Book Review: A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
It’s Christmas time and Nora is eagerly getting ready for the holidays with her husband, Torvald, their children, and their friend Dr. Rank when her old friend, Christine, shows up in town. Christine is recently widowed and is looking for work. Nora, who appears flighty and silly at first, informs Christine that she saved her husband’s life when they were first married by taking a loan from, essentially, a loan shark to pay for them to take a trip to Italy. He remains unaware of both the loan she is working on repaying and the fact that his life was ever in danger. Unfortunately, things come to a head when the man who loaned her the money, Krogstad, threatens to reveal all to her husband.
This three act play is regarded as possibly the first ever feminist play, so I knew I had to read it. I was naturally curious as to what feminist issues the play would address. Although it’s difficult to pin down exactly what it is addressing, the content and the title point toward women being treated as playthings, as men’s own versions of dolls to make do whatever they wish in their perfectly-imagined household.
The three acts are all written so that they may remain in one room. This is convenient for the actors, of course, but I also personally enjoy seeing a story unfold all in one room. It takes skill to make that happen, and it makes the whole story feel more personal and urgent.
At first I was annoyed by how Nora allows Torvald to speak to her, addressing her as his “little squirrel” and “songbird,” as well as making it evident he doesn’t think she has a capable brain in her skull. He is painfully selfish, apparently viewing her entire existence as only for him. Of course, this is all part of the set-up for the ending, and makes the ending surprisingly enjoyable.
It is a short read, but the play itself takes about three hours to perform, making it an excellent length. The dialogue and mystery of the debt are intriguing enough to hold one’s attention, as well as not suffering too much from older English dialects. This may partly be because it is translated from Norwegian of course, but still.
There is one element of the ending that I find confusing, and I’m not entirely certain if I’m supposed to be confused or not. This combined with some of the more annoying aspects of the first act prevent me from loving the play, but it is still highly likeable.
I recommend this 1879 three-act play to those interested in older versions of the theater, as well as those interested in feminism. It is not only entertaining, but leads one to consider both gender and marriage roles.
4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobooks app for the iTouch, iPhone, and iPad.