Breaking Away in A Doll’s House
The central theme of A Doll’s House is secession from society. It is demonstrated by several of its characters breaking away from the social standards of their time and acting on their own terms. No one character demonstrates this better than Nora.
During the time in which the play took place society frowned upon women asserting themselves. Women were supposed to play a role in which they supported their husbands, took care of their children, and made sure everything was perfect around the house. Work, politics, and decisions were left to the males. Nora’s first secession from society was when she broke the law and decided to borrow money to pay for her husbands treatment. By doing this, she not only broke the law but she stepped away from the role society had placed on her of being totally dependent on her husband. She proved herself not to be helpless like Torvald implied: “you poor helpless little creature!”
Nora’s second secession from society was shown by her decision to leave Torvald and her children. Society demanded that she take a place under her husband. This is shown in the way Torvald spoke down to her saying things like: “worries that you couldn’t possibly help me with,” and “Nora, Nora, just like a woman.” She is almost considered to be property of his: “Mayn’t I look at my dearest treasure? At all the beauty that belongs to no one but me -that’s all my very own?” By walking out she takes a position equal to her husband and brakes society’s expectations. Nora also brakes society’s expectations of staying in a marriage since divorce was frowned upon during that era. Her decision was a secession from all expectations put on a woman and a wife by society.
Nora secessions are very deliberate and thought out. She knows what society expects of her and continues to do what she feels is right despite them. Her secessions are used by Ibsen to show faults of society. In the first secession Ibsen illustrates that despite Nora doing the right thing it is deemed wrong and not allowed by society because she is a woman. While the forgery can be considered wrong, Ibsen is critical of the fact that Nora is forced to forge. Ibsen is also critical of society’s expectations of a marriage. He illustrates this by showing how Nora is forced to play a role than be herself and the eventual deterioration of the marriage.