The Strength Of A Woman

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade August 2001

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Henrik Ibsen's controversial play A Doll's House asserts that women are able to think for themselves and have the ability to change their lives. The main character, Nora, faces decisions during the play that eventually make her a strong character. Throughout the play her choices show that she is a weak character to begin with, but in the end becomes strong. Each act of the play demonstrates a different stage of Nora's strength. In Act I Nora is very weak and the only decisions she makes are based on her childlike thoughts. During Act II Nora begins to show some strength but reverts to her childlike state of mind afterwards. The final stage of Nora's strength is in Act III. In this act Nora not only questions Torvald, but also tells him what must happen. Nora Helmer is a weak character that plays her husband's doll in the beginning, but becomes strong in the end.

During Act I Nora is treated like a child not only by her husband, but by her friends as well. Torvald Helmer refers to her as his lark, squirrel, and featherhead. These are not terms of endearment because they belittle her. He thinks Nora is stupid and reminds her of this fact with the tone he uses during their conversations. Torvald also will not let Nora have macaroons. This is another way that Torvald can control what Nora does. After Nora asks Torvald for help deciding what to wear to a party, he replies, "Aha! So my obstinate little woman is obliged to get someone to come to her rescue" (27). He says this to let her know that she is dependent on him and is not able to do anything without him. If Nora were a strong person she would not allow Torvald to speak to her this way or control what she eats. Torvald is not the only person to belittle Nora in this act. When Nora and Christine are discussing money Christine says, "Nora, Nora, haven't you learnt sense yet" (9). This comment shows that Christine feels Nora is not an intelligent person. The reason Christine and Torvald think Nora is stupid is because she is a weak character and does not defend herself. Nora is treated like a child, but she is willing to play the part.

In Act II Nora begins to speak her mind and defend her views, but she still does not fight for herself. When Nora tells Torvald about her dress he says, "Wasn't that a happy thought of mine, now". Nora wants Torvald to give her some credit and says, "Splendid! But don't you think it was nice of me, too, to do as you wish", to which he replies, "Nice? -because you do as your husband wishes? Well, well, you little rogue, I am sure you did not mean it in that way" (33). After this comment Nora changes the subject instead of fighting for a complement from Torvald. This shows that Nora is becoming a strong person because she wants recognition. Later in Act II Nora is speaking with Krogstad. When Krogstad tells Nora someday he will be the manager of the bank and not Torvald, she tells him it will never happen. She says, "I have courage enough for it now", but he tells her, "Oh, you can't frighten me" (43). This is another example of Nora becoming a stronger person. Nora is becoming stronger but when a person contradicts her she does not fight for herself, she goes along with what they tell her. She is in the beginning stages of becoming a true partner in the marriage and not just the obsequious wife.

Act III is the final stage of Nora's growth. It is in this act that she will finally show what a strong person she has become. After the party, Torvald brings Nora home early because he wants to have sex with her. Once she hears this she says, "Go away, Torvald! You must let me go. I won't", but he does not accept this and replies, "What's that? You're joking, my little Nora! You won't-you won't? Am I not your husband" (55). Nora has finally realized she can be her own person and make her own decisions. At the end of this act Nora mentions a "wonderful thing". This would be for Torvald to forgive her and want to protect her after reading the letter. When Torvald does the opposite, she realizes that he is not the one to teach her how to be a good person. Once she comes to this realization Nora goes to change her clothes. She says, "Yes, Torvald, I have changed my things now" (62). This is a metaphor because not only has Nora changed her clothes, she has also changed the person she is. Nora has now become a strong person who is ready to be independent. When Torvald says that she can take care of the children she questions him by saying, "Didn't you say so yourself a little while ago-that you dare not trust me to bring them up" (64). Now Nora is ready to stand up for herself and be strong. This comment shows that Nora has finally found her strength and will fight for what she thinks.

Throughout the play Nora shows growth toward becoming a strong person, but it is not until Act III that Nora finds her strength. In the beginning of A Doll's House Nora is a timid and relies on Torvald to show her how to live, but in the end Nora becomes strong and understands that she is capable of doing everything for herself. Once Nora realizes that Torvald has controlled her during their marriage, she breaks free and leaves her family. The only way Nora could abandon her family is by being strong. It took a lot of courage for her to go against society's beliefs and leave her children. It was also courageous to leave her family and have no idea of where she would live or what she would do to survive. Only a weak person continues to live a life they know is wrong simply because it is easy for them. The sound of the door shutting is the final proof of her strength, because she made a plan and she went through with it. She finally has the strength to stand by her decisions and to be her own person. Nora finally has the strength of a woman.