What's it about?
A Doll's House, Part 2 is the sequel to Henrik Ibsen's famous A Doll's House written in 1879 - that tells the story of Nora, a woman who leaves her marriage and children behind to start a life of her own. She returns twenty years later in this sequel with a bold request and is forced to face the people she left behind all those years ago.
What I experienced:
Have we started to define the word feminism incorrectly or am I just really old school?
Is it possible that I can hold more traditional views on these subjects than someone originally written in an 1879 play?
Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House was one of the first plays I worked on for my scene study class during my last year of high school and yet on my way to the theatre to see part two, I found myself on Spark Notes reading through the entire play and all of its acts in summary form (I was well prepared. I just forgot. I promise, Mr. Nusbaum!) My train ride consisted of this very quick and condensed crash course as well as the pain I felt radiating through my re-injured left knee that I knew would only continue to be a problem sitting in an audience for an hour and thirty minutes with no intermission. Just a heads up folks: It's not wise to see a show with an injured knee, just FYI.
During and after the show, I found myself questioning really hard topics like feminism and marriage - topics I had never really given this much thought to before. I couldn't shake the feelings that I had towards Nora and her obvious stance on feminism. Upon her arrival back to her family's house, she mentions to the house-keeper Anne Marie that she writes books for women and has helped countless women leave unhappy marriages. She mentions that in one of her books, the main character says, "marriage is about 'I own you' and we woo until marriage and then there's no reason to continue". Are we seriously going to encourage women to leave based on your one SINGULAR experience that maybe could have been worked on and resolved if you handled it more like a mature adult Nora?
Can you tell I'm not a huge fan of Nora yet...?
Coming back to the family, she has one objective and that is to get Torvald to finalize the divorce she assumed was already done twenty years prior. She fails entirely to acknowledge the fact that she left her three children behind without ever reaching out to them and she left a marriage without ever having a conversation with Torvald about what needed to be worked on - keeping her issues regarding her marriage silent until she slams the door on him during the final act of the original play. I found it difficult to be team Nora, not because she's a woman who wanted to be successful outside of her marriage but because she returns without any empathy, regret or gratitude. Then begins my internal debate about whether or not you can be a successful single woman, who leaves a family behind and still be an empathetic human being. Maybe not if you hold the same mindset as Nora. I found myself grappling with the idea that this might be what some people consider 'feminist' but I feel that Nora's actions and motives are entirely selfish. Then I ask myself a similar question to Nora's and that is "If Torvald did the same thing, would I still care this much?" Uh, YES! No one should be excused to act selfishly when there are other people involved, especially children. And a lack of gratitude is NEVER okay. I think about my own parents - one of whom did leave without a reason or explanation. Would I be less forgiving if my mom was the one who left? Uh, NO! I think about the actual meaning of feminism and its objective being entirely about equality of both sexes. As a human being, aren't we supposed to uphold certain basic human values regardless of sex or gender?
At the end, Nora leaves the family again empty handed. She isn't willing to have Torvald grant her the divorce because of her belief that he only did it to clear his name (she rips the divorce paper up in his face despite the fact that he got beat up in the process of getting it) and makes zero effort to get any closer to her daughter Emmy, who was willing to break the law to help her. Is Nora a terrible person for her beliefs and actions? Maybe not. My fear though is that there are people out there that believe that this kind of selfishness from a woman is what it means to be a feminist. Do I think Nora should have stayed in an unhappy marriage all those years ago? No, if she had been vocal about her issues and discussed how to fix them first! Emmy's monologue towards to the end of the play could not have been more accurate to my thoughts on marriage and her thoughts on her mother. At the end of it all, Nora walks away again only with what she came back with and nothing more. Can I be someone who holds feminist views and still believe in the beauty and power of marriage? Am I old school for believing that marriage can work with honest dialogue and empathy? Is it a fair assumption that all humans - regardless of sex or gender - should have the same basic human values? Is it possible that I can hold more traditional views on these subjects than someone originally written in an 1879 play? It's been a full week since I saw this show and I'm still highly stressed by the amount of questions I have going through my head and lack of answers. Someone send help.
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