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Investigation of Power in Ibsen's 'A Doll's House'

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Introduction

Investigation of Power in Ibsen's 'A Doll's House' By Giles Dunseath-Hamilton Nora Helmer is introduced in Act I as a character subjugated to the wills and desires of her husband; she is merely an object which Torvald, possesses. At the conclusion of Act III however, she has become sufficiently independent to arrive at her decision to leave the children, her husband and what life she had behind, as she slams the door on the family home. A significant transition of power has occurred and this is one of the major themes that Ibsen raises in his dramatic text 'A Doll's House.' However, in examining the underlying issue of power presented by the text, one cannot simply look at the plight of Nora's character, three major aspects of this theme need also to be considered. They are the demonstration of power at home, the power and control of society over the actions of Ibsen's characters and finally the causes and effects in the shift of power to Nora. From very early on in the text, in fact from Helmer's first line, we are introduced to an obvious imbalance of power present in the domestic setting. "Is that my little songbird piping away out there?" The manner in which Torvald talks down to his wife and the apparent, unopposed acceptance of this by his wife, is evidence that, at least initially, power firmly rests in the grip of Nora's husband. ...read more.

Middle

It is Nora's false belief in the power she has over her husband, that when it is shown to be misplaced, she reaches the extreme of deciding to leave for ever. The theme of power and control in the text is not merely demonstrated by one character over another, but also by society over the actions of Krogstad and Torvald in particular. Krogstad simply desires a position at the bank because 'my sons are grown up for their sakes I want to be respectable again.' He wants to have power in a society, where someone who has committed forgery and is well known for lying has none. This is further demonstrated by the quotation "What those spiteful men wrote about him in the paper, lies and slander. He'd have lost his job if you hadn't been sent to enquire,' as said by Nora as she warns Helmer of the consequences of firing Krogstad. This implies that public opinion also has a form of control in determining what the characters created by Ibsen can and can't do. Similarly "if it comes out that the new manager changes his mind when his wife demands it," as is said by Torvald, shows that society believes that giving into the desires of a wife is a sign of weakness, a sign of a distinct lack of power placed in the influence of a female party. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is almost a complete contrast to the power shift experienced by Torvald. Initially he views his wife as a mere possession, a toy doll which he is able to show off at party's to the admiration of fellow members of powerful society, 'curtsy here curtsy there - and the vision of loveliness was gone as they say in fairy tales.' However when this 'possession' of his shows any sign of independence and when he realises the consequences of her leaving, he is forced to make a series of desperate appeals to Nora's religion, morals and marital duty in order to attempt to persuade her to stay. The theme of power is a central issue in Ibsens 'A Doll's House.' Through the presentation of power in the home, the power of society and the transition of control between characters Ibsen is able to create a commentary on the rights and values of a society devoid of many gender equalities that are present today. The change in Nora, from being under the power of Krogstad and Helmer to eventually leaving the house and the children was a ground breaking power shift to portray in the social setting of late 1880's and it is due to this radical shake up in the community's view on the power of independence that 'A Doll's House' became arguable the most significant piece of Scandinavian theatre of all time. 1 ...read more.

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