Nora Helmer: Selfish Child or Solicitous Adult
The play A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen takes place during the Christmas season in Norway in the late 19th century. Right away the audience is introduced to the fairly dysfunctional relationship between Torvald and Nora Helmer. Torvald was a semi-wealthy banker who spent most of his time working while his wife, Nora, was a stay at home mom who looked after their children and kept their house in order. There was no equality in their relationship as Torvald was the dominant figure in the marriage (which was not unusual for the times) and Nora was treated as though she was his “doll”, always to be playful and obedient. Torvald constantly reminded Nora of her place in their home with his endless belittlement and insults of her intelligence. Although his intentions were to maintain a healthy and playful relationship, his actions caused just the opposite. Everyone has a breaking point, and Nora was no different. It took her eight years to reach it, but when she did, her resulting actions were drastic.
In the beginning Nora exhibits many childish qualities. She was first introduced to the audience as she had just returned from a seemingly extravagant Christmas shopping excursion. She eats a few desserts which she had secretly purchased. When her condescending husband Torvald asked if she had been sneaking them, she denied it. With this minor act of deception, the audience learns that Nora was quite capable of lying. As the play unfolds two more things become apparent. First, whenever Nora was around Torvald she turns from a mother to a child, always coaxing favors from him instead of communicating as his equal. Second, the fact that Nora has been leading a double life, and rather than frivolously spending their money she has been saving it to pay off a secret debt.
Years ago, when her husband became ill, Nora forged her father’s signature to receive a loan to save Torvald’s life. The fact that she never told Torvald...