Patriarchal Authority In 'a Doll's House' Millais School, Horsham Essay

1770 words - 8 pages

Katerina Poulios
English - Dr Stuart
17 March 2018
How far can it be argued that Torvald is the only tragic
figure of A Doll’s House, falling from a position of
patriarchal authority to ruin though not death through
attitudes typical of his society and age that destroy his
capacity for love?
Torvald Helmer’s character is that of a typical nineteenth century male. He
offers his household support and is a respectable man - staying within the
guidelines of society that are mapped out for him. The play was written by
Henrik Ibsen in 1879, where typical constructs in that day and age focused
primarily on a man working to provide stable income. Unfortunately for
Torvald, although he seems as though he lives a quiet life comfortably with his
wife and children, the reality is ultimately contrasting. It is his inability to see
past himself and society which makes Helmer a tragic character in ‘A Doll’s
House. ’
As we journey through the novel, we begin by seeing Nora in what appears to be
her regular state. It is Christmas eve, and she is deliriously prepping for the
Christmas ahead - eager to make sure everything is perfect for her husband,
Torvald, and her children. We are not immediately faced with such thoughts
that Nora is always doing things like this for her family excessively, as in the 19th
century it was perfectly normal for women to be doing all of the household
chores etc. However, as soon as Torvald makes his entrance - we see what
appears to be a regular husband talking to his wife endearingly. Collectively, a
list of terms he uses for his dear wife consist of: ‘My little skylark / My little
TRAGIC TORVALD ESSAY !1
squirrel / My little singing bird / my pretty little pet / my poor little Nora’ . With every
term of ‘endearment’ the word ‘little’ is always included, and with the exception
of one, always use of an animal of some sort. Torvald clearly views himself as
the emotional and intellectual superior of the household, only referring to his
dear wife’s inferiority by terms such as ‘little’ and not even on the same
anthropological level, only a mere animal, his lesser than being a human. He
never considers her as an equal. It is easy to call Torvald arrogant in this
instance - however I believe this is more tragic than it appears. Torvald has
become like this due to his surrounding influence of society, where it is expected
for a man to have a wife almost like a servant, whilst he goes off to work. This
was typical in Ibsen’s day for a marriage of the 1800’s. Relating back to the
question, I feel that the constructs of society by which he is confined to prevent
any loving and yearning feeling to linger - as the mindset which he operates
under is to strictly work, and the idea of love is all that is known to him as some
kind of side asset.
To Torvald’s defense, my above point can be cross examined by the fact that
their dysfunctional relationship could be partly blamed on Nora also. Her
willingness of complicity does not...

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