As a famous early 20th century philosopher once put it, “There are two people, so to say, in each of us- one derived by heredity from our parents and the other composed of all the influences we have received from the society in which we happen to have been born. By heredity we may be one sort of person; by training and education we may be quite another. ” This, what one might call, ‘principle’, in my opinion greatly applies to Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”.
It is interesting to find if Nora’s decision to leave was something that was imposed on her by her environment, or a ‘bad’ trait that was passed on to her by her father. Or is her decision a compromise between the two? Having said that, also brings about the thought of how much of a persons character results from heredity and how much results from the environment. Ibsen, like many of his contemporary writers, was under the influences of numerous scientific advances and among them was Charles’ Darwin’s theory of evolution.
This led many people to believe that God was not the one responsible for creating human beings and that God was not responsible for the actions that people took during their lives, that they were either a product of their free will or heredity. Nora’s decision to leave is the climax of the play, an unexpected turnout of events. Or was it? Was it her father’s ‘bad’ traits that made her leave? Or were they at all that bad?
We can only speculate about Nora’s father’s habits, all we know from Helmer is that he was a “spendthrift”. But what about the other, so called, bad habits? The things we never found out about? Were they something like donating money to the poor? Helping the poor out in person? Things like that could have been considered by many as bad traits at the time, and certainly by such narrowed minded and hypocritical people as Helmer, who would have considered such things as bad ethics.