A that you couldn’t possibly help me

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A Doll House by Henrik Ibsen, is a play that was written ahead of its time. In this play Ibsen tackles womens rights as a matter of importance. Throughout this time period it was neglected. A Doll House was written during the movement of Naturalism, which commonly reflected society. Ibsen acknowledges the fact that in 19th century life the role of the woman was to stay at home, raise the children and attend to her husband. Nora Helmer is the character in A Doll House who plays the 19th woman and is portrayed as a victim. Michael Meyers said of Henrik Ibsens plays: “The common denominator in many of Ibsens dramas is his interest in individuals struggling for and authentic identity in the face of tyrannical social conventions. This conflict often results in his characters being divided between a sense of duty to themselves and their responsibility to others.”(1563) All of the aspects of this quote can be applied to the play A Doll House, in Nora Helmers character, who throughout much of the play is oppressed, presents an inauthentic identity to the audience and throughout the play attempts to discovery her authentic identity.
The inferior role of Nora is extremely important to her character. Nora is oppressed by a variety of “tyrannical social conventions.” Ibsen in his “A Doll’s House” depicts the role of women as subordinate in order to emphasize their role in society. Nora is oppressed by the manipulation from Torvald. Torvald has a very typical relationship with society. He is a smug bank manager. With his job arrive many responsibilities. He often treats his wife as if she is one of these responsibilities. Torvald is very authoritative and puts his appearance, both social and physical, ahead of his wife that he supposedly loves. Torvald is a man that is worried about his reputation, and cares little about his wifes feelings.
Nora and Torvalds relationship, on the outside appears to be a happy. Nora is treated like a child in this relationship, but as the play progresses she begins to realize how phony her marriage is. Torvald sees Nora’s only role as being the subservient and loving wife. He refers to Nora as “my little squirrel” (p.1565), “my little lark” (p.1565), or “spendthrift”(1565). To him, she is only a possession. Torvald calls Nora by pet-names and speaks down to her because he thinks that she is not intelligent and that she can not think on her own. Whenever she begins to voice an opinion Torvald quickly drops the pet-names and insults her as a women through comments like; “worries that you couldn’t possibly help me with,” and “Nora, Nora, just like a woman.”(1565) Torvald is a typical husband in his society. He denied Nora the right to think and act the way she wished. He required her to act like an imbecile and insisted upon the rightness of his view in all matters.

Nora is a dynamic character in this play. Meyers quote is stating that Ibsen has characters who struggle with their “authentic identity.” Nora is clearly an example of one of these characters. She goes through many changes and develops more than any other character. Nora, at the beginning and throughout most of the play, is “inauthentic character.” An inauthentic identity is when a person believes their personality is identical to their behavior. However subconsciously they know that it is not true. Nora was inauthentic because her situation was all that she was ever exposed to. She is a grown woman that was pampered all her life by men. Nora was spoon-fed all of her life by her father and husband. She believes in Torvald unquestionably, and has always believed that he was her god or idol. She is the perfect image of a doll wife who revels in the thought of luxuries that she can afford because she is married. She is very flirtatious, and constantly engages in childlike acts of disobedience such as little lies about things such as whether or not she bought macaroons. Nora goes through life with the illusion that everything is perfect.
When a woman of that time loves as Nora thinks she does nothing else matters. She will sacrifice herself for the family. Her purpose in life is to be happy for her husband and children. Nora did believe that she loved Torvald and was happy. She had a passionate and devoted heart that was willing to do almost anything for her husband. At first she did not understand that these feelings were not reciprocated. Torvald does not want a wife who will challenge him with her own thoughts and actions. The final confrontation between the couple involves more oppression by Torvald, but by this time Nora has realized the situation he wishes to maintain. Torvald calls her a “featherbrained woman” (1606) and “blind, incompetent child ” (1609) even though she saved his life. Nora expected Torvald to be grateful to her. This does not happen. When Torvald says, “Now you have wrecked all my happiness- ruined my future”(1606) and “Im saved!”(1606), Torvald exhibits his self-absorbed nature. The fury Nora saw after Torvalds opening of the letter showed Nora a strange man. Someone she had not been wife to, someone she did not love. Their marriage is fake and mutually beneficial because of their social status. They are not really in love. Nora says, “Yes. I am beginning to understand everything now.”(1606) It is now that she can begin to apprehend her forgery was wrong, not because it was illegal, but because it was for an unworthy cause. This is when the readers see Nora embark into her transformation of her authentic character. Nora decides that the only way to fix the situation is to leave Torvald and her children and find herself independently.

Slowly Noras character is forced to discontinue her inauthentic role of a doll and seek out her individuality, her new authentic identity. She comes to realize that her whole life has been a lie. She lived her life pretending to be the old Nora, and hid the changed woman she had become. The illusion of the old Nora continues well after she becomes a new person. When she realizes that responsibilities for herself are more important, Nora slams the door on not just Torvald but on everything that happened in her past. It took time to evolve into a new person, but after she did she became a person who could not stand to be oppressed by Torvald any longer. Nora says, “Ive been your wife-doll here, just as at home I was Papas doll-child.”(1608) Ibsen uses the idea of a “doll” because a doll always maintains the same look, no matter what the situation. A doll must do whatever the controller has them do. Dolls are silent and never express opinions or actually accomplish anything without the aid of others. This doll is Noras inauthentic identity.

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Her authentic identity is in the process of being built while Torvald calls Nora his “little lark”, his “little squirrel”, and a child. Nora grows even stronger. It is complete and presented to the readers when Nora when she stands up to Torvald and does the opposite of what he wants. Nora tells Helmer at the end of the play that, “I have to try to educate myself. You cant help me with that. Ive got to do it alone. And thats why Im leaving you now” (1609). Nora tells Helmer, ” . . . Im a human being, no less than you-or anyway, I ought to try to become one.” (1609) She does not tolerate Torvald’s condescending tone or allow him to manipulate her any longer. Nora must follow her own convictions now and decide for herself what her life will be in the future. Her rebirth has led to her own independence. Another man will never again control her and she is now free of her controlling husband.

In conclusion Michael Meyers quote “The common denominator in many of Ibsens dramas is his interest in individuals struggling for and authentic identity in the face of tyrannical social conventions. This conflict often results in his characters being divided between a sense of duty to themselves and their responsibility to others.” is applicable to Nora in A Doll House. Nora Helmer is a character struggling to realize her authentic identity. Her husband Torvald has always established her identity. Throughout the play Torvald was condescending towards Nora and forced her to act and look in a way that pleased him. Nora allowed Torvald to play dress up with her and no matter what the situation Nora has to consistently remain Torvald’s quiet, happy, little doll. Nora ends her doll life by leaving her doll house to learn and explore on her own. She is no longer a doll under the control of her master.

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Women rather than a human being that

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Women Have Come A Long Way
A Doll House is no more about womens rights than Shakespeares Richard II is about the divine right of kings, or Ghosts about syphilis. . . . Its theme is the need of every individual to find out the kind of person he or she is and to strive to become that person. (Bloom 28) Ibsen portays this behavior in A Doll House through one of the main characters, Nora Helmer, by setting the scene in Norway in 1872. In the late 1800s, women did not play an important role in society at all. Their job was mainly to cook, clean, sew, take care of the children, and keep the house in order. They were treated as a material possession rather than a human being that could think and act for themselves and looked upon as a decorative member of the household. Women were robbed of their true identity and at the end of the play, Nora leaves everything behind to go out into the world to seek her identity.

This behavior can be traced back to the beginning of time when women were to stay home and gather nuts and berries, while the men would go out and do the hunting and fishing. The male always dominated over the women and it was not viewed as unfair. Male children would go to school to get an education in history, mathematics, science, english/writing, while the female would go to school to learn how to cook, sew, clean, and do household chores. The male could then further advance his education by attending a college or university, whereas no college would accept a women student. The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of men toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. (Declaration of Sentiments) It was believed that women were the inferior gender and had to have special attention given to them. This idea dates back to the Medieval Period in history and is where the whole idea of chivalry came about and men having to provide special care. One can see that the idea of male superiority can be referenced back to very early on in civilization to the day A Doll House was written. Torvald: You stay right here and five me a reckoning. You understand what youve done? Answer! You understand? (Ibsen 187) Torvald says this to Nora when he finds out that she took out a loan without his consent and forging a signature. It is prevalent that Torvald is in a state of anger and he is dominating the situation, letting Nora know who is in charge and not even wanting an explanation to why? she took out a loan.

Women were very limited in their rights in 1872. Such rights included: women had to submit to laws when they had no voice in their formation, married women had no property rights, husbands had legal power over and responsibility for their wives to the extent that they could imprison or beat them with impunity, divorce and child custody laws favored men, giving no rights to women and when women did work they were paid only a fraction of what men earned, women were not allowed to enter professions such as medicine or law, and women were robbed of their self-confidence and self-respect, and were made totally dependent on men. (Declaration of Sentiments) Ibsen makes references to this using Christine Linde, widow and a friend to Nora. Christines husband died and left her penniless and being that her father passed away, she is able to apply for a position at he the bank. This is the only exception society made in women holding a job outside the household.
It is apparent that women have come a long way since 1872, gaining the right to vote in 1920 under the 19th amendment in the constitution, gaining a right to an equal education, owning property, and having a job. These were all results of the womens rights movement amongst others. Throughout the play, Nora plays the role of a typical women in the 1800s, staying by her husbands side, taking care of the children, and doing all the household chores. She does, however, go behind Torvalds back when she takes out the loan. When she realizes that she is unfit to do anything in life and announces her remedy-I have to try to educate myself (Ibsen 192) she walks out the door and expresses a deal of feminism universally agreed-upon base for womens emancipation,
telling Torvald that she no longer knows how to be his wife and no longer knows who she is. (Eisenberg 32) It was uncommon for women to walk out on their husbands as they do today because they were taught since they were little, to always please their husband and do everything in their power to satisfy and make him happy. This does not include walking out on him and leaving him with the children. Nora did not know any better because she came from being treated like a material object in her own house by her father, to being treated like one by Torvald. Youre not the man I thought you were. Both you and my father have both treated me like a doll. (Ibsen 191) Therefore, her whole life was based around other people making decisions for her and conformed to their way of thinking until the end of the play, when she walks out and makes her own decision.

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Nora shows her childish ways throughout the play by eating macaroons, listening by Torvalds door, and by playing with the children. It is apparent that she is confused about marriage and her role as a woman in the 1800s. She does, however, make the right decision to leave although society views this as an immoral thing to do. This was considered sinful and God would punish you if you committed such an act of wrongdoing.

In conclusion, I think that women have made an incredible appearance and have play an immense role in todays society. Women are basically treated with equality today with men and the times sure have changed. Ibsens play is a very good example of how life was like for women in the past and they have obviously made progress since then. I am very proud of what women have done for todays society and I know that they will continue fighting this neverending battle for equality until the very end as Nora did.

English IV
May 17, 1999Senior Paper
Works Cited
Bloom, Harold. Ibsen, Henrik, 1828-1906-Criticism and Interpretation. New York:
Chelsea House Publishers, 1999.
Close Up Foundation Declaration of Sentiments, Seneca Falls, New York, 1848.
http://www.closeup.org/sentiment/htm. 1997
Eisenberg, Bonnie. Legacy of 98: A Short History of The Movement.
http://www.legacy98.org/move-hist,html. 1997
Ibsen, Henirk. A Dolls House and Other Plays. New York: Penguin Books USA Inc.,

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