In Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, how is Torvald portrayed as being defined by society?

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tamarakh's profile pic

Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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While Torvald may be guilty of stubbornness, he is not really a cruel or heartless man or even the type of man that typically a wife would leave. Instead, society has influenced and shaped him into being a dictatorial and controlling husband who treats his wife as a silly play thing.

One way Torvald portrays how society has defined him is by treating his wife's needs and wants as though they are silly and trivial. For example, in the very first act, when Nora comes home with packages on Christmas Eve and asks her husband to come and see the things she has bought, his immediate response is, "Bought, did you say? All these things? Has my little spendthrift been wasting money again?" (I).

This is a very ridiculous way to treat his wife as he knows it is Christmas Eve and the reality is that she has bought very inexpensive gifts for Christmas. It is also ridiculous because clearly he can afford what she has bought because a few lines later he takes out his wallet and gives her more money, saying, "Do you think I don't know what a lot is wanted for housekeeping at Christmas-time?" (I). Torvald's initial reaction to his wife's purchases shows us that in reality he thinks his wife is a very silly person, which is a result of society's influence on him.

Another way we see Torvald treat his wife as a silly and insignificant person is that he does not respect her points of view. We especially see this when he refuses to listen to her opinion that he should allow Krogstad to keep his position at the bank. When Torvald states that he simply can't bare the thought of working with someone he considers to be morally corrupt, Nora dares to argue that that is "such a narrow-minded way of looking at things" (II). Torvald responds by immediately sending out Krogstad's letter of dismissal. He even considers her worries as an "insult," showing us that Torvald really thinks very little of his wife's mind. Again, Torvald's view of his wife's opinion is a direct influence of society and society's views and treatment of women.

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georgejijo's profile pic

georgejijo | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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A Doll's House is a three-act play inpros by the norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. ibsen explores the human relation between the characters Torwald and Nora. it raises questions against the responsibilities and duties imposed on women mainly married ones. the society has imposed some unwritten duties on women and women are expected to do those duties without complaints, and obviously they are not supposed to cross question their patriarchial authority. if somebody wants ask questions against the male dominated deeds, then they are abadoned.

in this play ibsen tries to explore the society's attitude towards the women and how it looks the same. here the husband couldnt undrestand his wife properly because he is a product of male dominated society where women are not supposed to do anything without authories consent even the authority in an unconscious mind or in hibernation.


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