Blog # 1
by Caitlin O’Neill
When Nora and Torvald interact, the power dynamic is startlingly disturbing. The deeply seated power plays prior to Act 3 were rather hazy to me in my first few readings of the play. However, upon watching the exchanges between the actors as they puzzle through the psyches of their respective characters, the misogyny has clarified and morphed into a clear detailing of daily pressures by Torvald, which act to slowly belittle and stagnate Nora. Her opinions cannot find encouragement, or even purchase, in her own home. Rather, all must be in accordance with Torvald, the patriarch. Socially he has been conditioned to act as he does—as she has been as well. Blame cannot easily be dealt out when the reality of their society has, in large part, led to their present relationship.
Nonetheless, this dynamic is, happily, not the only one put forth in A Doll’s House, because we see a strong contrast to it in the Act 3 reunion of Krogstad and Mrs. Linde, as they create the bounds of a mutually beneficial relationship where both are respected for their contributions. It should be noted though that Mrs. Linde had already undergone her own degradation of sorts through her marriage to a man with monetary prospects which could provide for her family. As Mrs. Linde says, she “sold herself once” (pg 94), and learned she could not ever do so again. Such a lesson undoubtedly accounts for a large portion of her self-assurance and consistent composure, which far outstrip that which is possessed by any other character. Mrs. Linde parallels quite well with the present time and atmosphere, especially regarding the confidence of women and how it often requires some form of catalyst to crystallize and strengthen.
The general state of society does not produce such confidence in equal measures across gender lines. The aspect in today’s culture I find most disquieting is the way in which women are valued in society—and the similarities between Ibsen’s time and ours. This trailer put things in terribly clear perspective for me.
Gender disparity in powerful positions throughout industries is a direct reflection of how women are portrayed by media. The focus on the physical body of the woman matches the Tarantella scene of A Doll’s House because Nora’s goal is to beguile the men of her life, especially Torvald. Likewise, advertisements portraying women in piecemeal outfits seek to similarly fascinate and trap attention, never utilizing the intelligence behind the pretty face in that pursuit. Marian Wright Edelman, Founder & President of Children’s Defense Fund, said, “You can’t be what you can’t see,” and this is unfortunately too true. Mrs. Linde escapes this norm following her experiences of falling into it, and Nora struggles to slip out from the trap, requiring her breakage from the only life to which she has ever been accustomed. Her final scene challenges me to take a difficult review of the media and messages I consume, and hopefully to begin to recognize the subliminal, as well as overt, messages which seek to stagnate society from gender equity in every plane.