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The theme of independence in “A Dolls House” by Henrik Ibsen

“How does Ibsen convey the theme of independence in “A Dolls House”?” One of the central themes in “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen is Independence and, in particular, how women cannot do everything that women could today. The play was written in 1879, where women’s rights were not like they were today. Women were not allowed to work if they were married and had little freedom to do anything that women could today. The play is about how the character of Nora becomes independent, both in her marriage and in the social world, and for a life of her own.

The role of women in the 19th century was basically to support their husbands by raising and educating their children while keeping the house comfortable for all family members. All decisions, especially the financial ones, were made by the husband. Women were not allowed to borrow money without their husband’s permission. In this play, Nora must resort to deception to borrow the money that she so desperately needs. At the start of the play, Nora’s image is misleading, and she appears to depend on Torvald for everything. She is seen as an unintelligent and immature woman. She uses manipulative language to get what she wants from Torvald. She addresses herself as a “skylark”, and a “squirrel” like Torvald calls her.

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She does this to persuade him to give her money. “Haven’t any idea how many expenses we skylarks and squirrels have, Torvald”. Nora also uses non-verbal language to persuade Torvald to give her what she wants: “Nora [playing with his coat buttons, and without raising her eyes to his]. If you really want to give me something, you might–you might-” “Nora [looks at him for a moment]. For shame! [Hits him lightly on the ear with the stockings.] That’s to punish you. [Folds them up again.]” These quotations shows how Nora has to use her sexuality to get what she wants. This quote from the play is when Nora asks Torvald for money and feels as though she has to put on flirtatious behaviour to get what she wants. This illustrates that Nora is not independent at this point in the play because she can’t get or do what she wants by herself.

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Later on, in the play, we find out that Nora has borrowed money from Krogstad to save Torvald’s life; then, the audience realises that Nora can do things for herself and doesn’t need Torvald for money. Her image is changed into an independent woman. When Torvald finds out that Nora borrowed the money from Krogstad, he is angry and upset at Nora. Torvald makes such a big deal of this because, in the 19th-century, women were not allowed to borrow money without their husband’s permission. Also, Torvald can’t stand to let any dependence on his wife be shown.

At the end of the play, Nora shows her full independence, and she expresses her opinions to Torvald for the first time. She realises things such as she’s never had a proper conversation with her husband until then. She also says that she cannot believe that she let herself stay so dependent on him for so long. Nora speaks to Torvald as an independent person; this is a pivotal moment in the play because the audience sees how much Nora has changed throughout the play. Ibsen’s view of independence in the 19th century is apparent; he appears to think that women should have had more independence and should have been able to think and do things for themselves.

“A Dolls House” shows that the true desires of the genders really are. Men appear to want a dependent wife, a good job, and a high social position. At the start of the play, Nora gives the impression that women want a family and money to spend. At the end of the play, Nora gives a true insight into what women wanted. Nora shows that women wanted more than family and money; they wanted to be independent, be themselves and do whatever they wanted. The idea of the “doll” symbol, which is dominant, also adds more to the play’s meaning. “Dolls” have no independence whatsoever; they are just the toy of the owner. In this play, the “doll” is a metaphor for Nora. In the first half of the play, the reader sees Nora as the wife of Torvald, who is dependent on him for everything.

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Nora has no independence until she leaves her family at the very end of the play. She has been a doll, a possession without independence or equality. Torvald and Nora’s whole relationship is based on her being dependent on him. As soon as it was realised Torvald that she had borrowed money by herself and saved his life, their relationship wasn’t the same, and Nora ended up walking out because she wanted to be independent. The whole play is about Nora struggling for and then finally gaining her independence.

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The theme of independence in "A Dolls House" by Henrik Ibsen. (2021, Aug 31). Retrieved May 27, 2022, from