A Doll House: the Helmer’s Masquerade Marriage

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Marriage is often a complicated matter. This is as true for the main characters of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House as it is for anyone else. On the surface, Nora and Torvald Helmer appear to be quite happily married, but things are not always as they seem. The weaknesses in their marriage far outweigh the strengths. The Helmer’s marriage is, on the surface, a very happy marriage. Nora and Torvald are loving and affectionate towards one another. Torvald addresses Nora with a myriad of pet names that she seems to enjoy. One could argue that these names are condescending, but Nora doesn’t seem to mind. It is only when one hears pet names from someone one does not love that they are condescending, and until the climax of the play, Nora genuinely loves Torvald. We know this because she saves her husband’s life with a morally questionable act. This act may have ultimately led to the undoing of the marriage, but she does it “out of love” (209) nonetheless. Nora feels that Torvald has been kind to her, and she “thought it was fun when [Torvald] played with [her]” (249). And play they do. From dancing and jesting, to flirting and laughing, these two seem to be having a wonderful time together. Each seems, not only to be happy with their partner, but also to be happy with their place in the marriage. They have very clearly defined roles based on gender differences which dictates who performs which tasks related to the marriage. Everyone has a job. Torvald handles the business and financial aspects of the marriage, and Nora handles the household affairs, such as managing the staff and raising the children. Both appear to be quite comfortable in these roles. Appearances can, however, be quite deceiving. It’s appearances that contribute to the greatest weakness that exists in the marriage. While Nora is very good at her “job” and comfortable in her role,
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