A Doll's House Review
To be perfectly honest, I usually don’t love books/plays the first time I read them. There are very few that I love instantly. With the rest, the story has to sink in, and I’ll usually look back on the work a year or so later with a greater appreciation. Writing this paper on “The Dead” made me think back to Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. And God, I almost reread the whole thing instead of finishing my paper.
This might be a bold statement, but I think A Doll’s House is the best play ever written. Okay, I know that’s not entirely true. It’s simply an opinion. And I’m sorry, Shakespeare - I want to like you more, I really do. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate Shakespeare… I do, just in a different way.
I read A Doll’s House in high school and I recall enjoying it to a certain degree. But when I look back on it now, I appreciate the work so much more. I give a lot of credit to my high school English teacher. She didn’t introduce the play by giving us historical context and discussing its controversy. Instead, she waited until we finished the play to get into those details. That was a great move on her part because not knowing the plot of A Doll’s House will greatly add to your enjoyment of the play.
So if you want to go in with a fresh slate, I suggest you stop reading this review now, and start reading the play. Or you can order a copy through Barnes & Noble. So you’ve been warned. I’ll be taking about the play and its ending from here on in.
The strength of A Doll’s House (at least in my opinion) is that you don’t know where the story’s going. If my English teacher had told me that it’s the first feminist play, I may have dismissed the story as “one of those.” Yes, it is a feminist piece, but arguably the strongest one out there.
We see that Nora is treated awfully by her husband, Torvald. The tragedy being that Torvald doesn’t see any problem with his actions. This is really a commentary on the times. The play was written in 1879, and I suspect there were a lot of “dollhouse” situations back then.
Ibsen cleverly structures his play so that Torvald is never really seen as “the bad guy.” We’re tricked into believing that Krogstad (as suggested by his ugly name) is the antagonist, and that Torvald is only a secondary character. But by the play’s end, we learn that Torvald has been the villain all along. He’s been treating Nora as a doll - pulling strings and living their marriage as one giant façade. Nora finally decides to leave him and the children to start a life of her own. It’s a really liberating moment and it’s so powerful to watch this woman stand up to such a controlling man.
The play may not sound so great based on my retelling. However, Ibsen’s language flows beautifully. There’s this sort of back-and-forth banter between characters that makes the dialogue move along seamlessly.
But if I have to mention one thing about the play, it’s the ending. A Doll’s House is most famous for its final piece of stage direction. Nora packs her bags and leaves Torvald, as he sits in his study, wondering how he can get her back. And at this very moment, a heavy door is heard slamming off stage. It’s seriously the perfect ending to the play - I love it.
I highly suggest you read A Doll’s House if you haven’t already. It’s an amazing play, and you’ll be surprised how well it holds up today.