrs. Linde Nora proves she is able to work for herself, and that she understands business transactions without a male’s approval. On the other hand Mrs. Linde feels she needs a husband and children to have a purpose in life. In other words Mrs. Linde has chosen a life of dependence with Mr. Krogstand while Nora prefers to live her life independently and liberal minded. Clearly Mrs. Linde’s and Nora’s appearances at the beginning of the play do not reflect their reality. Sadly as in the play this may be a reality for many people today. Does your appearance to others also reflect your reality?
Ibsen, Henrik, A Doll’s House. New York: Dover, 1992. PrintOrder Now