Mehnaaz Pervin Tuli
As women, many of us bear a Nora within ourselves. While some of us express it publicly, many others often refrain themselves from being free as humans just because they are afraid to break away from the shackles of patriarchy and ideology. I’m not talking about voicing from the perspective of feminism or fighting for equal rights in every sector, but am emphasising the word freedom that is a fundamental right to every human being, irrespective of their existing differences. We as women, cannot deny biological differences but other than that we are doubly marginalised.
I will be talking about Nora, a character well-known from the play A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen. There are thousands of women in our country who suffer mentally and physically to a greater extent than Nora, but many of them prefer not to protest or speak up because they think they are not allowed to do so and are compelled to accept all torture as a punishment from fate. Now talking about Nora, we find that throughout the play she is depicted as a doll, or showpiece whom Torvald adores like his possessions. She is her husband’s plaything, his burden and responsibility. Nora’s womanly helplessness is very attractive to Torvald. He says, “To a man there is something sweet and satisfying in forgiving his wife.”
Nora is not considered to be a full human and is blamed by her husband for acting sensibly and responsibly while taking decisions for the family. She is like an object, or his property, whom he designed for his own pleasure. So, Torvald does not like it when Nora, for the first time, acts mature and wants to make major decisions. At the end, Nora cannot take Torvald’s insults and rudeness as she is badly accused of taking big steps without his concern even if it is for the good of the family. Nora can no longer agree to act as a doll and showpiece in the doll’s house that she thought was a family. When Nora shuts the door behind her, she isn’t just a woman leaving her family, but a woman seeking independence from the structures of society and the rules of men.
Women are often considered to be less than males and men are likely to be superior because our society sees them as the better gender. Women are often appreciated as showpieces who enhance the charm and appeal of a house. Sadly, even the women get used to it and consider themselves noteworthy only as child-bearing machines. For these women, life is like a colourless wall or a white sheet that signifies no innovation or novelty. These wives can have erotic desire or pleasure but that also must accord to their husbands. Their lives only revolve around house chores and children. Thus, a fruitful relationship between the husband and wife who can work and live as partners is very important for the wellbeing of both of them.
Ibsen’s depiction of the weak and docile woman brings to mind the 18th century revolutionary writer Mary Wollstonecraft who argues in her essay, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, that women are taught since their infancy to have the “softness of temper, outward obedience, and scrupulous attention”. Nora’s biggest fear is her husband hearing that she had forged her father’s signature to get a loan, even though she needed it to travel to Italy to save her rightfully wedded husband. Her motives are absolutely selfless because that trip saves her sick husband’s life. Even though Nora knows that the revelation will put her husband’s reputation at stake, deep inside she still feels that her husband will sacrifice his reputation to defend her after knowing the real purpose behind her actions.
Eventually, her fear comes true. Torvald has outbursts and leaves no stone unturned while insulting and belittling Nora for her conduct. Torvald has no idea or intention to know how Nora started to sew and weave clothes secretly to make money and pay off the debt. He is devastated because of his hurting male ego and the disturbance of male sovereignty in the family. This can be paralleled with the situation of women in our society who are not allowed to make grave decisions and who are always supposed to act as subordinates in the family. In Bangladesh, you find women from wealthy and respectable families leaving their dreams, careers, and creativity because of a single line from their husbands: “I do not prefer my wife to be working and doing something outside home.” This one line comes as a threat, and gullible brides are seen to compromise their identity and self-worth for the sake of fake peace and strife-free marriage.
Tuli likes to have small talks with people of various cultures, religions and races. Besides, she cannot sit at home and would prefer living out of a suitcase at any free time.