September 04, 2005

"A Doll House" or "The Doll's House"?

HELMER: But I'll believe. Tell me! Transform ourselves to the point that-?

NORA: That our living together could be a true marriage.

HELMER: Nora! Nora! Empty. SHe's gone. The greatest miracle-?
(Ibsen, "A Doll House")

I originally thought we were reading a play by the name of "A Doll's House" and, although I was mistaken, the name still fits. Nora is introduced as a weak, "plaything" that her husband controls. Personally, I think she's extremely strong. Yes, she's been taken care of and pampered most of her life, but I don't feel that makes a person completely weak. Others, like Kristine, may have more life experience, but Nora took a chance to save her husband, which I find truly brave.

Without Nora, there would be no play (obviously), but rather than having the title as "A Doll House," "The Doll's House" seems more appropriate. Nora is a doll or trophy wife, but she's calling the shots in the house. That fact comes to a head in the last few lines. Torvald has taken his perfect life and wife for granted, so when she leaves, he sees how empty his life now is. Nora may be toy for everyone's amusement, but she knows how to manipulate the situation and make everyone love her, which is the ultimate power. Even Kristine, with her hardships, falls under Nora's spell. Again, Nora must seem like a simple doll and she may be living in a fairy-tale doll house, but it's her doll house to control.

Props to Nora for finally sticking it to everyone-the power that comes from being "perfect" may be intoxicating, but I'm sure it gets old after some time. Nora was totally aware of her power to control others, but it was certainly refreshing to see her challenge herself and go out in the real world. If I was her and her kind of ability, I would want to test my strength against others, and not just those in my close circle.

Posted by KatherineLambert at September 4, 2005 09:19 AM

You weren't mistaken. The play was originally written in Norwegian, and different English translators choose slightly different tranlstions of the titel (as well as the rest of the play's language). Does the house belong to the doll, or are both the doll and the house somebody else's plaything? You raise an interesting question.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 4, 2005 12:25 PM

It seems that although her husband thinks Nora is his plaything, she controls most of the events in their lives. Without her, he no longer has a wife (to love/control), the children no longer have a mother, and there no longer is woman of the house. She may be just a toy, but she's a toy with some serious power.

Posted by: Katie Lambert at September 7, 2005 12:00 AM
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