Friday, November 17, 2006

Re-post: A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen - Mar 05

From Wednesday, March 16, 2005:

Last night I went to see Ibsen's A Doll's House at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. It's about Nora, a bubbly, childlike mother of three children and wife of the insufferable Torvald, a moralistic lawyer and, now, bank manager. Years before, Nora had forged a signature on some documents to borrow some money from an unscrupulous money-lender, so that she could fund a life-saving respite holiday for her husband. But her husband vociferously hates debtors and fraudsters even more so, so that despite being blackmailed by the money-lender, Nora daren't tell him the truth.

It's a good portrayal of what can happen in the sickest respectable families. "In all of the eight years since we married," says Nora at one point, "We've never even one serious conversation about anything." She'd gone along with his patronising insistence that she was his 'little bird' - even running about like a bird, making tweeting noises and allowing herself to be petted by him as one would a pet budgerigar. I'd have been tempted to turn into a killer buzzard and peck his head off, but this kind of treatment was all Nora had ever known, because her father had done the same to her. She was a plaything, a little doll in their respective doll's houses.

I pitied her kids actually, though they were very well looked after by the nanny, but it must have been very confusing to have a mother who was happy to play hide and seek one minute, and wouldn't talk to them for 3 days over Christmas the next, because she believed her husband when he said that debtors and fraudsters corrupted young minds and bodies. She professed to have loved them, and said that she'd committed her crime out of love for them and her husband, but it was very much arm's-length mother love. Of course, she couldn't have remained so childlike if she'd taken a proper parental role with them. It would have forced her to grow up.

In the end, it turns out to be a story about women's lib. She threw off her doll/bird persona and set off to find herself - without the children, of course. I know women who have actually done this. I raised the child of one of them, once. That's the problem: somebody has to look after the children.

posted by Gill at 10:31 AM 0 comments


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