Friday, 13 March 2020

A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen: A Counter Reading

A case can be made for Ibsen writing against himself and leaving the evidence of a counter consciousness that creates a mirror image of the other play in which Nora is not a feminist heroine but the protagonist of a soapy melodrama. “I’m taking off my fancy dress” she says and that is Ibsen leading us by the nose. She put it on initially, knowing Helmar was a dull banker who would not want shares in a bank that would lend him money. She married him readers because like her old friend Mrs. Linde she needed security and maybe the opposite of her feckless father. Even so Helmar helped out his father in law in unspecified ways that may have been a little crooked. As for the real conversation that they never had, on the contrary his dialogue was to work himself into a state of serious ill health. He knows that she probably saved his life by her manoeuvre but why did she not throw that up to him and then pitch herself on the ground in floods of tears. ‘You brute, you brute, oh you brute’. That would break any man.

Consider the nurse Ann Marie who gave up her own illegitimate child and was Nora’s nurse and a quasi mother to her. Remember too that Ibsen himself had a child by an older woman never recognised by him who ended up as a poor blacksmith. Not quite the feminist crusader in his private life.
Recall: McGahern&Casey
Her and Linde are examples of women that had a difficult time. Linde in the last act declares that Nora needs some honesty in her life. She hardly expects a catastrophe. As well she allies herself to Krogstadt which may put her in danger in her bank position but revenge for Nora in the first act agreeing that she does look a little older may be a factor!

Mrs. Linde. Listen to me, Nora. You are still very like a child in many ways, and I am older than you in many ways and have a little more experience. Let me tell you this—you ought to make an end of it with Doctor Rank.

Nora uses people. Dr. Rank who is an admirer and rich is being lined up as a saviour. He is mortally ill. She knows that she still has her looks. There’s always a scheme is her self absorbed pretty little head. Consider her relief when she she discovers that it’s only Rank’s imminent death that he is referring to.

Nora (gripping him by the arm). What have you found out? Doctor Rank, you must tell me.
Rank (sitting down by the stove). It is all up with me. And it can't be helped.
Nora (with a sigh of relief). Is it about yourself?
No Nora, it’s all about you and perhaps your forgery was a way of saving your position in society. The harder you slam the door the sooner you’ll be back.

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