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A doll's house is a very fantastic play written by Henrik Ibsen in 1879 that is able to outline some important concepts of social life and marriage. The play had a very vague ending that brought a lot of debate and discussions to many people in Norway and Germany where it was first performed. The confusing and hazy ending of the book brought about many issues and the artist in German theatres refused to play the role of Nora as they claimed she portrayed a bad image of women in the society by divorcing his husband. This made Henrik Ibsen to come up with another ending that was slightly different. The ultimate aim of this paper is to outline the main reasons as to why Henrik Ibsen had to come up with the first ending then forced to come up with another ending. However, before coming up with the precise reasons, it is important to examine the two endings of the play.
The book basically talks about Nora and her husband Torvald who are the main characters in the play. The play talks of Nora telling her friend Christine about how she borrowed a loan from a disgraced lawyer, Krogstad whom we later learned that was a former boyfriend of Christine. The loan was to save her husband who was sick and had to be taken to hospital. She did not tell the husband about it as she was protecting his pride. The husband, Torvard was a general manager of a bank and they most of the time discussed issues concerning their finances (Corrigan, p34). Torvald offers Christine a job as a secretary at the bank since she was jobless. Krogstad later informs Nora that he is worried about the loan he gave to her because the signature had been forged and he had a prove of it. The signature was of Nora's late father, which was signed three days after he died meaning that it was a forgery. To prevent further disgrace, Nora talks to Torvard to reinstate Krogstad at the bank but Torvald refuses in fact, he had plans of firing him instead because he was not deferential enough to him as far as other bank personnel are concerned. He later fired him keeping his word.
Krogstad came to Nora to inform her that he did not care about the loan much but he was going to preserve the associated bond in order to blackmail Torvald to take him back to his job and even offer him a promotion. He had written a letter showing the details of signature forgery by Nora and sent to the mailbox of Torvald. This gives Nora a lot of worry and she shears the same to Christine who tells her she will try to persuade Kragstad to relent. Later on when Torvald tries to open his mailbox, she prevents him by giving other excuses (Heller, p13). Christine went ahead to persuade Krogstad to reconsider Nora's case by informing him that she still loves him and would like him to reconsider her. This greatly moves Krogstad and he offers to take back his letter to Torvald. However, Christine came to a decision that Torvald had to know the truth for the sake of their marriage. Eventually Torvald opens his letters to read and at that moment Nora sneaks away to take her life. She was confronted by the husband who is enraged informing her that he had completely agreed with Krogstad's demands as he calls her a dishonest and immoral woman who is unfit of raisin their children. Note that she was pregnant at that moment. He declared their marriage to be only a matter of appearance.
Krogstad returns incriminating papers to Nora informing her that he was sorry for what he had done. Torvald takes pride by saying he was saved as he burned the papers. He also goes ahead to inform Nora that he had forgiven her (Krutch, p45). Nora then comes to a realization that the husband was not the gallant and strong man she thought he was and that he actually loved himself and pretended to love her. His love for the wife was just pleasing at distinguishing himself as being a wonderful husband. He went ahead to explain to her that when a man forgives his wife that shows that he has loved her more than he had done before as it makes him realize how dependent she is to her like a child. She let go her anguish choice that she had made out of her minds. This was due to his poor health and her years of secret attempts to free them from the loss of reputation dangers and ensuing obligations as she preserved her peace of mind and that was the biggest mistake she ever did owing to her foolishness, one of the worst feminist traits. She informed him that she was leaving to go and live alone in order to find out who she really, what she believes and decide upon her destiny.
She concludes that she had been treated like a doll to play with by him as well as her own father (Chesterton, p29). Torvald tried to convince her to meet her duties as a mother but she told him that her first duty was to identify herself, as she could never be a good mother or wife without learning to be more useful than a plaything. She admitted that she wanted to take her own life to prevent him from sacrificing his reputation for hers. She came to a realization that the husband was not the person she had expected him to be and what she believed he was. She also came to realize that their marriage was established on mutual misunderstanding and fantasies. Torvald fails to understand the point of Nora as it contradicted his own ideas about what she thought. He was also much self-absorbed that he does not accept and understand how he appears to her, as a hypocrite, selfish and more concerned with the outside issues than with actual morals. He remained mesmerized with no words to utter as he saw Nora walk out of the house leaving her wedding ring behind.
The German agent for Henrik Ibsen felt that the German theatres were not the right place to encompass the original ending of the play because of the implication the woman brought out at the end. Therefore, Henrik forced to come up with another ending where Nora walks to her children after the long argument with her husband. She collapsed immediately she saw the children and the curtain brought down implying that it had come to an end. Ibsen himself later on came to call the ending a disgrace to the original play and went ahead to call it a 'barbaric outrage'
Reasons for the ambiguous ending
There is no doubt that Ibsen was a very clever person when he came up with this play that had such unclear ending. There are many reasons as to why he did it that way. To begin with, he was trying to portray the true nature of a real woman in the society. He tries to oppose the believe that women are submissive, selfish and foolish people in the society. At the beginning of the play, Nora seems to be much submissive, selfish and foolish woman but that was not the real case (Chesterton, p34). She appeared to be selfish, grasping and much on a spending spree when she asked Torvald for more money. It is true she was asking for more money but the usage was not bad as we later came to discover that she used the money to pay the loan she had been given and used it for the treatment of the husband. She actually denied herself new and good things in order for the husband and children to have all they require. She did not use the money to satisfy her personal desires.
Her ability to keep the secret, arrange on loan payment though she was not on a good payroll, arranging on taking the husband to Italy was all a prove to show her careful management of money and strength of character. She also went ahead to take jobs secretly to pay the loan, which was a step towards the independence she finally acquired (Krutch, p67). Therefore, it is clear that women in the society are not submissive and foolish as many people think, they are very clever and are able to do massive strange things that are of much help to the family and society at large. However, it should be clear that she did not show her strength or use it at the beginning but then comes to reveal them at the end showing that she was brave enough to learn and know the kind of person she lived with. Ibsen was able to achieve his goal of portraying women as important and brave people in the society than many people think and believe. He also brings out the picture that women can also be independent when Nora leaves Torvald to leave alone. She did not display her strengths at first because her husband and the society at large could never comfortably tolerate such strengths in a woman.
It is not all that it seems when Nora submits herself to Torvald. Allowing to be played as a doll-child was in accordance to the wishes of the husband as she influences him into the role of indulgent father figure. Though she had the skill of managing him, she was caught in one instance where she really needed his help out of the ruin caused by the revelation of Krogstad (Byran, p67). However, he failed to give her the strength she needed since she came to realize that she was not in love with him any longer because he was not the man she thought he was. It is not that when she gained her independence is the time she came to posses her strength, she had it all over the play only that she portrayed it at the end. Therefore, Ibsen had to bring this strength and freedom of a woman at the end thus being forced to have the ambiguous ending.
The important point to note is that Ibsen wanted to examine the society without prejudice exhilarating. This is because the 19th century marriage view was very different with how Ibsen brought it out. The people in those days viewed it as being scandalous when the marriage breaks and Nora leaves her wedding ring behind (Heller, p43). The society in those days considered the covenant of marriage more holy than anything else and the divorce between Nora and Torvald was a bad image to the society. This made the production lead actress of Germany to refuse playing the role of Nora in the play because they thought it was an abomination to the society. Thus, Ibsen had been forced to come up with another ending. However, it was much important for him to do it that way to show the strengths of a woman in the society and her ability to be independent rather than being used as a doll in the house.
In the alternative ending, Ibsen puts it in a way that Nora decides to give the husband another chance when Torvald reminds her about their children. Of course, Ibsen had no otherwise than coming up with this ending and he later regretted it and termed it as unpopular, disgrace and 'barbaric outrage'. This is because the intended image that he was to portray about the women had lost and in this ending, he had brought out the opposite (Heller, p61). However, the theatres today normally use the original ending version of the play. The same happens to the film versions of this play for example, Dariush Mehrjui of 1949 uses the original ending of the play. This is because they came to realize that indeed the women have their strengths that need to be respected and they can be independent as well.
The other point that was brought out clearly by the ambiguous ending of the play is to portray the departure from the traditional behavior and theatrical convention. This was clearly brought out when Nora slams the door when she leaves showing that the traditions are gone and it is high time that the women be heard in the society and not just being played like a doll by their husbands all in the name of the traditional beliefs. Ibsen tried to bring this point out but he was later forced to change the ending due to the pressure from the society especially in Germany. Nora discovered herself and thought she had been deceived by Torvald who pretended to love her yet he was more concerned with reputations and immoral than focusing on their marriage. However, Nora was somehow irresponsible of their father for she was likely married to protect her him in her entire marriage.
She forged the signature of the father in order to acquire the loan for the sake of the husband. She then lived with the secret until it came out at the end. Torvald on the other hand reacted negatively towards it because he did not consider the fact that she only did that for the sake of his life proving that she loved him and she was a responsible woman in marriage. He was very furious and said that Nora was not the kind of woman who would raise her children as he wished. He tried to suppress the efforts of Nora but at the end, she found herself-a self-aware, a resourceful woman and decided to walk out of the marriage and be independent. It is at this same end that she realizes her identity as an adult woman and decides to leave her husband. Ibsen put it clear that when a person ignores all the expectations of the social world then the person can easily realize his or her true self.
The ambiguous ending in the play "A doll's house" is aimed to bring out the clear picture of a real woman who can come to realize her personality by neglecting the social world. Nora had a lot of the woman's strength in her marriage but she could not bring it to open all in the name of protecting their marriage but at the end, she realizes that she protected a marriage whereby she was not loved (Buck, p34). Torvald was more concentrated with the reputations of the external environment. That is the time she realized she needed to be independent because she could do everything on her own without depending on any body. Therefore, Ibsen used the ambiguous ending to portray the departure of the traditional behaviors and beliefs that marriage was a covenant that could never be broken and that the woman was always inferior.