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Module 1: Great Literary Works and Great Historical Moments

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And perhaps it’s a this a moment that Nora makes her final decision that she does not want to continue living in this Doll’s House as a Doll wife, that she doesn’t want to surrender her will and conscience to Torvald. Not that she ever had said in that marriage, not that she ever was treated as an adult but she also realizes that this is something, this is, this will continue to function like a deal which would forever take all sense of agency even the little sense of agency that she had in that marital relation. The segments where Nora begins to share what she is feeling at that point, it’ll sin this part that we find Ibsen assumes utmost mastery over his Craft. Nora does not face a dramatic breakdown and this is also very unlike of the 19th-century plays, we donotfindNora become a weakling even after all that had happened. On the contrary, Nora emerges as a very strong-willed individual, Nora emerges as someone who suddenly dares to completely disown the kind of morality, the kind of religious tenets and although societal fetters which were hitherto working towards totally taking away her sense of agency. We find her emerging as a very different kind of a woman at this point. And she also begins to see a certain kind of a pattern in this. (Refer Slide Time:16:35) And the way she begins to address this issue with Torvald is in her very mature we, she is not villainizing him directly in any way, in fact, she also begins to see a pattern of how she was always treated like this by all the important men in her life. How the why were strong enough to always keep her down but it was also close enough for her to feel that they were being nice to her, that they were being benevolent upon her and that she needed this kind of support from the men in her life including her father and her husband. In Nora’s own words-“You have never understood me -I have had great injustice done me, Torvald; first by father and then by you.” And this is very interesting, this moment where Nora is led towards this awakening, that a great injustice had been done to her and she had always been living like this throughout her childhood her youth and even today. And the way she refers to her husband and her father in the same breath it reveals to us the immense nature of her maturity and also about how well she has conceived this problem. “He used to call me his doll-child and played with me as I played with my dolls. Then I came to live at your house.” Torvald almost gets it, he says what expression to use about her marriage. (Refer Slide Time:18:00) And Nora further clarifies and look at the instructions given within brackets, undisturbed. She continues to maintain her composure and she comes across as a very bold and strong woman who knows what she’s saying, she’s no longer the lark, she’s no longer the squirrel, she’s no longer the little spendthrift whom Torvald can baby talk. “I mean I pass from father’s hands into yours. You arrange everything according to your taste, and I got the same taste as you, or I pretended to, that’s very important I don’t know which-both ways, perhaps; sometimes one and sometimes the other. When I look back on it now, I seem to have been living here like a beggar, from hand to mouth. I lived by performing tricks for you, Torvald. But you would have it so. You and father have done me a great wrong. It is your fault that my life has come to nothing.” The moment Nora realizes that her life has come to nothing she’s been nothing but a Doll in her father’s hands and her husband’s hands, she realizes that something needs to be done. The 19th-century society, the end of the 19th-century where all societies the European societies, the English societies they all were getting increasingly concerned about the lack of morality, about the way in that technology was taking over the world about the different ways in which the old centre could not perhaps seem to hold any more. It’s during this time that this play is getting staged and until this point, the sort of revelations is perhaps okay for the audience but the moment Nora decides to do something about what has been happening to her life this play takes a different turn altogether. And when she realizes that her life has come to nothing she wouldn’t settle with anything less than just exiting that life, saying goodbye to that mode of life and walking out of the house and this transition though it may seem as very very certain this is extremely fascinating as well and this it’s the ending, it’s a climax which has always held this play in a continual state of excitement. It was scandalous at that point many could not fathom the depth of the choice that Nora was taking. Some even felt that Ibsen has crossed all borders and all boundaries to make Nora walk out of that house living not her husband but also her three children. We find Nora with this single move of making this decision to leave the house with that single, she is stripping herself of all other kinds of identities of a daughter, helpless wife or a dutiful mother. She is stripping herself of all those identities and she’s ready to start life as an individual, she’s ready to explore her own life for what whatever worth it is. In the way in which she describes their marriage it’s it brings out the anguish that Nora is feeling. (Refer Slide Time:21:18) She says she was never happy and Nora says- “No; only merry. And you have always been so kind to me. But our house has been nothing but a play-room. Here I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I used to be papa’s doll-child. And the children, in their turn, have been my dolls. I thought it fun when you played with me, just as the children did when I played with them. That has been our marriage, Torvald.” And this is again very important, Nora is not accusing Torvald of being harsh with her and we also realize that it is not that single episode, that single episode where they fought where Torvald berated Nora over Krogstag’sissue, it’snot that just one episode which is prompted, which has provoked Nora to take this decision. It’s the tire marriage, it’s that entire scheme of things from her childhood where she was always treated as a child, as a Doll-child and then as a Doll-wife. Her response, her walking out, her saying no to this marriage and walking out towards a different life is in response to whatever had been happening in her marriage throughout. The episode with Korgstag whatever happens in thein these three acts is the only act as a catalyst perhaps Nora, she only needed something significant like this, something shortly catastrophic like this to get out of it. (Refer Slide Time:22:44) Torvald, of course, tries to persuade her to stay, he reminds her of the various duties that she is supposed to perform. She, he also tries to put everything in the framework of morality about what the society will think, about religion and this is how Nora responds now, she has become very very defined, we find this transition sudden but very firm and Nora says, she has other duties equally sacred. My duties toward myself and this is certainly a moment of awakening for Nora, this is a moment when she realizes that she owes something to herself too as an individual that is not just enough to stay in this marriage to make everyone happy but she also owes something to her self. And Ibsen through the character of Nora is also making us look at all those conventional set of beliefs in a very sceptical way. And it is useful to remember that during the Victorian period in England. (Refer Slide Time:23:44) And especially after the theories of Darwin began to shook the foundations of faith across Europe. We realize that there is a strong rational voice merging against faith and religion. Ibsen here uses this play to showcase the various ways in which even individual lives are caught within these tenets and fetters in the name of religion and faith. And Ibsen is making Nora say-“I don’t know what religion is. I know nothing but what Pastor Hansen told me when I was confirmed. He explained that religion was this and that. When I get away from all this and stand-alone, I will look into that matter too. I will see whether what he taught me is right, or, at any rate, whether it is right for me.” And notice this subtlety with which Ibsen is presenting a different Nora before us. Not only she’s willing to experiment her life without Torvald, not only is she experimenting with her life which is notes daughter, as a mother or wife. Sheis are also willing to put herself in a precarious situation, in a very adventurous situation and a questioning every single belief with which she was raised in a questioning every single framework within which her life so far had been defined and this is the Nora which becomes extremely interesting and this is the Nora perhaps Ibsen also wanted us to see. The woman who is walking out of not just a house, not just the marriage, but a woman who is willing to question and walk out of all the dollhouses that the society, religion, morality and everything had built for her. (Refer Slide Time:25:30) And in one particular segment, Nora also opens up a bit more and says, she had always been waiting for a miracle and when the episode with Krogstag happened she even hoped in vain that this is going to be that miracle. Now comes the miracle and this is how she had seen Krogstag’sletter that this is one event that would perhaps totally radically revolutionize their marriage and also give her some more sense of agency. Nora does not Ibsen does not allow Nora to tell us more about what she had been expecting but when Torvald says “no man sacrifices his honour, even for one he loves.” Nora responds- “millions of women have done so” and this is again another way in which Nora is being presented as a counterfoil to the various forms of successful patriarchal notions. And when Torvald again accuses her of being a child and when she said when he says you “you think and talk like a silly child”. Nora now does not take it anymore, Nora does not want to be that silly lark that Torvald is used to. “Very likely. But you neither think nor talk like the man I can share my life with. When your terror was over- not for what threatened me, but for yourself-when there was nothing more to fear-then it seemed to you as though nothing had happened. I was your lark again, your doll, just as before-whom you would take twice as much care of in future because she was so weak and fragile. She stands up Torvald-in that moment it burst upon me that I have been living here these eight years with a strange man, and had borne him three children. It is this courage to identify a stranger in that man whom she had been calling her husband that makes her stand apart from all the other 19th-century character, all the other 19th-century women. And as the play ends you find that Ibsen does not make Nora say anything dramatic but her exit is in very very dramatic. “From below is heard the reverberation of a heavy door closing. (Refer Slide Time:27:34) And this ending as he mentions at the outset of the discussion that husband discussed a lot and as one of the critics would put it that slam-door reverberated across the roof of the world and that was a sign the act of walking out had. (Refer Slide Time:27:51) Lots of critics have also paid attention to this statement that Nora makes during their final interaction. We must come to a final settlement Torvald during eight whole years word about serious things. This is something that a lot of critics had a problem, where then some even thought that this was a bit too far-fetched but the influence that this play had on account of the decision had is or has been completely unchallenged. (Refer Slide Time:28:21) This play also had an alternative ending when the play was about to be staged in Berlin, Ibsen’s German agent thought that the audience was not yet ready for such a radical ending. Nora is led to her children after the argument, she’s made to collapse and then the curtain is brought down. And the German agent thought that this would be a more palatable ending for a conventional audience but Ibsen was outraged he referred to that as a disgrace to the original play and as a barbaric outrage. (Refer Slide Time:28:50) In the contemporary find, most of that adaptations preferring to the original ending to the alternative ending and this is how the alternative ending went. Towards the end find Nora coming to her children and saying “this is a sin against me, but I cannot leave them. And this also instantly was a preferred ending for a lot of audience during those times. (Refer Slide Time:29:08) And this play has had criticisms against and also for it. August Strindberg felt that Nora is oblivious of her serious crimes. She always moralistically judges her husband but she also behaves in a very contradictory way because she is also trying to cover up her serious crimes. And she also is trying to present before us certain seemingly flippant and seemingly trivial things as accusations against a husband. Bernard Shaw was highly appreciative about this play. He, on the ending he remarked that Nora left to begin a journey in search of self-respect and apprenticeship to life. Her revolt is the end of a chapter in human history. That perhaps is the lasting significance of this play. It inaugurated a new beginning and it also marked an end of a chapter in human history as far as Nora’s character is concerned. (Refer Slide Time:30:02) And as we wrap up this discussion it’s important to know that Doll’s House has been seen as a proto-feminist text along with Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Kate Chopin’s ‘Awakening’ both of them was published in the late 19th century and in all these texts we find that there are about married women seeking greater personal freedom and more fulfilling independent life. This also been some contestation is about whether this needs to be seen as a feminist text or a humanist text and some of those who argue that this cannot be seen as a feminist text but it should be seen as humanist text given that Nora stands not just for women but for all the individuals who are caught up in these situations, they also quote one of the speeches with which Ibsen gave while he was speaking at the Norwegian women’s right league in the early 20th century. In his own words, “I must disclaim the honour of having consciously worked for the woman’s rights movement… True enough it is desirable to solve the woman problem, along with all others, but that has not been the whole purpose. My task has been that description of humanity”. Whether we see Nora as one of the earliest representatives of the feminist movement or we see Nora as a humanist trying to talk for a sense of agencies for all individuals we find that this play has been successful and we also realize that this is one of those plays which had laid the foundation of many similar articulations in the fictions as well as in nonfiction and in having crossed the borders of its country of origin in letter and spirit we also find that A Doll’s House is fitting enough to be termed as a classic in world literature, thank you for listening and I look forward to seeing you in the next session.