A Dolls House: Nora Essay
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In Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House, the personality of the protagonist Nora Helmer is developed and revealed through her interactions and conversations with the other characters in the play, including Mrs. Linde, Nils Krogstad, Dr. Rank and Ann-Marie. Ibsen also uses certain dramatic and literary techniques and styles, such as irony, juxtaposition and parallelism to further reveal interesting aspects of Nora’s personality. Mrs. Linde provides and interesting juxtaposition to Nora, while Krogstad initially provides the plot elements required for Nora’s character to fully expand in the play. Dr. Rank’s love for Nora provides irony and an interesting twist in their relationship, while Ann-Marie acts in a parallel role to Nora in that they…show more content…
This attitude is best expressed when he says, "I had to grab hold somewhere; and I dare say that I haven’t been among the worst." This light juxtaposition which affects Nora and Krogstad’s relationship, combined with Nora’s secretive borrowing and money-saving practices creates a lasting impression of her desire that no one, including Helmer, discover her debt to the bank. This clashes directly with the initial portrait of a childlike, carefree and oblivious woman that Nora "was" at the beginning of the play. Nora’s personality slowly changes from a two-dimensional figure to a fully developed and captivating woman who can independently take care of herself and her family without the guiding hand of a man at her side. This is illustrated by her handling of the debt crisis up to the point that her husband finds out. The prevailing belief in nineteenth century society was that women could not handle affairs suited only for men, such as the management of finances or similar tasks and occupations. Ibsen’s Nora progresses from an innocent, apparently oblivious bystander to the her world’s events to a character who has the courage, determination, and intellect to undertake those tasks that Victorian society prohibited for women. Krogstad’s demeanor and attitude toward Nora also reveals certain important aspects of their relationship, and thus her personality. For example, while Torvald figuratively and
When Henrik Ibsen wrote A Doll’s House, the institution of marriage was sacrosanct; women did not leave their husbands, and marital roles were sharply defined. The play, which questions these traditional attitudes, was highly controversial and elicited sharp criticism. The character of Nora Helmer, a favorite with actresses seeking a role of strength and complexity, has dominated the play from its inception. She is the one who gains audience empathy, who grows through the course of the play. Some early critics viewed Nora as a prime example of the “new woman,” a breed seeking independence and self-definition, and the play as a polemic advocating women’s rights. Some insisted that although a woman might leave her husband, she would never leave her children. Later critics faulted Nora’s sudden conversion from a sheltered child stroking her husband’s ego to a mature woman seeking independence. Yet, others maintained that Ibsen skillfully foreshadows Nora’s departure in her behavior throughout the play in her gaiety, generosity, and unselfishness. Further, Ibsen himself declared that he was not writing solely about women but instead about issues of his society and about the need for individuals, both men and women, to be true to themselves.
Thus A Doll’s House can be viewed thematically not only as a picture of an innocent nineteenth century woman struggling to achieve self-definition but also as a devastating indictment of a routine marriage between two ordinary people who lack awareness of themselves and who have differing views of right and wrong. Torvald unquestioningly accepts society’s dicta of the husband as the breadwinner and moral authority, but Nora’s attempt to conform as the submissive wife forces her into lies and deception. Both care about what people think; neither consciously considers opposing society’s mores.
The need for communication contributes to the thematic pattern of the play. Nora and Torvald communicate only on the most superficial level; he speaks from the conventions of society but neither sees nor hears her, while she can only play out the role that he has constructed for her. This inability or unwillingness to express themselves verbally leads to unhappiness and pain.
The theme is echoed in the subplot of Kristine and Krogstad, both of whom have struggled with the cruelties of society. Kristine endured a loveless marriage in order to support her elderly mother and young brothers; Krogstad was forced into crime in order to care for his ill wife and children. Although within the plot their union seems somewhat contrived, Ibsen characterizes them as aware of themselves and honest with each other.
One of Ibsen’s masterful touches is the use of concealment as a motif; it permeates the play in several manifestations and reinforces the major theme of the need for openness in marriage. Nora’s first word, “hide,” initiates the motif. Thereafter, she hides the Christmas presents, lies about eating macaroons, continues to deceive Torvald into believing that she is a spendthrift and flighty female, and invents distractions to prevent him from opening the mailbox. Torvald too participates in concealment. Fearing exposure in the third act, he starts and orders “Hide, Nora! Say you’re sick” when the doorbell rings.
The primary agent of empowerment in A Doll’s House is money. Private and public rewards result from its presence. It enabled Nora and Torvald to travel to Italy for his health. Money from Torvald’s new salary at the bank will provide prestige for the Helmers and allow Nora, in particular, to breathe more easily. Yet, all the major figures—Torvald, Nora, Kristine, and Krogstad—have been affected adversely by its absence: from the deception in the marriage of Torvald and Nora to the prior unhappy marriage of Kristine and the criminal acts of Krogstad.
In the complex pattern that Ibsen has created, lack of self-knowledge, inability to communicate, and unthinking conformity to convention affect the institution of marriage most adversely.