A Dolls House is a play written by a Danish writer, Henrik Ibsen in 1879. You can find it in movie form (Netflix), made in 1973, starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Claire Bloom. It is also in the theater from time to time around the world.
The story is about a couple who have been married for eight years when their relationship is tested. The wife had done something that she believed would save her husband’s life, not realizing she could be held liable for her deed. This act has come to surface and her consciousness begins to awaken. Her husband, who she believes will sweep it under the rug, reacts to the news in a way that shakes her to her core. She who was once his subservient “little squirrel,” as he was fond of calling her, is now becoming a very strong woman.
For myself, as a woman, I can relate to this movie as I recall my youth – a young bride thinking she is Doris Day about to marry Rock Hudson. I can relate to feeling trapped in a marriage but not wanting to return to the security of my family which were no better. Instead, I started over with nothing.
A friend of mine on Facebook and I were discussing this title today. He said he could relate to the husband in A Dolls House. In fact, he was torn emotionally as to who to relate to, the wife or the husband. I responded that I could not quite understand, as a woman, how he could relate to the husband but felt I probably could if I were a man.
The tests of marriage and life cause each person to react differently. Marriages fail, relationships end, people commit suicide or people and couples survive. Whether they should end or not, life or relationship, we hope it will win in the end.
Whether to feel sorry for the husband or the wife is not relevant. What we learn from this philosophical masterpiece is another question. One must be true to themself. If you are not living your life consciously, you are not alive. You are merely playing theatrics and assuming roles. What are you teaching others as you carry out this game? Aren’t we all on this planet together? So then don’t we owe it to each other to live fully, so as to help the other?
There have been times and it still occurs around the world that women are suited up to marry men for the sake of finances. They are put in the position of behaving so as to not lose the treasure they have gained. Women are groomed for this role from a young age and learn from their mothers and grandmothers how to “let things go,” or how to put on a happy face until you forget why you were mad. Men are prepared to accept this role as well but are not groomed quite so delicately. They learn from the examples of their paternal heritage by what they see them do. Men take it in stride if they can find a beauty who will take them for their money because it is comforting to see how others admire them.
The husband in A Dolls House, was taken by surprise with his wife’s enlightenment as it is his downfall. He loses his marriage and a woman he has idolized. He will now confront humility rather than admiration. People will blame him perhaps. He will sit in grief for some time before he realizes how he can rebuild from this crisis. He may never recover. It was not his moment of growth, but the burst of his bubble.
The wife in A Dolls House, is on a high. Her eyes wide open, she knows nothing but is ready for anything. She has a sense of grief but an excitement of birth as well. She now realizes she is a woman, not a child.
As a man or a woman, watching this film or play, it is important to examine the choices we have made or are about to make in life. Are we doing what we really want to do, what is true for us in our heart, or are we making a decision to please another? The Talmud, a Jewish religious book, says something along the lines of this: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” When I first heard this line of philosophy I felt so close to it. This is not about being arrogant but about having integrity. When the wife realizes she has had no integrity whatsoever, she knows she must leave and start a new life. The only way she could have stayed with her husband, is if he could have appreciated what she understood. Life does not happen this way though. Enlightenment is individualized not that of two. Kahlil Gibran talks of marriage by saying we are two pillars holding up the same fortress. There is one house but two individuals.
Many times couples seek therapy to mend a broken relationship. This is because it is fraught with so much misunderstanding. Two people who have gone into the mix hoping the result will be a different cookie. I think that pre-marital therapy, if it is very strong and courageous can help people make the right choices, so that they never need a therapist ever again. It might cause you to decide to back out but whether you marry or not, you have both succeeded in making the right choice. The one that is done with integrity. Too many couples go too far and then when they realize this, and it is not both at the same time, a very nasty divorce will ensue. Everyone will suffer.
A Dolls House, is a very important movie to watch if you are a man or a woman and want to examine relationships very carefully. If you watch it and feel nothing in your heart, you are not looking very deeply.