The Thinking 
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Christmas with the Helmers

December 21, 2012


Claire Bloom and Anthony Hopkins in A Doll's House


Henrik Ibsen

HENRIK IBSEN’S famous play A Doll’s House, which premiered in Copenhagen in 1879 and has been staged many thousands of times since, is a now classic statement of modern divorce. We will never know how many women have been inspired or encouraged to leave their husbands by Nora Helmer, Ibsen’s lovely and effervescent housewife who slams the door behind her when she leaves her home two days after Christmas, but we can assume that the immense popularity of this character in the ensuing years has had personal and grave consequences for some.

The play opens on Christmas Eve.

Nora Helmer returns to her comfortable and cozy Norwegian home after shopping for presents for her three children and her husband, Torvald. She is excited and happy. For the first time in years, she has felt free to spend at Christmastime. Her husband has a new job at a bank and, with this good fortune, they are likely to be comfortable for many years. Torvald is in the next room and soon comes out to greet her. He likes to tease her and call her his “little lark” and his “squirrel.” He finds his wife enchanting but also treats her like a child, a habit which she fully encourages. The moralistic Torvald is what people refer to today as a “control freak.” He even attempts to regulate what his wife eats. In contrast, Nora is sweet and charming. Read More »


Thirty-Six Hours of Christmas Music

December 21, 2012


JANE S. writes:

The best classical music station in the world, KDFC in San Francisco, has a special program every year for the holidays. Starting at noon on December 24th, they play Christmas music for 36 hours straight. They pause to announce the station every now and then but other than that, it is nonstop. I don’t think they repeat any of the selections. They play stuff you’ve never heard before, like medieval French Christmas carols and the like. It is absolutely out of this world. I just thought I’d pass that along, since it’s one of my favorite things.

Merry Christmas!


The Inverted World of Christmas Greetings

December 21, 2012



From my employer, SUNY Oswego, I receive only “holiday” greetings.  From my remote colleague at the University of Tehran, where I have supervised a dissertation, I receive honest-to-God Christmas greetings.  I have also received Christmas greetings from the student whose dissertation I oversaw.  She, like the colleague, is Muslim.  Truly the world is standing on its head.

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