Henrik Ibsen'S A Doll'S House: Book Review
An evaluation of what Nora's epiphany in Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House was, and whether or not she achieved it.
In Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, we are lead to believe the character Nora experiences an epiphany at the end of the story. There are many different arguments for what this epiphany is, and what it represents. To me, Nora's epiphany is that she discovers throughout the last 8 years of her life, she has been blind to who is in control of the marriage. When Nora realizes that she does not have the power to make Torvald love her, she realizes she is not in control. This is the epiphany.
Throughout the story, Nora gives the impression that she wears the pants in the relationship. We see hints of this in the very beginning of the story, when Nora flaunts her womanliness to Torvald in exchange for money. Torvald is unable to resist her teasing, and gives in to Nora's beauty. The first outright display of Nora's superiority complex plays out when Nora and Mrs. Linde are discussing their lives upon her first visit. Nora completely monopolizes the conversation. She constantly tries to stay one step of Mrs. Linde in a small power struggle as to whom has lived a harder life. Once Nora gets into her explanation of how she saved her husband, Pandora's box is opened. Out comes the plot of how Nora secretly borrowed money to pay for the vacation she and Torvald took. Nora explains to Mrs. Linde how if Torvald ever found out about the loan, it would practically kill him inside, yet she did it anyway. This makes it quite apparent that she has no qualms about playing with Torvald's pride and self image as though it were a rag-doll. She alludes to her control over Torvald again when she insinuates that off into the future, when she can no longer use her beauty to control Torvald, she will have this dark secret.
As the story progresses, Nora slowly realizes she does not posses quite as much power over Torvald as she first thought. She pleads with him to not fire Krogstad, knowing that if he does, her plot will be revealed. She pulls out all the stops, and plays every card she can think of, yet is unable to get Torvald to budge. Another good example of this takes place later during the party. After Torvald gets to show off his masterpiece (Nora performing the dance) he forces her to leave, even though she wishes to remain. She pleads with him but it falls on deaf ears.
Shortly after, Torvald finally reads the letter Krogstad wrote, which reveals Nora's actions. Nora cries, "You mustn't try to save me, Torvald", which is really her way of praying that he does. Torvald explodes, and refuses any excuses Nora offers. Once Krogstad returns the IOU, Torvald is relieved that he is no longer in danger. However, the damage is already done, and Nora sees how Torvald was only concerned about himself. It is now he who is looking for excuses, blaming Nora's behavior on her female ineptitude. It is quite obvious at this point it is Torvald who is yanking HER chain. Nora now realizes that she can never be in control of anything as long as she as seen as nothing as incompetent. The only way for her to be able to control her life is to get out on her own and become independent.
While the play does thrust this conclusion on the reader in a rapid fashion, it is not unfathomable. There are countless occasions where Nora attempts to exhibit control over every situation. Once a person like that is faced with having to be a subordinate, I can understand them lashing out to find individuality. That is the only way for Nora to control her life at this point. While the concept of leaving her children so easily is startling, apparently in that culture it isn't that odd, after all Nora's nurse did it.