In his play, A Dolls House, Henrik Ibsen shows a marriage built only on appearances, and not love. Both Nora the wife, and Torvald the husband, pretend they are in love throughout the story. However, love should be patient and kind, and their love is anything but that. Nora treats her husband as a father figure. Her feelings towards Torvald are more about dependence than love. Torvald treats Nora like a child or a pet. He gets very angry and frustrated with Nora, and he does not truly love her. True love is perfect, not angry, controlling, and dependent as Nora and Torvald are to each other.
Throughout the story, Torvald is constantly angry with Nora. He also tries to control everything she does. At the beginning of the story, Torvald accuses Nora of eating sweets. He says to her, Surely my sweet tooth hasnt been running riot in town today has she? (Ibsen 874). He continues to pester her after she denies it several times. Later on Nora tells Kristine, . Torvald had forbidden them. You see, hes worried theyll ruin my teeth(Ibsen 883). If Torvald really loved Nora, he would not care about petty things like that. If he truly loved her, he would not care if her teeth were ruined.
He likes Nora for her looks and beauty, not her personality or character. Not only is he controlling of Nora, but also very angry towards her. When he finds out about her taking out a loan to save his life, he explodes on her. Torvald says to her, Oh what an awful awakening! In all these eight years- she who was my pride and joy a hypocrite, a liar Worse, worse a criminal(Ibsen 916). Torvald does not truly love Nora if he can speak to her that way. Even after he says those things to Nora, Torvald continues to berate her. He says, Youve wrecked all my happiness ruined my whole future. Ibsen 916). Torvald has no compassion for her. He does not care that she took out the loan to save his life.
Torvald just wants to order Nora around. His love is not true, but it is an angry petty obsession. Several critics also saw Torvald as controlling and obsessive. Each critic noticed the change in Torvalds personality when something was not perfect in his home. Clement Scott said, Helmer is very angry indeed. He forgets all his affection and endearment; he can only think of his personality injury (222). Scott also said, Helmers attitude towards his child-wife is natural but unreasonable (222).
Besides being angry towards Nora, Torvald is also controlling. Forbidding Nora from eating candy reveals Torvalds controlling side. Edmund Gosse said, Her doctor and her husband have told her not to give way to her passion for candy in any of its seductive forms (220). He forbids Nora from eating candy because he does not want her teeth to become rotten. This shows how shallow he is. Torvald is so obsessed with Nora being perfect, that he really is not in love with her. Helmer only sees the attractiveness of this love which lies intoxicatingly over her silent farewell(Salome 229). Torvald is mean, shallow, and does not truly love his wife.
Not only does Torvald treat Nora badly, but he also treats her like a child. He speaks down to her. Torvald has many pet names for Nora. He says things to her like When did my little squirrel get in? (Ibsen 872). Torvald also says, My little songbird must not do that again! (Ibsen 890). He treats Nora as though she is a caged little pet. Torvald is married to Nora, because she does whatever he says. He treats his wife like a child. He gives her an allowance, and gets angry when she spends too much money. Torvald even calls her a child. He says, You talk like a child(Ibsen 921). Torvald also uses Nora for entertainment.
He has her dance around the house and do performances. Nora tells Kristine, And Torvald wants me to go as a Neapolitan peasant girl and dance the tarantella that I learned in Capri(Ibsen 896). Nora goes along with it too. When she wants a favor from Torvald, she says things like, Your squirrel would scamper about and do tricks, if youd only be sweet and given in(Ibsen 896). Torvald does not love Nora. He uses her for his own entertainment. Torvald enjoys telling Nora what to do. He treats her like a pet or a child, and that is not love. Nora also enjoys that Torvald treats her like a child.
Shaw realized, She has learnt to coax her husband into giving her what she asks for, by appealing to his affection for her: that is, by playing all sorts of pretty tricks until he is wheeled into an amorous humor(226). She loves getting her way and having all of her husbands attention. Scott said, He pinches her ear, and calls her by pet names, such as squirrel, and mouse, and bird; but all in practical matters she is a positive hindrance to his ambition(221). Just like Nora uses Torvald to get her way, he also uses her for his entertainment. Salome says, He chooses a squirrel that can perform tricks when he is bored(227).
Torvald likes to treat Nora as a pet or child. Gosse noticed, [The] happy little wife is really a tragical victim of masculine egotism(220). Having a perfect wife, who does whatever he says, shows that Torvald is selfish and egotistical. At the beginning of the play, Nora depends on Torvald for everything. She does whatever he says. Nora agrees with everything Torvald tells her. Yes, whatever you say, Torvald(Ibsen 872). She is like his puppet. She dances around whenever he wanted. Nora depends on Torvald for money. Nora says to him, Ten Twenty Thirty Forty. On, Thank you, Torvald; I can manage no end on this (Ibsen 873).
Besides money, Nora depends on Torvald to be an almost father figure. She wants him to teach her. Nora begs Torvald to help improve her dancing. Oh, Sit down and play for me, Torvald. Direct Me. Teach me, the way you always have(Ibsen 906). Even though Nora is very dependent on Torvald, she finally realizes at the end of the play that she never loved him. Nora finally figures out that she was just a toy to Torvald. She says to him, Ive lived by doing the tricks for you Torvald(Ibsen 919). Nora also realizes their life and marriage is like a dollhouse, and they have each been playing the roles.
Our home has been nothing but a play pen. Ive been your doll-wife(Ibsen 919). Nora knows that their love was not true. She knows they had been lying to themselves throughout the entire marriage. Their happiness was only a facade. She finally tells him, I cant help it. I dont love you anymore(Ibsen 921). Unlike Torvald, Nora knows this marriage was a fantasy, and was only based on appearances. Most critics see that the relationship between Nora and Torvald is one of dependence. Gosse realized, the egotistical fondling of the men on whom she depends on for emotional existence(221). Nora treats Torvald as if he is her father.
She is completely dependent on him for everything. However, eventually Nora begins to realizes that their marriage is not perfect. She gradually senses that her relationship with Torvald Helmer is that of a charming child to a parent(Salome 227). Nora finally sees that she has been living as Torvalds doll. Bernard Shaw describes Torvald as, The pillar of society who owns the doll, is a model husband, father, and citizen(225). Torvald wants to keep his family together and appearing perfect even after he explodes on her. He is more worried about his image, than the fact that his marriage is not based on love.
But Nora realizes this and leaves him. Gosse says, Nora shall no longer be a doll(221). She finally can escape her doll-like life. Ibsen shows many reasons throughout the play, why Nora and Torvald are not truly in love. Torvald treats Nora like a little pet. He makes her do tricks and dance, just for his entertainment. If Torvald truly loved Nora, he would not get so angry with her. He also would not be as controlling of her. Nora may have started out being dependent on Torvald, but at least she realizes it. Their lives were like a dollhouse. Nora and Torvalds marriage is obviously not based on true love.