“A Doll’s House” Essay

“A Doll’s House” Essay

The Blame is on Nora in A Doll’s House

The force of love and marriage underlying A Doll’s House is one of its key elements, all the more difficult to sustain and convey because it is not entirely explicit but deeply imbedded in the dialogue and gestures of the characters. The questions and issues of love in A Doll’s House can be reduced to something like this dual form: What are precisely the motives that drive Nora Helmer to break up her home; and is it credible that these motives should have presented themselves spontaneously to such a person as the author represents his heroine as being and should so effectively have actuated her?

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In elaborating, the analysis of Nora’s character, one may dwell on two negative factors. First, irresponsible though Nora might be, nothing at first suggests that she was the woman to consider walking out of the house a trivial matter. For instance, she seems to truly care about her husband saying, “The trip was to save my husband’s life. I couldn’t give that up” (Qtd in Jacobus, 715). Second, in depicting Nora’s character with an almost derogatory manner, Ibsen gave no hint that she was either, in the commonly accepted sense, a frivolous woman, fundamentally capricious and capable of anything; there seems to be no incoherence in her personality.

What, then, drove this somewhat feather-headed, but sound and home-loving young woman to the grave act of abandoning home, husband and children? The term ‘home-loving’, liberally interpreted, may point to the answer. Though apparently unstayed by religion, Nora’s is a deeply passionate and devoted heart: “I’d bee a wood nymph and dance for you in the moonlight” (Qtd in Jacobus, 719). The keynote is firmly struck before one knows anything about her crime, which after all was committed from unreflecting passionate love of her husband: Helmer asks where Nora would be financially if a tile blew off the roof and knocked his brains out, and she replies that she cares not where she would be if he were not with her. It is inconceivable to her that her feelings should not be absolutely shared. Helmer may have his funny ways in pulling her up short when she looked like outrunning the constable; he could, no doubt, on occasions be cross with her; but there was a horror she had never so much as dreamed of, the distorted mask of fury and aversion that he turned upon her after opening Krogstad’s fatal letter. It was the face of a strange man with whom she had been living.

An equally deadly shaft had already pierced her heart. Krogstad, she learns, once did what she had done, committed forgery and evaded the consequences; and then he wished he “could take it all back” (Qtd in Jacobus, 727). At the same time, Helmer–the fount of wisdom for Nora–gives it as his opinion that such a man must be the destroyer of his own children. By implication, he adjudges her unworthy to be a mother. It shows the seriousness with which she accepts this judgment that thereafter she keeps her children away from her as much as possible. These two blows, the conviction of her unworthiness to be a mother and the knowledge that Helmer’s love for her was fallible, have completely shattered the vital basis of Nora’s life. To leave the hearth on which the fire has gone out can give her no further pain.

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