Often in literature characters are presented as victims of society. There are many examples of this in Henrik Ibsen’s controversial play, “A Doll’s House”. Written during the Victorian era, Ibsen’s play would have raised a lot controversy on the roles of males and females in society. The audience would have noticed the constant similarities between themselves and the characters that are presented as victims of society. A lot of the audience would have found the play shocking and disturbing.
Torvald, a character who is a typical Victorian era husband, with a sweet wife, three children, a nanny, a maid and a well paid job; would have represented a large percentage of the play’s male audience. Only people, who were well off as Torvald, could go to the theatre and have such luxuries, in that period of time.
Torvald is a victim of society, forced by the need to fit into society’s circle and to be classified as high in social status. Torvald is aware of the pressures of society and is willing to adhere to them. Although Torvald is a victim of society, it’s quite evident that he is happy and comfortable with the idea.
Torvald has everything he could possibly want, and everything society could possibly expect him to have, in life. A family, a beautiful wife, a home, a good respectable job, which has given him a higher status in society, a office of his own, to do his man to man business, and plenty of money so that he can spoil his pet, Nora. This is the major reason why Torvald does not want to do anything such as “touch any case that isn’t – well – nice” in case it affects his image and gives his name a bad reputation. Torvald would do anything to stop having to “cut costs to an absolute minimum” and “save every cent”, ever again. This is evident in the last scene when he tries to cover up Nora’s actions, so it doesn’t leave a bad mark against his name. “ I must try to buy him off somehow. This thing must be hushed up at any price.” (Act3, pg94)
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Torvald tries his best to live up to every expectation society sets for him. The idea of maintaining a strong and crucial role in the family, is an image, which is important to Torvald. He feels if he maintains this image, he will be comfortably similar to everybody else, in society. As the male and husband of the family, he feels that it is his duty to be the breadwinner, the provider and the head of the household. “you will not find me lacking in strength or courage. I am a man enough to bear the burden for us both.” (Act 2, pg63)
In Act 3, we are able to see how the affects of society have taken the toll on Torvald’s moral thoughts. It would kill Torvald, to know that society was aware of Nora’s actions. Torvald would feel ashamed that his own wife had to support him and save his life. “he’s so proud of being a man- it’d be so painful and humiliating for him to know that he owed anything to me (Nora).” Society works in the opposite way, the man is to support his family and to protect them against any harm and danger. Torvald resides to the level of society and comments that “often I wish some terrible danger might threaten you, so I could offer my life and blood, everything, for your sake.” (Act 3, pg92)
Due to society’s pressures and expectations Torvald’s only opinion and way of thinking is the same as the society’s stereotypical views. He knows no better. In society, women are just there to take care of the children and please their husbands. The most obvious example which shows Toravld’s need to follow to society’s ideas and expectations, is when Nora dances the tarantella and we see Torvald’s physical control over her. Nora pretends that she needs Torvald to teach her every move in order to relearn the dance. The reader knows this is an act, and it shows her submissiveness to Torvald. After he teaches her the dance, he tells Nora “When I saw you turn and sway in the tarantella- my blood was pounding till I couldn’t stand it.” (Act 1), showing how he is more interested in Nora physically than emotionally. When Nora responds by saying “Go away, Torvald! Leave me alone. I don’t want all this.” (Act 1), Torvald asks, “Aren’t I your husband?” (Act 1).
... someone as well and that she hides behind Torvald and society. Dr. Rank also helps Nora figure out her true self by forcing ... money. She moved from her fathers rule straight to her husbands rule, and has accepted their opinions as her own throughout ... the characters they feel whole again. When Krogstad confesses he is releasing his burdens and becoming whole. As Torvald begs Nora to stay ...
By saying this, he is implying that one of Nora’s duties, as his wife is to physically please him at his command.
Both in Torvald’s eyes and society’s eyes, Nora, is merely a possession who like a pet can be played with affectionately until tired and given presents and treats to keep her happy. “Now, now! My little songbird mustn’t droop her wings…Is little squirrel sulking? Nora; guest what I’ve got here!”(Act 1, pg25) Torvald’s constant use of pet names throughout the play is an example of way he treats her like a child or a pet. Speaking to her and patronising her, belittling her, in order to make her look sweeter and precious in society’s eyes. Making her seem like a better prize on Torvald’s arm. Torvald uses Nora to gain public interest and acceptance. “Main thing is- she had a roaring success. Was I going to let her stay, on after that and spoil the impression? I took my beautiful little Capri signorina – under my arm and the beautiful apparition disappeared.” (Act3, pg85)
Torvald’s need to be accepted into society is further shown when Torvald finds out about Nora and Krogstad’s agreement. It’s not only obvious Torvald is pathetically reliant of society to be happy and content, but it’s now evident that Nora and Torvald’s ideal home and marriage had been a fabrication for the sake of society. Torvald voices society’s opinions and crushes any false images that Nora had that he truly loved and cared for her. “As regards to our relationship- we must appear to be living together just as before. Only appear of course.” (Act3, pg94)
In frustration Torvald tries to make sense of the situation, but not for Nora’s sake, but for his own. Torvald’s character and tone change dramatically. The once affectionate husband who adored his “sweet little creature” of a wife; who once said that could save her form some danger so he could show how much he loved her, becomes a complete hypocrite and worries constantly how her actions are going to affect his reputation.
... Nora's leaving Torvald. Christine at first thought Nora to be childish but then realizes it was just an act she played to fit in Torvald ... because she wants to express herself more than society allows' (Deer 89). Torvald has Nora perfect the Tarantella before the ball because ... love, Krogstad realizes that the most important things in life are not money and respectability but rather love and trust ...
Torvald is presented as a victim throughout the whole play, and it is because of his need to accepted into society that his is life dramatically changed. If Torvald didn’t have the need to be such an upstanding male status in society, then Nora would not had been forced to conceal her hidden independence, in order to save her husband’s life.
Nora is a victim of society because of Torvald’s need to appear as a picture perfect family, in order to play the role he has set for them. Not only is Nora a victim of society, but of Torvald as well. Nora feels that it is her duty as Torvald’s wife to live up to his expectations and play the role he has set for her, in order to make a good impression on society.
In the beginning of “A Doll’s House” as an audience we see Nora as a victim, a doll who is controlled by Torvald. She relies on him for everything, from movements to thoughts, much like a puppet that is dependent on its puppet master for all its actions. At this stage of the play Nora enjoys playing the role of Torvald’s wife. Like Torvald, Nora finds it content to be comfortable in society and plays along with what society expects of her. The Christmas presents she buys for the children are clear evidence that she follows the stereotypical views of society. “A trumpet for Bob. And a doll and a cradle for Emmy.’ (Act1, pg25)
The conversations with Ms Linde reveal that there is more to Nora than what meet Torvald’s and society’s eyes. In the conversations with Ms Linde, we are introduced to Nora’s hidden independence and illegal actions. Nora uses the image of being a victim of society to cover up her secret business. An example of this is when Nora buys macaroons and lies to Torvald about having bought them. “Not a little nibble at a macaroon?” Nora: “No, Torvald- I promise you honestly-!” (Act 1, pg27)
... , Nora is at times predictable and silly doll and at times a captivating and exotic pet or animal, all created for Torvald. Act ... : The juxtaposition of their entrances at the beginning of the play (they enter together) suggests that there is something similar about ... and Mrs. Linde enter the play as influences on Nora and Torvald. Dr. Rank is a foil for Torvald's unyielding sense of morality ...
Nora rebels against society’s morals and laws that “a wife can’t borrow money without the husband consent.” (Act 1, pg35) Although she realises is illegal and wrong, she finds it “great fun, though, sitting there working and earning money. Almost like being a man.” (Act 1)
As the play progresses we see Nora realise that she has been feed disillusions that it her duty to be the ornament and prize to her husband, the role which society has given to her. When Torvald finds out about her illegal activities, to save his life, she prepares to leave town, knowing that Torvald would not want anything to do with her once he finds out that she will disgrace his name. The point in the play where Nora takes off her fancy dress, symbolises that she is no longer the same person. “Taking off my fancy dress…I’ve changed.” (Act3, pg96).
She has finally given up playing her expected role in order to please society. Instead Nora plans to please herself, by trying to find her true self and identity. Nora has been pushed around by men her whole life and now just wants to leave society’s vicious circle and find her true identity. “I took your taste in everything- or pretended I did…I’ve been living here like a pauper…I performed tricks for you… You and Papa have done me great wrong. It’s your fault that I have done nothing with my life.” (Act3, pg98)
Ms Linde was once a victim of society. She was forced by society’s expectations to marry the man who she did not love, but had enough money to support her sick mother and her two brothers. Now that Ms Linde is a widow she represents the independent woman. After she became a widow, she was forced by society’s judgement to go out and fend for herself and get a job. Ms Linde had to become self-sufficient. Things in Ms Lindes’s life changed after she became a widow, she took up knitting, as it was efficient, even though it was not thought of as unladylike. ‘You ought to take up embroidery. It’s much prettier. But, knitting now, -that’s ugly business.” (Act3, pg86)
Krogstad is initially presented as the villain, but we as the audience soon become aware of how pathetically reliant he is on society’s views on him. Krogstad like Toravld needs to be supported by objects, which make him seem like a better person. In Krogstad’s case it is his job, which gives him his pride, but now that it is being taken way form him he will “fight for my (his) little job at the bank as I shall fight for my (his) life.” (Act1, pg 39).
... , and Dr. Rank arrive. Rank says that Krogstad is "morally sick." Nora is unnerved by Krogstad's presence. Torvald says that he can ... two have not seen each other in years. Nora tells Linde about her life. She says that Torvald had heath problems earlier ... increase their quality of life. Helene, their maid, says that Dr. Rank has come to visit. Also, Nora's school friend, Kristine ...
Krogstad uses Nora to threaten her, to try and get what he wants, and not to lose what he had worked so hard to achieve. Krogstad talks about society as it were his life. “ Now I’m a shipwrecked man, clinging to a spar.” (Act3, pg81).
In the end of the play, we become aware that Krogstad isn’t a villain but just struggling in society, trying to get back some of the pride he has lost.
Dr Rank is probably one of the most upstanding characters represented in the play, because of his status being a respectable doctor. Along with his job comes a conception that he is a respectable and important person to society. It’s ironic that he is the result of society actions and is a victim to both his father’s actions and society. Dr Rank is dying of a disease which his father passed onto him, because he was doing what Torvald did and followed society’s trend and slept around with as many women as he please.
The exploration of the character’s choices in society, whether to follow the crowd or be an outcast, often displays them as victims of society. No matter how large or small, most of the characters in “A Doll’s House” are presented as victims. ‘A Doll’s House” magnificently illustrates the need for a change in society’s view of males and females in society.