Henrik Isben’s famous play, A Doll’s House, is the portrayal of the journey of the protagonist, Nora, as she grows with experience in life. The play leaves a mark in the minds of the avid audience and readers, while the character of the protagonist voices its presence as the prototypical character representing thousands of females in the society who find themselves in the very same situation in which she is entangled in the course of the play. Nora’s character creates ripples in the minds of the audience with her traits as a woman, wife and mother in this play by Isben.
As a woman, Nora lives a life of luxury in her husband’s house. She has enjoyed the pomp and grandeur from her childhood days. After marriage, she is treated like a doll, a trophy by her husband. She is someone who loves to do things that please her. She is sly and manipulative as a person. She does not reveal to her husband that she has taken a debt, as she believes the revelation would make her spouse upset. She knows that it is her beauty and appeal that entices her husband, and she wishes to keep it that way. To enjoy a nice nuptial life, hiding a few things is not the end of the world for her. She is dependent on her husband for his opinion. She lives a life of passivity in the marriage.
As a wife, she is treated as a trophy. Her beauty and charm are priceless possession for her husband, Torvald. She is herself aware how she is treated and taken to be by her spouse. She is initially fine with things, and enjoys a life of comfort within the walls of the house. Torvald does not take her seriously at all. He keeps on calling her by names of animals and birds that have deeper meaning than just being expression of affection. He calls her a “song bird”, and says, “A song-bird must have a clean beak to chirp with—no false notes!” (Isben Act 2) It becomes very clear that she is not viewed as an equal in the marriage. It is shown in the initial part of the play how she embraces the passivity and subordination in the marital bond, and never shows her disregard at being not given the dignity and honor by her husband.
Nora is also more of a plaything to her children than being a loving mother. The children see her as an interactive toy and not as a guardian who is equal to their father. She plays with the children, and keeps them occupied. The playwright pens vividly how Nora plays games with the kids. She is never seen by the children as a towering figure of guardianship who they should obey as a parent. Rather, she is an equal in the household with whom they can play and enjoy. Apparently it may seem to be a nice mother-child relationship, but this is in reality the reflection of the subordinate status that is attributed to Nora in the family.
Nora is not taken to be an equal or someone respectful as a human being either by her husband or her children. She finally chooses to leave the drudgeries of domestic life behind to live a life of her own. It seems to be a selfish decision apparently, but in introspection it is understood that the escape from the mundane marital bond is the most important step in Nora’s life. She embarks upon a journey to live independently. Her denial to succumb to the societal institutions that expect of her to be in her home taking care of her children and embracing the passivity of being a wife is inspirational. She transforms to be a complete woman as she realizes her true capability. She abandons the life of subordination and disrespect. Leaving her husband and children she opts to live for herself. She becomes a prototypical character portraying the deepest desire of many women in the society who feel burdened by the onus of a domestic life that aims to overpower their ambitions and aspirations.
Isben, Henrik. The Doll’s House. The Electronic Classics Series Publication, 2001.