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September 08, 2005

Feminism vs. Dishonest Women

Ibsen, A Doll House (Act 2) -- Drama as Literature (EL 250)

Nora is not a feminist ahead of her time, nor a woman on a quest of self-discovery. She is simply a dishonest woman. Granted, she lives in a time period where women don't have rights, but her breaking the "rules" to suit her needs is not an indication of progressive or independent thought. A true feminist would be unafraid of showing her capable self to the world, let alone the man she claims to love. Everything she does is out of selfishness, and if the play is trying to develop in the audience some kind of empathy for feminism, it fails. Nora, if nothing else, illustrates how not to live life and be happy.

After all, she is a walking contradiction. She claims to be self-sufficient and capable, and desires to feel, "like a man." However, at the plays culmination she is most disappointed to find that Torvald doesn't intend to, "come forward and take everything upon [him]self, and say: [He] is the guilty one." {cue: males in audience draw knives and storm stage}

Everything that happens to Nora is a direct result of her actions, and she doesn't have the gumption to accept it.
The reason her husband thinks of her as incapable is because she plays stupid. She breaks the law, and forges a signature for money she can't repay, and then is surprised to find the debt collector knocking. Worst of all though, she pretends to be a victim, telling Torvald, "You and papa have committed a great sin against me. It is your fault that I have made nothing of my life." This is the most disturbing line in the play. When faced with the consequences of her actions, all she can do is blame someone else.

Posted by DavidDenninger at September 8, 2005 03:17 PM


That was just the beginning of her explanation. Later she accepts responsibility and leaves the comfort and security to seek out knowledge:

"Nora. I must try and educate myself--you are not the man to help me in that. I must do that for myself. And that is why I am going to leave you now."

She's no longer accepting his support and is going to make her own way in the world:

"Nora. I must stand quite alone, if I am to understand myself and everything about me. It is for that reason that I cannot remain with you any longer."

She may have been a bit of an idiot in the beginning, but she's gone through a dramatic change in act three:

"Nora. I believe that before all else I am a reasonable human being, just as you are--or, at all events, that I must try and become one. I know quite well, Torvald, that most people would think you right, and that views of that kind are to be found in books; but I can no longer content myself with what most people say, or with what is found in books. I must think over things for myself and get to understand them."

Posted by: Kayla Sawyer at September 8, 2005 03:51 PM

We've established in class that Nora is play-acting, playing the role of the childish twit. At one point does the pretense completely break down?

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 8, 2005 04:08 PM

"Later she accepts responsibility and leaves the comfort and security to seek out knowledge"

As noble as this goal may seem, she is ditching her family to... find herself? I think not. Maybe she is out to find, "real wedlock," you know the kind that dreams are made of-- Where the husband is willingly responsible for his wife's stupidity.

"She's no longer accepting his support and is going to make her own way in the world."

...And why? Because he isn't the man (who would pick up after the social hurricane of lies and deception she leaves behind) she thought he was!

I think that it is wrong that she is leaving her children behind, but maybe if it forces her to learn about the real world, its a step in the right direction.

Posted by: David Denninger at September 8, 2005 05:00 PM

Put yourself in her place-if you were a woman during this time, do you feel you would be able to sit back and let others control your life or would you fight? I understand Nora does not protest in the normal sense of the term, but her little rebellions add up, so she eventually builds enough confidence to leave her life.

Posted by: Katie Lambert at September 9, 2005 06:10 PM

Hi David,

Nora a dishonest woman. But, by these standards, what percentage of today's women would you consider to be dishonest?

I would like to survey the girl's in our class and determine how many people think Nora has it made. (All hands.) And follow up with, how many would want this same system for their own life?

How many hands would remain?

Posted by: Katie Aikins at September 10, 2005 12:09 AM

Good point, None I would presume.
I think that there still exist some dishonest people, be they men or women- I have no way of measuring the percentage.
Anyone who acts in rebellion of the way things are, and then when they realize the consequences of their actions tries to hide behind that self-same system, is being dishonest with themself.
Nora is acting out against a very wrong sexist society, but she does so with far too little conviction.

Posted by: David Denninger at September 10, 2005 10:48 AM

David, do you feel Ibsen represents Torvald as a sexist oppressor? In what ways is he the villain, and in what ways is he also a victim?

Nora is so good at hiding her secret intellectual life that Torald has never had any evidence to challenge his notions of Nora as an amusing plaything totally dependent on him. Nora only changes when Torvald ceases to play along. Is it going to far to suggest that Nora was using Torvald, and discards him when he no longer serves her purposes? Have I gone too far with that claim?

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 10, 2005 10:57 AM

It is a no-brainer. Feminists are just dishonest anyway. If they want equal rights then why do they not marry down financially, like men do. Why don't you see women marrying unemployed men, or men who want to be supported as househusbands? Why didn't during the heyday of Feminism in the 60's didn't they protest to be drafted into Vietnam. It is a no-brainer, Feminism is just plain deceptive, dishonest, stupidity, pure and simple!

Posted by: daniel at April 23, 2006 01:25 PM

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