A Psychoanalytical Reading of Henrik Ibsen’s
A Doll’s House
Henrik Ibsen’s controversial play, A Doll’s House is based on the life of Nora, a woman who realizes that her husband and her marriage were stifling the person that she was, after having sacrificed a major part of her life for him. When Torvald berates her for having put his reputation at stake while trying to ensure the sustenance of the family while he was ill, oblivious to the fact that the comfortable position that he enjoyed in life at that point of time was entirely due to the efforts of Nora, who had been faithful to him to the extent of desiring death rather than any loss of Torvald’s reputation. There are points in the play where the action of the characters and the words they utter can be made subject to a psychoanalytical reading.
The manner in which Nora goes about her work, trying to arrange her world in order to please her husband indicates the fact that she has internalized the logic of the ‘ lack’ that she id fed as a part of the patriarchal society that she belongs to. This is evident when she says,
And besides, how painful and humiliating it would be for Torvald, with his manly independence, to know that he owed me anything!
(Ibsen, 27 2000)
Nora herself believes in this lack that psychoanalysts have claimed that women feel. Torvald too believes himself to be superior to Nora, because of the presence of a projectile reproductive organ that women lack. His outburst when he finds out about Nora’s achievements indicates a wound to this masculine pride which undergoes a symbolic castration.
There is another element in the play that is open to a psychoanalytic reading. This is Nora’s willingness to be a part of the doll’s house where she is able to play out her pre-oedipal fantasies, which are characteristic of women, according to psychoanalysis. This follows an incomplete withdrawal from the mother during childhood owing to excessive identification.
The incidents in A Doll’s House are open to multiple interpretations. A psychoanalytic reading is one of them. As is evident from the above analysis, it is a very important part of the analysis of the play and helps one gain a better understanding of the play.
Ibsen, Henrik. (2000) A Doll’s House. New York: Plain Label Books. Print. p 27.
Nobus, Dany; Downing Lisa. (2005). Perversion: psychoanalytic perspectives/perspectives on psychoanalysis. New York: Karnac. Print. p 245.