Family Relationships in "A Doll’s House"
Torvald Helmer, one of the main characters of the play, is somewhat “righteous.” He prides himself for earning a comfortable living for himself and his family, and for earning a high status in society, all through honest, hard work. His wife, Nora, is a moral woman, so much so that in the opening of the play, she had this childlike innocence and naivety. Her worst lie could easily have been sneaking macaroons to eat, disobeying her husband’s rules against sweets.
It is emphasized that a parent is obligated to lead a moral life to set an exemplar lifestyle for their children. Throughout their marriage, Nora and Torvald have tried to ensure to nurture their three children that type of environment. With the way they uphold their moral beliefs, it seemed that they have accomplished their parental responsibility quite well. It remained so until, Nora revealed that at the time of her father was on his deathbed, Torvald fell ill. She was forced to borrow enough money to travel south to Italy, where Torvald could nurse back his health. She committed two crimes–first, she borrowed money without her husband’s consent, and second, she had forged a signature. The second crime she was guilty of mirrored Krogstad’s, and she was likely to follow his fate. Krogstad became a moral outcast in society for his felony, and lost his career as a lawyer along with his credibility. He was left nothing but a tainted name.
To justify Krogstad’s dismissal at the bank, Torvald revealed to his wife the aversion he had with a corrupt man like Krogstad. Torvald explained how Krogstad passes his immorality to his children, “…Because an atmosphere like that infects and poisons the whole life of a home…And for years this fellow Krogstad has been going home and poisoning his own children with lies and deceit.”
Nora believed that she, too, would bring similar corruption to her children, bringing destruction to her entire home. Nora’s innocence and morality shone when she was willing to sacrifice her life or leave her home just so that her husband will not suffer the consequences of her crime, and also, in order to sustain her children’s purity. However, Torvald was blind from rage and from his sensitive concern for what society thought, therefore, he forbade her from raising their children; he could not trust them under the care of a “shiftless woman.”
In a parallel situation, Dr. Rank has fallen ill and it worsens by the minute, a disease is ravaging through his body. In the days of his prime, Dr. Rank’s father had enjoyed his many mistresses, now Rank has taken the punishment. Dr. Rank considered it an injustice to “pay for some one else’s sins. Yes, indeed, the whole thing’s a joke! My poor innocent spine must pay for my father’s amusements.” The disease he has, consumption of the spine (syphilis), is an enduring symbol of his father’s depravity and indulgence. Rank possessed the physical representation of his father’s lifestyle–it is what he had inherited.
As we see in Nora’s and Dr. Rank instances, parents can easily pass on their corruption to their children. Nora’s case, however, is a mere abstract notion that Torvald manipulated her to think. Nonetheless, a parent must remain moral for the proper upbringing of their child.