In Henrick Ibsen’s A Doll’s House Nora Helmer is treated like a small child. Tovarld Helmer restricts Nora from eating Macaroons insisting they are bad for her teeth. Nora finally breaks off the chains holding her captive refusing to be petted like a baby as discussed below.
Tovarld Helmer treats Nora like a doll for he calls her funny and sweet names like ‘my little skylark’,’poor little girl’,’ miss sweet tooth’,’ my little squirrel’. All the above metaphorical words have made Nora believe that Tovarld is in love with her. To Tovarld, Nora is a little woman to be dressed and please him like it is expected of women in this Victorian era. Tovarld has to choose a perfect dress for the Tarantella festival, something that Nora would look exceptional in and when he marries Nora, he has already arranged everything in the house according to his taste. When Tovarld Helmer finally gets to know of Nora’s little secret of borrowing money without his conscience, he is furious and calls her offensive words like ‘thoughtless woman’, hypocrite’,’ liar’, criminal’. Tovarld’s insults expose Nora to the reality that Helmer had never loved her but thought it pleasant to be in love with her. She finally leaves him after eight years of marriage with a motif of self-discovery neglecting her societal expectations. She believes she is as reasonable as Tovarld and that she can no longer content herself with what people say or what is in the books.
Nora’s father treated her like a doll when she lived with him. Nora tells her husband that he has never understood her and she feels greatly wronged by both her papa and Tovarld himself. Nora reminds her husband that when she was at home with her father, he would tell him his opinion about everything which made her adopt the same opinions as her father’s. If Nora ever differed from him, she would conceal the fact because his father would never have liked it. Just like a small child, she would dare not confront her father on the difference in opinions therefore always remained silent. She says that his father called her his doll-child and played with her just as she played with her dolls. Nora further reminds Tovarld that on their engagement, she was simply transferred from his father’s hands into his. He arranged everything according to his taste. Nora says she has been living like a poor woman, from hand to mouth and it’s her father’s fault she has made nothing out of her life. She believes once she settles back in her old home, it will be easier to find something to do there.
Tovarld Helmer forbids Nora from eating macaroons for, in his view, Macaroons may spoil Nora’s teeth. Helmer is authoritative, a character that prompts Nora to be bold and rebellious. She wipes her mouth and openly denies she hasn’t been eating any macaroons when Tovarld notices she has been looking uneasy. Nora’s obsession with macaroons exposes her unfeeling character when she accuses Mrs. Linde of smuggling Macaroons into the house. She hands a macaroon to Dr. Rank saying that there is nothing wrong with eating candy once in a while. Just like a child, Nora goes against her husband’s wishes. She rebels against his laws and even hides the macaroons in her pocket every time Tovarld is home. Nora knows eating candy will spoil her teeth but she does not believe in being held captive to a man’s laws and rules as the society dictates. She, therefore, does not think twice when a chance to rediscover herself presents. She boldly rejects Helmer’s advances to resolve the conflict but insists its for her good and for the sake of the kids whom she does not want to poison with her lies as Helmer had earlier claimed.
Nora is her children’s doll to play with. Since Tovarld is the man of the house, he is responsible for all the household cares in the family. He is the man to work therefore the family’s breadwinner. Nora on the other hand is the housewife even though Anne takes care of the children. Nora, plays with her children, hiding under the table for the kids to find her. Just like she used to play with her dolls when she was little, Ivar, Bob, and Emmy are her dolls. She dances and plays hide and seek with her children just like it is expected of a mother. When Krogstad visits unannounced, she takes the kids to the nurse and assures them the strange man will not harm their mother. Later after Krogstad leaves, Anne informs Nora that the kids were begging so hard to be let in to play with their mama. Just like a child who gets tired of playing with his dolls and puts them aside, Nora tells Anne not to stay with the kids instead. When Helmer convinces Nora that she cannot be trusted to bring up the kids because of her immoral acts, she walks away claiming she was never fit for the task and what she must do is educate and emancipate herself from societal slavery.
Nora’s treatment like a doll by both her father and husband as an item to be shown off awakens her desire to become an independent woman when both of them disappoint her. She walks away from societal and parental obligations with intentions to become a selfless and free woman.
GET IN TOUCH
Location: Adlife Plaza, 8th Floor, Yaya Center, Nairobi – Kenya.
P.O Box 1760 – 00100 Nairobi.
Office: +254 746 896 669.
Tel: +254 733 633462.
- August 5, 2020