Out of all the material we read in English classes, I never liked reading the plays. A lot of it, for me, was that I needed more from the story than just dialogue. Sure, there were scene descriptions here and there, but they always felt lacking for me. It’s probably a good thing I never wanted to be an actor.
So I figured I should give plays another shot with “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen. The play, written in 1879, portrayed the hypocrisy of Victorian middle-class marriages when Nora rejects her marriage and social conformity. Ibsen’s biographer Halvdan Koh wrote that the play “exploded like a bomb into contemporary life.”
In the beginning of the play, you can tell there is something not quite right. Everything seems too perfect or too clichéd. The first sense that you get of Nora breaking from the mold is when she sneaks macaroons and lies to her husband about having eaten them. But other than that, Nora portrays the ditzy, silly wife whose only duties is to be a spendthrift and care for the children. As the play continues, you can see her layers begin to peel away. Whether it’s revealing to her friend Mrs. Linde that she took out a loan to bring her husband south to Italy to recover or fighting to keep Krogstad from revealing that she forged her father’s signature in order to take out the loan, you see that Nora isn’t the wife everyone believes her to be. In the end, she makes the decision to leave her marriage in order to lead her own life and become her own person.
NORA: I have other duties just as sacred.
TORVALD: That you have not. What duties could those be?
NORA: Duties to myself.
TORVALD: Before all else you are a wife and mother.
NORA: I don’t believe that any longer. 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.
Nora is quite possibly one of my favorite characters to have read this year.How many other women feel the same way? Though Ibsen wrote this play in the late 1800s, it is still relevant today. The definition of marriage has evolved and women have gained far more rights than they had back then (Nora taking out the loan was unheard of because women were not allowed to take out loans in their own name, hence the need to forge her father’s signature). But Nora’s scenario could be applied to many other situations because it’s all about deciding that you are going to do what’s best for you.
As for my former dislike of reading plays, reading “A Doll’s House” didn’t cure me of my dislike. But I definitely more open to read another — perhaps Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap.”