A Doll's House
By Henrik Ibsen
Audio Book Contractors, (2004)
An Unabridged Audio Recording on CD
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - May 3, 2010
The critic H. L. Mencken described Henrik Ibsen's plays as "obvious thoughts in sound plays." There is "nothing mysterious in them; there is not even anything new in them." Ibsen offered reality. He was not interested in presenting "morals, lesson, symbols and that sort of thing." Yet, "he hit upon an action that was all suspense and all emotion." Mencken quotes Ibsen: "What I wanted to do was to depict human beings, human emotions, and human destinies, upon groundwork of certain of the social conditions and principles of the present day." Many people may agree with Mencken's assessment of Ibsen. However, others would contend that besides presenting reality, Ibsen also portrayed proper behavior. This can be seen in A Doll's House. It is realistic and relevant, but it also shows how the society of Ibsen's time mistreated women.
The play presents a husband and a wife. The wife is a "doll," beautiful, unsophisticated, childlike, well-meaning, but ignorant of the adult world and affairs because women were not educated. All of her friends see her as a doll. Her husband treats her as one, calling her childish names. He tries to control all of her behavior, not because he is mean, but because he loves her and he realizes that she is unable to do so. He tells her what to eat so that her teeth will not be spoiled from sugar and how much she should spend because she does not understand much about money.
And it is the latter, the money, that gets her into trouble. Her husband was sick some years back and needed to travel and stay in a warmer climate for some months, but the couple had no money. She, out of childish but ignorant love, borrowed money from an unscrupulous man who insisted that she have her father countersign the loan. Her father was dying, so she forged his signature on the loan document. She was certain that this was not wrong because her intentions were pure; she wanted to save her husband's life. She did not tell her husband about the loan because she childishly wanted to surprise him someday in the future and show him that she acted wisely and that she, who he thought of as childlike, saved his life. She laughed about her cleverness often when she was alone.
Now the unscrupulous lender is demanding something from her, or he will reveal the forgery to her husband and his employer, and this will affect her marriage and her husband will lose his job.
All of this would not have happened if men would have treated women as human beings, not dolls.
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Rabbi Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes daily samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.