Shadman Muhtasim Chowdhury
First published in 1879, ‘A Doll’s House’ is the story of Laura Kieler, a friend of Henrik Ibsen. She related her story to his wife and when he found out, he advised her to inform her husband of her plight. By the time Ibsen started to write ‘A Doll’s House’, he already knew what the outcome was to Laura’s story, but he changed the ending of his play for his liking.
Around 19th century, women didn’t enjoy the rights they do now in Europe. Husbands were treated as kings and wives couldn’t borrow money without their husbands’ consent. Back in those days, women were prohibited from working. They were designated to daily household chores. An independent woman was seen as a threat and a symbol of mockery for the society. Writer Henrik Ibsen addressed all these contemporary issues in his writing.
The main character in the play, Nora Helmer’s husband Torvald Helmer is critically ill. The doctor tells her that Torvald will not survive unless he is taken to a more favourable climate to heal. She admires her husband and feels like she has no choice but to borrow the money, so they can travel to a faraway place and get the necessary treatment. Nora gets the money from a loan shark, Nils Krogstad. One of the conditions of the loan is for her to get her father’s signature. As father is literally on his death bed, she forges her father’s signature. She tells Torvald that she got the money from her dad which he believes.
Fast forward to the time of the play, Helmer family’s financial
situation improves with Torvald being appointed as a bank manager. At the same time, Nora’s childhood friend Christina Linden pays her a visit. Christina is penniless, her husband has died and left her to fend for herself. In addition to her financial woes, she is also accustomed to taking care of her mother and younger brothers. Christina has to find employment, and she doesn’t have many choices because she is a woman, but she is allowed to work because she is widowed. From Nora, she gets to know about Torvald’s promotion and so she wants her to ask him for a bank job on her behalf.
Coincidently we come to know that Nils works at the same bank as Torvald, and he is about to be dismissed on the charge of bank fraud. In a desperate act, Nils decides to blackmail Nora. He tells her to make sure that her husband doesn’t dismiss him else he will tell Torvald about the forgery. Nora isn’t able to convince Torvald and he learns about the loan and the forgery.
He loses his cool, disparages her, and tells her she has her father’s bad qualities and is not fit to raise their children. He tells her that to avoid a scandal, she can continue to live in the family home. Shortly afterwards, he opens a second letter from Nils, who has now had a change of heart and decides not to take action. At this, Torvald changes his tune, and once again Nora is his doll wife. Unfortunately it’s too late. With her love and aspirations for her husband breaking up like a glass house, the play ends with her leaving him and their children in search of a new beginning.
Shadman Muhtasim Chowdhury