In the first act of A Doll's House what are your impressions of Torvald, Christina, Nora, and their marriages?

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On the face of it, it initially appears that Nora and Torvald have a fairly conventional middle-class marriage by the standards of the time. Torvald is indisputably the head of the house, the family's sole bread-winner, and treats Nora as little more than an overgrown child who needs to be...

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On the face of it, it initially appears that Nora and Torvald have a fairly conventional middle-class marriage by the standards of the time. Torvald is indisputably the head of the house, the family's sole bread-winner, and treats Nora as little more than an overgrown child who needs to be wrapped in cotton wool and protected from the big bad world outside. Torvald insists on using a variety of pet-names for his wife, which are as nauseating as they are condescending.

Nevertheless, given the general point that Ibsen's making about the condition of women in contemporary society, it's not unreasonable to infer that this is by no means an uncommon arrangement. And what's more it's an arrangement to which married women, for the most part, conform without question. In the early stages of the play, Nora shows no outward signs of resentment towards her condition or the patronizing way she is treated by Torvald. It's only later on that the scales will fall from her eyes and she will assert herself as an independent woman in her own right.

As for Kristine, she is also subject as a woman to society's stifling conventions. Yet in due course she will show herself considerably more adept than Nora at turning such restrictions to her advantage. Initially, however, she finds herself in a rather difficult situation. As a poor, childless widow with no one to take care of her, Mrs. Linde doesn't have much to look forward to in life. Nevertheless, by struggling hard for everything she has in life, by scrimping and saving, Mrs. Linde shows considerable independence, albeit of a radically different variety from that displayed by Nora when she angrily slams the door on her family.

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Torvald treats Nora as though she is subserviant to him, which he believes. Outwardly, it looks like she believes it to. She hides eating Macaroon's in front of Torvald because he would get mad at her, he thinks sweets will ruin her teeth. The dialogue is not based on an equal partnership, but rather is an example of a patriarch attempting to make his wife conform to his ideal of what a wife should be.
We find, however, that Nora is not the subserviant woman that she portrays herself to be. We learn that she borrowed money without her husband's consent. In fact, she secretly does all sorts of part-time work to keep up with the payments. Nora may play the part of a financially stupid woman, but she definintly is not. The marriage seems like an open book at the beginning of the act, but the audience comes to see that it is not. Mrs. Linde’s plight illustrates, a woman’s chief asset in that era was her ability to attract a financially secure suitor, not her ability to earn a living independent of a man. Mrs. Linde must resort to a loveless marriage with an older man in order to help support her mother and two younger brothers. Only after her husband’s death is it socially acceptable for Mrs. Linde to find positions of her own. And even then, the wage barely allows her to make ends meet.

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