Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Doll's House - Henrik Ibsen

A Doll's House
And so we start the integration of my grad school studies with Read.Write.Repeat.

In case you did not know, and I've mentioned it a few times, I am currently pursuing my Master of Liberal Arts. I am in my second term and it has taken over my life. 

And. I. love. it.

I am counting the weeks until tuition is paid in full and I can quit my marketing job and pick up more teaching positions. 

For me, being a student is the ultimate career. Sharing that knowledge is a close second. 

Today's post is a little abnormal, all due to my attempt to kill two birds with one stone. I had to read Henrik Ibsen's classic play A Doll's House for my Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts course (yeah, that's a mouthful, I know). I am in the process of writing a paper analyzing it. Seems a waste not to share it with you as well.

Don't worry - you're getting the super condensed version with my actual thoughts, not the academic paper version.

The play revolves around Nora, a Victorian housewife, and her husband Torvald. Nora lied to her husband about borrowing some money and we see the situation unravel. As she desperately tries to keep Torvald from finding out the truth, she pulls other people into the situation. As with most scenarios like this, one lie becomes many. In the end, spoiler alert, things work out with the loan, but Nora walks out on Torvald after he does not volunteer to take the fall for her. 

I have conflicting thoughts about this work. I loved the symbolism. Ibsen does great things with cookies and Christmas trees as he develops Nora's character and the state of her marriage. Something about theatre really lends itself well to symbolism. Adding that visual element makes a difference, at least for me.

On the other hand, I found the "heroine" of Nora completely obnoxious. I am all for being your own person and not just being someone's "doll" as she claims she is. She should have her own identity and figure out what she wants from life. But, her motivations and emotions are not grounded in good reasoning. I did not like her character, even from her very first lines. We did not get off to a good start and I was not even slightly surprised when she storms out in the end. 

It feels like a betrayal to rant against an early "feminist" character, but I can't help it. I found Nora to be deeply unlikable. In many ways, she reminded me of Edna Ponteillier from Kate Chopin's The Awakening. Except, I love Edna and that book is one of my favorites. Perhaps the event of a woman's liberation simply could not be written effectively by a man at that time. 

I had to continually remind myself that the play was set in The Age of Innocence era and the characters come from a different culture. Still, I found their actions and reactions to be extreme. 

Thankfully, I read this work for its content and deeper meanings, not entertainment. It is rich with the more important things and misses the mark for me on enjoyment. Is it totally unfair to ask for both? I even watched the movie, which I'll discuss on Monday. I sure hope I'm not coming down with a case of dissatisfaction with required reading. I have a lot of it ahead of me. 

Pages: 122
Date Completed: March 16, 2014


  1. I agree with this. We read both A Doll's House and The Awakening in school, and despite wanting to like this feminist literature, I found the characters in both shallow, underdeveloped, and unlikable. I thought Their Eyes Were Watching God was a better example of feminist literature which has relateable characters.

    1. I haven't read that one yet. I'll have to add it to my list. I do love The Awakening, but I think more for the writing than Edna's character. I guess we can take it as a good reminder that good values need to be backed up by good motivations - even in our fictional characters.