“A Doll’s House” is a play featuring a woman that isdisheartened by her condescending spouse. The play traces Nora’sdevelopment from her former life as a wife. She has lived most of herlife under dictatorship first from the father and later husband,Torvald. Nora questions the basis of her marriage when it faceschallenges, because of her move to borrow money to save the husband’shealth. Through faking the father’s signature, Nora was capable ofgetting money from Krogstad, who has a bad reputation. The moneyfinanced a trip to Italy saving Torvald’s life. Torvald is unawarethat the money was a loan, and supposes that the wife borrowed fromthe father. After taking the loan, Nora becomes preoccupied withpaying the loan, becoming specifically concerned about money.
Money is an important factor in the play. It is what creates thenarrative, opens new events and causes a shift from one scene toanother. The characters lives revolve around having money. From thestart to the end, the play depicts money as an integral factor in thecharacters’ lives. It is through money as an overriding theme thatthe author is capable of telling their story.
During the nineteenth era, there were major social as well aseconomic alterations. Society moved from rural agriculture societycomprising of farmers, towards urbanized societies dependent onmanufacturing (Moi 256). Contrary to the rural life, the capabilityto make and have power over money was a determinant of anindividual’s position in urban societies (Moi 257). Individualscontrolling the money comprised of lawyers and bankers, as Torvald,and only comprised of men. The capability to have monetary commandresonated to being able to control the lives of others. Money alsomade it possible to decide what was right or wrong. For instance, dueto Torvald’s position as bank manager, he presumed the role ofdetermining who should be offered employment, between Mrs Linde andKrogstad.
Money makes it possible to understand the different characters inthe play. In specific is the character of Torvald, presented as amaterialistic and selfish character. As the play begins, Torvald hasjust become the bank manager, which means a bigger salary andauthority. Nora is delighted with the promotion, since she views itas an opportunity to get more money from the husband and pay off herloan. However, the selfishness of the husband becomes apparent whenhe is adamant to give her money. In addition, he refers to Nora as aspendthrift. Torvald refers to her as a spendthrift because shepurchases many items and uses too much money. This is evident in thefollowing conversation, “What are little people called? They arealways wasting money. Nora: spendthrifts I know” (Tornqvist 36).Torvald intends to show Nora his authority over her deriving from thefact that he has control over their money.
Torvald is materialistic because of his enhanced concentration onmoney, as well as material gains, as a substitute to people. Hismanliness derives from having financial success. This is expressed inhow he talks about money by stating, “It is splendid to feel thatone has a big enough income, It is delightful” (Ibsen and Sharp11). Prior to working in the bank, the character did not succeed as abarrister as he could not handle “unsavoury cases” (Ibsen andSharp 16). This pushed him to opt for working in an environment wherehe is capable of handling money. Torvald sees materialism as astrategy to attain status. The character is materialistic because hevalues having money and being recognized as someone that it wealthycompared to having a happy marriage. This becomes apparent whenTorvald finally reads the letter from Krogstad. The play informs thatNora owes Krogstad money. Torvald reacts by opting to leave Norainstead of dealing with the shame that she has a loan, claiming thatshe has wrecked his life. His reaction changes when Krogstad decidesto forgive Nora, arguing that they can progress with their marriage.
The way Nora handles and views money makes it possible to understandher character as loving, submissive and manupulative. Nora, unlikeher husband sees money as a way of enjoying life. Nora questions,“Won’t it be lovely to have stacks of money and not care in theworld” (Ibson 703). This present Nora as a character whose liferevolves around having money and using it to buy what she wants,which resonates to happiness. Nora loves because she risks getting aloan to save the husband’s life. Although she is apprehensive ofanyone learning about the loan, or how to repay, she still thinksthat she did the right thing. She loves her husband and wishes hecould also love her. Nora also hopes that their marriage could becomea real matrimony, as the play concludes. Nora’s submissiveness isapparent in the initial interaction with her husband. She is awarethat by behaving in a submissive manner, Nora gets more money fromTorvald (Tornqvist 100). She has managed to live with the husband allthose years, doing what he demands by being his doll. Hermanipulative character becomes apparent when Nora brings out thetopic of money during her conversation with Dr. Rank. She tries tomanipulate him to get money to repay her loan by drawing hisconcentration to the manner females in an unfair community seem tofulfill sexual favors to get money. She hopes that Dr. Rank will pityher and offer her his money without seeking any sexual favors(Tornqvist 34).
Money is symbolic of the authority and control some characters haveover others. The initial scene demonstrates Torvald’s capability atdictating the amount Nora uses during Christmas. This shows that hehas authority and control over her. By teasing her that she is aspendthrift, it is a manner of depicting his supremacy over Nora,because the character controlling the money also controls themarriage. This is apparent in the entire first scene where Torvaldand Nora’s conversation is all about money. The husband uses wordslike “my little squirrel”, “my little skylark” and “thesame little featherhead”, which shows he considers Nora assomething he owns (Ibsen and Sharp 4-12). Nora’s attempt to controlmoney through taking a loan, angers Torvald. Torvald sees theendeavor as shaming his authority, by placing him at Krogstad’smercy. It compromises his social status as an individual that iswealthy and morally upright. Krogstad has control over Nora, becauseshe owes him money. He uses the power to manipulate her into ensuringhe does not lose his job. By threatening to tell the husband aboutthe loan, Krogstad is aware that Nora will work towards ensuring heretains his job. Although she is unsuccessful, she attempts toconvince the husband not to sack Krogstad, just because she owes himmoney.
Money informs on the difference in gender roles. Male characters inthe play have money, and it is their role to have money. This isapparent in the fact that Nora has to get money from the husband tocater for household needs. In addition, she borrows money fromKrogstad, and not a female character. The fact that Trovald assumesNora borrows the money for his medical expenses from the father,demonstrates his view of men as having money. Men control thefamily’s incomes all through the play. It depicts the society atthe time, when men dominated their women (Moi 271). Nora and MrsLinde are incapable of earning huge salaries due to their gender.While Nora borrows from the husband, Mrs Linde on the other hand iscompelled to working very hard, yet gets very little money. Duringher conversation with Nora, we learn that Mrs Linde is poor. In orderto live, she has “had to scrape up living with a little shop and alittle teaching and whatever else she could find” (Ibson 704). Thisdemonstrates her inability to get jobs, which can pay her good money.Hence, she sees money as something that provides for necessities. Theinability of Nora and Mrs Linde to have more money than men is a wayof demonstrating that women differ from men. The sexism of the timebecomes prevalent through control of money. Whoever has more moneybecomes superior to those without money.
Money is very important in “A Doll’s House”. It informs thatthe play is set during a period when men dominate women. In addition,the play takes place in a society that associates money with a bettersocial status. Money informs on the different traits of thecharacters, as all the characters in the play are associated withmoney. It is through money that we learn of its symbolism as a formof authority and control over others. Last, money is relevant ininforming on the diversity in gender roles in the play’s setting.
Ibson, Henrik. A Doll’s House. Responding to Literature. Ed.Judith Stanford. Mountain View, CA Mayfield, 1996.
Ibsen, Henrik, and R F. Sharp. ADoll`s House. London:Dent, 1960. Print.
Moi, Toril. First and Foremost aHuman Being: Idealism, Theatre, and Gender in A Doll’s House. ModernDrama 49.3(2006): 256-284.
Törnqvist,Egil. Ibsen:A Doll`s House.Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995. Print.