The importance of avoiding selfish choices in a family: choices made without self knowledge and concern for others... what does this mean in A Doll's House?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The importance of avoiding selfish choices in a family, analyzed from the perspective of A Doll's House, entails that the worth and the value that is given to the head of the household, say, Torvald, should also be given to every single member of the family equally. This way every choice that is made is for the benefit of the entire family, and not for the selfish interests of one person over another. This, however, should be the norm, and not the exception, in every family unit.

The thoughtless choices made by Nora are not as grave when compared to those made by Torvald. Upon closer analysis, Nora's choices have always been made to benefit Torvald, who is her husband. In Nora's eyes, if Torvald is happy, the family is stronger and safer. The only mistake that Nora really made when she struck the deal with Krogstad was that she was too naive to watch out for her own best interests. Her "thoughtless" and "selfish" choice was still altruistic.

However, there is a subtle message in the story that clearly switches things around: after Torvald verbally attacks Nora for what she had done with Krogstad, and then after foolishly trying to appease Nora with shallow begging, Nora comes to a very strong realization:

That is just it; you have never understood me. I have been greatly wronged, Torvald—first by papa and then by you....You have never loved me. You have only thought it pleasant to be in love with me.

Stating this conveys the message that it is Torvald who has made the worst of all choices: he chose to follow the social expectations bestowed upon men, picked "a" woman to marry and have children with, and never ONCE did he bother to wonder what were this woman's wants, or needs. It is Torvald who made the selfish choice to procreate children with a woman that he was clearly not interested in making happy. He has children with which he hardly interacts, and his reputation and social ranking is more important than his family. Otherwise, he would have not uttered the words:

The matter must be hushed up at any cost. And as for you and me, it must appear as if everything between us were just as before...No, that is all over. From this moment happiness is not the question; all that concerns us is to save the remains, the fragments, the appearance—

What does this imply? This implies that poor Nora, her limitations as a woman, her lack of malice and her extreme naivete are the factors that have rendered her what she really is: the true victim of a thoughtless and irresponsible match made only to please the eyes of society, and not the needs of a woman's heart.


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