Author's Diction~Vipin Behari Goyal: A Doll's House By IBSEN - A play that can save marriages

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Doll's House By IBSEN - A play that can save marriages

Marriage Counseling in Literature 

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Torvald and Nora are husband and wife. They have three children. Nora is a housewife and Torvald is making a career in banking. They are apparently a happy couple. They face ups and down slowly and their relationship disintegrates without any obvious major flaw.
We read the play and trace the events that caused a loving, lovely wife to abandon her caring and careerist husband. It may help in saving a marital relationship.

1. Secrecy and Suspense
If either of the spouses is fond of keeping secrets to give a surprise, it definitely is going to hurt sooner or later.
Opening line of the act
Nora: Hide that Christmas tree away, Helen. The children mustn't see it before I've decorated it this evening.
The opening dialogue reveals the character of Nora. The Nora is in the habit of hiding the things. She is prone to keep the things secret. Since it is a trait of her character she is not only hiding the things from children but also from the husband.
Symbolically, she herself is a Christmas tree and she hides her character from her husband, children and friends.
Surprises are good, lest you don't have to pay for it.
It reminds us a story by O. Henry "The gift of the Magi". Magi sells her long lustrous hair to buy a chain of a golden watch for Jim, while Jim sales his watch to buy a set of combs for his beloved Magi. To surprise each other they sold the only two precious things in their house.
Some people are not apt to handle a surprise, suspense or secret. The spouse should avoid to keep anything secret between them. This relationship needs absolute transparency. May be both of them would undergo a turmoil, but it might save their marriage.


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2. Avoid to call pet names
Helmer, the husband of Nora arrives home from the office and found his wife busy in opening parcels of the gifts she has bought from shops.
Despite the fact that Helmer does not like the overspending habits of his wife, he calls her by lot of pet names like skylark, squirrel and squander-bird.
A lot of pet names should ring a danger bell in your ears.
Quinine is always sugar- coated.
Excessive polite persons are dangerous.
They are not newlywed couple. Nora is already mother of two children. Any wife should be proud of being called by so many pet names by her husband. A wise wife would be suspicious.
3. Debts may ruin a relationship:
Helmer believes "a home that is founded on debts and borrowings can never be a place of freedom and beauty".
Wrong act for a right cause does not justify the action. Nora borrowed money for the treatment of her husband. Helmer needed a change of weather  to recover from an ailment. Nora borrowed the money from a crook Krogstad by forging documents.
Nora has acted just against the philosophy of her husband. She knew very well how much her husband hated borrowing money.
If we know Nora we cannot overrule the possibility that she herself was interested in a tour to Italy. It was her long awaited cherished dream.
Even if she went with the pious objective to save the life of Helmer, she did the folly of hiding the fact from the husband.
Her husband remained under the impression that she has inherited money from deceased father.
Helmer was a lawyer and a banker. He could have arranged financing. What tempted Nora to manage finances on her own. It is illegal for a wife to borrow money without the knowledge of her husband.
4. One lie leads to another
Nora accepts that she wants money in the gift. She always needs money to pay the installments to Krogstad.
Later, Helmer, while returning home saw Krogstad  depart. He asks Nora if there was any visitor and she declines. Helmer says ""A songbird must have a clean beak to sing with, otherwise she will start twittering out of tune."
Helmer is of the view ''an atmosphere of lies contaminates and poisons every corner of the home. Every breath that the children draw in such a house contains the germ of the evil."
5. Fruitless Efforts
Helmer reminds her how Nora tried to surprise him on Christmas by making flowers which were later ruined by a cat, before she could gift them on Christmas.
Helmer says those were the most boring three weeks of his life when Nora shut her up in a room to prepare surprise gift for him. But Nora did not find it boring, despite the fact all her efforts remained fruitless.
Nora has her obsessions and she is self centered also. She does not care if her husband suffers a boredom so far as she enjoys making flowers. For her, making flowers is more important than providing a company to her husband.
Helmer says "You simply wanted to make us happy , and that's all that matters".
But that's not all that matters, obviously. Fruitless efforts to make marriage work does more harm than good.
6. Female friends of wife
They are a potential threat to marriage. Mrs.Linde, who is a childhood friend of Nora is frequently visiting Nora's home. She becomes jealous of her happy life. She is also an ex lover of Krogstad, and now has a plan to rejuvenate her relationship. Helmer hates Krogstad and has removed him from bank job. Nora, innocently or foolishly shares her secret with her best friend. Later, when Krogstad writes a letter to Helmer, disclosing the secret of Nora, Mrs. Linde stops him from withdrawing the letter, though she knew it would destroy the marriage of her best friend.
Shakespeare says " Frailty, thy name is woman", That frailty might be jealousy also.
When Nora suggests her to take a break, Mrs. Linde retorts "I have no papa to pay for my holidays, Nora". The spite is evident.
7. Money matters
Most of the girls would prefer a rich husband. Ideally, they would circumvent the truth to sound as if of high morale.
Mrs. Linde ditched penniless Krogstad to marry a man who was well off, so that he would take care of her aged mother and two minor brothers.
8. We owe each other
Nora has an argument "he is so proud of being a man-it'd so painful and humiliating for him to know that he owed anything to me. It'd completely wreck our relationship."
Nora does not cut on luxuries of her husband or needs of her children, but cut expenses on her cloth to pay installments. She also earns money by copying.
"It was almost like being a man"- she says.
She is not satisfied with her role of wife and mother. It gives her pleasure to act like man, to earn money. It serves her egocentric need of an identity.
9. Guilt destroys the fun
The whole story is fabricated on the lie told by Nora. Nora is constantly suffering from a guilty conscience.
10. Jealous husbands are not necessarily loving husband.
In Act 2 Nora says to her friend "Torvald is so hopelessly in love with me that he wants to have me all to himself".
A possessive husband is no guarantee of true love.
Nora represents the entire generation of women who are sick of being possessed. The protection or security promised by husband doesn't come cheap. Women feel a loss of identity in their traditional role model. A husband as a companion should help in her search. Only a insecure husband would say what Helmer says "I shall watch over like a hunted dove which I  have snatched unharmed from the claws of falcon."
Helmer had conditioned the mind of Nora by constantly comparing her with bird and squirrel. In his opinion, no woman was more than that.
When he reads the letter of Krogstad his true character is revealed. It is an eye opener for Nora. Helmer loves his own reputation more than he loves Nora. Nora was crestfallen, she imagined that her loving and caring husband would take the blame of forgery to save her.  
When this realisation precipitates, she takes her decision."I must stand on my own feet if I am to find out truth about myself and about life."
Nora walks out from stage and also from the life of Helmer.

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© Vipin Behari Goyal
Advocate, Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur, India