How does Ibsen explore the theme of delusion through the development of Nora’s character in A Doll’s House?
Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House explores the traditional theatrical theme of delusion, piercingly criticizing the marriage norms present in the 19th century. Nora’s delusion is shown from her very first step on stage, and progresses until her ‘heroic’ husband turns out to be the opposite to what she had endlessly believed he was; thus making her realize what a lie her life has been and walks out of her false, dreamt-up reality. Ibsen believed delusions warp a person’s perspective on reality, yet converge to open the doors of self-realisation. Nora’s delusions on her husband, the world and herself guide audiences to see Ibsen’s perspective on the power of delusions.
Secrecy between Nora and Torvald was the key factor to the destruction of their marriage. Nora always had “something to be proud of. It was [her] who saved Torvald’s life” (159) through forging her dying father’s signature, which was a great offence “because a wife can’t borrow without her husband’s consent” (160). All throughout Nora’s married life, she had made herself believe “a man can straighten out things so much better than a woman” (185), and always looked up to Torvald as a hero who is incredibly in love with her and “he wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to give his life for [her]” (194). Her illusions about her family are shattered in Act Three, through Torvald’s insensitive and egocentric reaction; “What a terrible awakening! For these last eight years you’ve been my joy and my pride- and now I find that you’re a liar, a hypocrite – even worse – a criminal! Oh, the unspeakable ugliness of it all! Ugh!” (220-221). Until Torvald’s outburst, Nora was thought Torvald “would come forward and take all the blame – that [he’d] say ‘I’m the guilty one’”, “that was the miracle [she] hoped for…and dreaded. It was to prevent that that [she] was ready to kill [herself]” (230).