A Doll's House
by Henrik Ibsen
Analysis: What's Up With the Ending?
A Doll's House ends with the slamming of a door. Nora turns her back on her husband and kids, and takes off into the snow to make her own way in the world. It's a pretty bold decision, to say the least. Some might even call it foolish. She doesn't have a job. Not a whole lot of marketable skills. No home. No prospects of any kind. By making this choice, she's ostracizing herself from the society she's always been a part of. Most "respectable" people just aren't going to hang out with her. The comfortable life she's leading will be totally destroyed. So, why does she do such a thing?
Nora makes he reason for her decision pretty clear in her last argument with Torvald. Before she makes her grand exit, he scathingly criticizes her, saying that by deserting her husband and children she is forsaking her "most sacred duties" (3.309). Nora doesn't see it this way. She tells him that the duties that are most sacred to her now are the "duties to [herself]" (3.314).
It seems like Nora has gone through a kind of personal awakening. She's come to the conclusion that she's not a fully realized person. She has to spend some time figuring out who she is as an individual or she'll never be anything more than someone's doll. This would be impossible under the smothering presence of Torvald. She must force herself to face the world alone. Nora knows that she is about to suffer. It seems that some part of her may even welcome it. In a way Nora is like the Biblical Eve after she ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. All of a sudden, she is enlightened, but that enlightenment comes with a heavy cost.
But is there any hope for Torvald and Nora getting back together? The last line of the play seems to suggest that maybe there is. Torvald is alone in the living room. Stage directions tell us that, "A hope flashes across his mind" and then Torvald says, "The most wonderful thing of all?" (3.381) He's referring to the conversation he and Nora had right before she walked out of the room. Nora says that if they're ever to be more than strangers "the most wonderful thing of all would have to happen," that their "life together would be a real wedlock" (3.376). So, has Torvald realized what this means? Has he figured out that they both have to respect each other as individuals in order to have a real marriage? Has he taken a bite of the forbidden fruit as well? Ibsen doesn't tell us for sure. Maybe Torvald runs out into the snow and makes it all better. Maybe his pride keeps him in the apartment. What do you think?