Essay, Research Paper: Escape From A Dollhouse

World Literature

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We have all felt the need to be alone or to venture to places that our minds
have only imagined. However, we as individuals have always found ourselves
clutching to our responsibilities and obligations, to either our jobs or our
friends and family. The lingering feeling of leaving something behind or of
promises that have been unfulfilled is a pain that keeps us from escaping.
People worldwide have yearned for a need to leave a situation or seek spiritual
fulfillment elsewhere. The need for one’s freedom and their responsibility to
others can make or break a person. Henrik Isben’s inspirational characters of
Nora Helmer, Kristine Linde, and Nils Krogstad have all had to suffer for their
right to be individuals and to be accountable for their actions. A woman of the
tough Victorian period, Nora Helmer was both a prisoner of her time as well as a
pioneer. In her society women were viewed as an inferior species and were not
even considered real human beings in the eyes of the law. Nora and other women
soon discovered that it was a man’s world and they were just not allowed to
participate in it. Women of that era though, were allowed to stay at home and
adhere to their tired, overworked spouse’s needs, not to mention their
constant obligation to their children. Women in those days were only allowed to
work solely at home or to have minor jobs such as maids or dressmakers. Nora was
a free spirit just waiting to be freed; her husband Torvald would constantly
disallow the slightest pleasures that she aspired to have, such as macaroons.
Nora lived a life of lies in order to hold her marriage together. She kept
herself pleased with little things such as telling Dr. Rank and Mrs. Linde; “I
have such a huge desire to say-to hell and be damned!” (Isben 59) Just so she
could release some tension that was probably building inside her due to all the
restrictions that Torvald had set up, such as forbidding macaroons. The need for
her to consume these macaroons behind her controlling husband’s back was a way
for her to satisfy her sense of needing to be an independent woman. Upon the
arrival of her old friend Kristine Linde, Nora took it upon herself to find her
friend a job since she had gone through a lot in her life. She asked her husband
Torvald, who also happened to be the new manager at the bank if Kristine could
have a job and he responded with an afirmative response. Mrs. Helmer had also
stated that she had single handedly saved her husband’s life when she took out
a loan for his benefit. However, in those days women were unable to get a loan
without their husband’s consent or another male’s signature, so Nora took it
upon herself to forge her father’s signature in order to secure the welfare of
Torvald. She saw it as her obligation as a loving wife to break the law so she
would be able to save a life, especially when it was the life of her husband.
Others though saw it as a criminal offence; Nils Krogstad for example accused
Nora of violating the law to which Nora replied: “This I refuse to believe. A
daughter hasn’t the right to protect her dying father from anxiety and care? A
wife hasn’t the right to save her husband’s life? I don’t know much about
laws but I’m sure that somewhere in the books these things are allowed. And
you don’t know anything about it-you who practice the law? You must be an
awful lawyer, Mr. Krogstad.” (Isben 67) Nora saw the law as something which,
stood in the way of her responsibility to her family not to mention to herself.
If she were to of told her ill father about her situation concerning Torvald’s
health he could have died due to stress of hearing this news. If she had spoken
to Torvald about his illness he would have forbidden her from carrying it on
because he wouldn’t want to be in debt to a women, and more importantly his
wife; his pride as a male would have been crushed. It was her responsibility
that she did not disclose that information to Torvald because of the
repercussions it would bring. At the conclusion of the play Nora knows that her
secret will be revealed and awaits Torvald’s reaction to it. When she learns
that her marriage was a sham and it was a one sided, playful wedlock she decided
to leave Torvald. Torvlad makes many futile attempts to make her stay concerning
her duties to her husband and children to which Nora tells him that she has
other duties; duties to herself. Torvald pleads with her that before all else;
she is his wife and the mother of their children, to which Nora says: “ I
don’t believe in that anymore. I believe that, before all else, I’m a human
being, no less than you-or anyway I ought to try to become one. I know the
majority thinks you’re right, Torvald, and plenty of books agree with you,
too. But I can’t go on being satisfied with what the majority says, or
what’s written in books. I have to think over these things myself and try to
understand them.” (Isben 111) In her leaving and the abandoning of her family
and the memories that coincide with them, Nora was able to gain her freedom as
an individual and was now in search for new responsibilities. Other people seek
out independence and accountability through personal experience and by
themselves. Kristine Linde, a childhood friend of Nora has had to strive for all
that she wanted. In her past she had at one time had a serious relationship with
Mr. Krogstad, but due to circumstances beyond her power she had to give up her
life with him. It was all due to her mother’s ailment and her obligation to
her younger brothers that she had to take it upon herself to marry a wealthy man
so she could make her mother’s last days enjoyable. With all the extra money
she could afford to help her brothers and live the good life. This though all
came crashing down on her when her husband died and she was left a penniless
widow. She took it on herself to work in a man’s world and be faced with the
obstacles that would constantly confront her. She became a teacher and worked
many odd jobs before Torvald gave her a job in his bank. She sees Nora as the
ideal wife, and as everything that she wants to be. Kristine believes that Nora
has had it easy in life in comparison to her, Kristine has had to fulfill her
obligations to her family not to mention herself while suffering long years of
unhappiness in a marriage to a man she did not love. Kristine then hears of all
the trouble that Nora had gone through and the secrets that she had to keep and
attempts to right the wrong that Krogstad is trying to do to her. Mrs. Linde
feels slightly responsible for what Krogstad is doing because of what she had
did to him in the past. She believes that if she had not left him he would have
never of become this sly individual who is not only pestering one of her friends
but blackmailing her as well. Mrs. Linde attempts to get Krogstad to withdraw
his letter to Torvald concerning all of Nora’s secrets. During their
conversation she admits her love for him, not only because she felt responsible
for his current situation but she also felt that she needed to fulfill the
responsibility to her heart and her emotional wellbeing. Kristine tells Nils
that: “I have to work to go on living. All my born days, as long as I can
remember, I’ve worked, and it’s been my best and my only joy. But now I’m
completely alone in the world, so terribly lost and forsaken. To work for
yourself-there’s no joy in that. Nils, give me something-someone to work
for.” (Isben 96) She is ever constantly striving for no one but herself and it
is hurting her inside. Telling Krogstad about her feelings towards him frees her
from all the years of guilt and sets up a new beginning for her. Kristine begins
her new life by not holding on to lies and tells Krogstad not to take back his
letter but instead, leave it there so the truth can be revealed. In her
rekindled relationship with Krogstad, Kristine had learned that a healthy
relationship must go on without lies. She believes that “Helmer’s got to
learn everything; this dreadful secret has to be aired; those two have to come
to a full understanding; all these lies and evasions can’t go on.” (Isben
97) She has the forethought to see that Nora’s lies will only cause her pain
and like Torvald said “Because that kind of atmosphere of lies infects the
whole life of a home. Every breath the children take is filled with the germs of
something degenerate.” (Isben 70) Which in time might prove to be true and
would eventually be the cause of their separation. Finally, other people have
had to fight for their freedom and therefore accept responsibility for their
actions, just like Nils Krogstad. Mr. Krogstad was once a good man until his
world fell apart when Kristine dumped him. It was due to a rash action of his
that his reputation had been tarnished, his case never went to court but all
doors were closed to him and he took up some corrupt activities to support
himself. He felt quite responsible for his actions and for the sake of his sons
he wanted to reform and started the process with his job at the bank. When his
position was threatened he took it on himself to first ask Nora to persuade her
husband to let him keep his job. When that failed he decided to blackmail her
and do it legally; he as a lawyer knew that Nora had committed forgery when she
took out a loan and it was his responsibility to report it. This all changed
when Kristine had the opportunity to speak with him alone during the Helmer’s
party. There in the secret blanket of the dark, Kristine was able to convince
Krogstad that she still truly loved him and because of her announcement he
deduced that he had wronged the Helmer’s entirely wondering “Oh, if only I
could take it all back.” (Isben 97) Kristine then informs Krogstad that he can
still take his letter back, but after he decides to demand his letter back;
Kristine tells him that he can’t and that the truth must be revealed. With a
new lust for life and responsibility to his new life with Kristine, he agrees.
In finding a renewed life with Kristine, Nils Krogstad has been granted the
freedom from his past that he constantly awaited and has found his new
responsibility to his children and to Mrs. Linde. We all have wanted to go out
on our own and fulfill our responsibility to ourselves. However our need to find
our individuality can lead to our downfall or in most cases our uprising. In
Isben’s play A Doll House, an estranged wife, Nora Helmer; an independent
working woman, Kristine Linde; and a morally corrupt man, Nils Krogstad, had all
suffered to become individuals in their own right and have taken accountability
for their actions to achieve their freedom.

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