by Ali Yalgin
I have been thinking about Templeton’s article. She criticizes some of the scholars for rejecting that feminism can be an issue sophisticated enough to be a major theme in A Doll’s House, and also in other pieces of art. I do not think that feminism is not important, and also despise the attempts to ignore the question of emancipation of women in “A Doll’s House” altogether. Ibsen’s play is of course not just about women, but about any individual fight against the oppressive machinery of the society. However, it would not be totally accurate to say that Ibsen used the quest of women only as a dramatic device. I guess the danger of seeing “A Doll’s House” only with its feminist approach would be to overemphasize some points which would result in losing Ibsen’s subtle writing. This is not to say that feminism is not subtle enough and that it cannot be the direct subject of a play. It totally can! But Ibsen (and please correct me if I am wrong) wrote A Doll’s House as a piece bien-fait (well-made play), which means that the plot of the play is carefully constructed with many interwoven subplots. This means that as the cast, the crew, the dramaturg and the director, we have to establish a world as carefully and meticulously as Ibsen wrote the play. The problem with -isms is that they give us a tendency to see everything in black or white. This does not always have to be the case, but there is a danger of tagging something with an -ism and then going in a single direction. I am sure that there have been many productions of “A Doll’s House” before which have neglected Ibsen’s multi-layered world (either due to time constraints or just out of carelessness). We should accept this as a challenge, and try to make our production as rich in terms of variety as possible. The set and the film are going to help us with that, but we as the actors have a great responsibility to make this production as multidimensional as possible. It should have a feminist stance, for the play is about Nora emancipating herself, as opposed to her “being” emancipated. I do not accept that Nora was just a device, but the play is not just about Nora, it is about a broader world.
One interesting thing to think about is the relationship between Torvald and Nora. Torvald loves being in love with Nora. It is even more hurting to think about Torvald’s condescendence when you realize that it is the only kind of love he knows about. Their marriage and love is more complex than one patronizing the other…
A touching scene is in the 3rd act, where Torvald asks if Nora is certain with her decision:
Helmer: You’re clear and certain and abandoning your husband and children?
Nora: Yes I am.
Helmer: Then there’s only one possible explanation.
Nora: What’s that?
Helmer: You don’t love me any more.
Nora: That’s exactly it.
Helmer: Nora! An you can just say it.
Nora: Oh it hurts me so much for you’ve always been so kind to me. But there’s nothing I can do. I don’t love you any more.
If Nora’s words are truthful, which I believe they are, Torvald as been kind to her. The problem is that he always assumed a duty of “taking care of her,” because nobody believed that she could do that on her own. Nora does not want to be taken care of anymore, and she is not looking for a protector as a lover, hence her love expires. Also, Nora has just seen the worst side of Torvald, when he attacked her for having shamed him. So, Torvald loves himself first and foremost, and is even more proud of himself when he has Nora and the children to take care of. A reciprocal love has never existed between them.
Before I finish, here’s something that made me think of Nora:
Bergman’s “Scenes from a Marriage” has a scene where an old woman goes to Marianne, who is a divorce-lawyer, and says that she wants to get divorced because there is no love in their marriage. When Marianne asks if this was always the case, she says yes, and that she has not divorced from her husband before because she waited for children to grow up. She says that her husband has always been nice to her and to the children and that they have the same tastes in music, in art, that they have never argued, but she insists that there has never been any love in their marriage. She would prefer living alone over living with her husband without love. She later confesses that she does not even love her children, and that she is starting to lose sensation in her hands. She has stayed because her husband asked her to do so, but the consequence is that she has lost her feelings…
I would not bother writing all this and have you watch it, but unfortunately the only Youtube video I found has subtitles in Turkish. It would be nice if you could check the film out though-just watch this scene if you don’t have the time!
Here’s the video for those of you speak Turkish (laughs evilly):