Doll House By Ibsen Today a reader might find it hard to imagine how daring Nora Helmer was a hundred years ago. The theme of womens liberation makes this story seem almost contemporary. This was considered a controversial play featuring a woman seeking individuality. “A Dolls House” was the play that made Ibsen world famous. It was written well ahead of its time.
In Ibsens time it was considered an outrage for a woman such as Nora to display a mind of her own. It was unthinkable that a woman would leave her husband to obtain freedom. This play presents problems and that still appear in todays society. This play, one of Ibsens most popular works, was a simple classic story of womens liberation. Animal imagery in the play is a critical part of the character development of Nora.
It is used to develop Noras character. Throughout the play Torvald calls his wife, “his little lark”, “sulky squirrel”, or other animal names. A lark is a happy, carefree, songbird. It can also be used as a verb meaning to engage in spirited, fun, or merry pranks. Torvald thinks Nora is always happy, never sad, and energetic (all the characteristics of a songbird.) A squirrel is quite the opposite.
It is a small fury rodent. Nora”squirreled” away her bag of macaroons, and also scrounges money to pay off her debt. Torvald would ask if, “that is my squirrel rummaging around?” This shows that Nora was burying something, maybe the macaroons or the money she secretly borrowed. Torvald uses names that show how he feels about Nora at the time. The animals chosen Stevens 2 are related to how Nora is acting.
In act two, Nora tells Torvald she will be a wood nymph and dance for him. A wood nymph is a hummingbird that is graceful in flight, just like Nora wants to be for Torvald when she dances. When Nora begs Torvald to let Krogstad to keep his job at the bank she gets very worked up. Torvald notices her “frightened dove eyes” and tries to comfort her. A dove is well known as a symbol of peace. Nora only wants Krogstad to keep his job to maintain peace and order in her life.
Most of the animal imagery used refers to happy peaceful animals. This is because Torvald sees Nora as a happy, carefree housewife. He does not know about the secret worries she has. The imagery also shows what kind of person Torvald is and the kind of person he would like Nora to be (Magill). Through most of the play Nora has a typical relationship with society.
Most women in her time were denied a part in public life, their education was limited, they were not legally able to transact business, and they could not own property. Women were considered property of their husband or fathers. Noras demeaning treatment was a common occurrence in life. Nora was a typical housewife who worshipped her husband. Her main purpose was to be happy for his sake. Nora had general duties, mostly restricted to caring for the children.
She fails to see that the law does not take into account the motivation behind her forgery. Noras first confrontation with a “lawful society” was her meeting with Krogstad. Nora does not realize her naivety and inexperience with the real world until she encounters rules with the world outside of her “doll house.” She does not realize that rules outside of the house apply to her. Nora has been so sheltered from society that she cannot comprehend the severity of her decision to Stevens 3 borrow money illegally. In her opinion it was no crime to do everything possible to save her husbands life.
She also believes that her actions will be overlooked because of her desperate situation. Noras state of shocked awareness at the end of the play shows how society awakens to the changing view of the role of women(Magill). Torvald also has a very typical relationship with society. He is a smug bank manager, a perfect symbol of their society. With his job comes many responsibilities. He often treats his wife as if she is one of these responsibilities.
Torvald is very authoritative and male dominated. He puts his appearance (both social and physical) ahead of his wife that he supposedly loves. He is not a strong supporter of his family; instead he is a mean and cowardly man. This is a man that is worried about his reputation, and cares little about his wifes feelings. He waits until after he discovers that his social status will suffer no harm before revealing his true feelings.
These feelings put both his social and physical appearance ahead of Nora, the wife who he says he loves. Torvald is a typical husband in his society. He denied Nora the right to think and act the way she wished. He required her to act like an imbecile and insisted upon the rightness of his view in all matters. An obvious example of his physical control over her would be his re-teaching of the tarantella.
Nora pretends to need Torvald to teach her every move to relearn the dance. Nora had to hide the fact that she was capable of making her own decisions from him. Torvald does have a small positive side. He is an admirable man, rigidly honest, with high morals, and is passionately devoted to his wife and children. Torvald was not completely empty of grace. Nora would not have married him in the first place if he lacked all charm.
She would not have committed forgery at great Stevens 4 personal risk to safe his life if he were not at all appealing to her. Overall Torvald was a shallow, self-centered person. He only reveals his true feelings after he discovers that his social status will suffer no harm. His pride would not let him accept that he needed a woman to help him. His self confidence would not have been strong enough to take that kind of blow to his ego.
Torvald also speaks as if he is only interested in Nora physically, and not emotionally. He comments that, “When I saw you turn and sway in the tarantella-my blood was pounding till I couldnt stand it (Kirszner 1014)”also Torvald asks, “Cant I look at my richest treasure? At all that beauty thats mine, mine alone-completely and utterly (Kirszner 1013).” Nora replies by saying, “Go away, Torvald! Leave me alone. I dont want all this (Kirszner 1014).” Torvald then implies that it is one of Noras duties as his wife to physically pleasure him at his command when he says, “Arent I your husband? (Kirszner 1014)” Nora is a dynamic character in this play. She goes through many changes and develops more than any other character. She is a grown woman that was pampered all her life by men.
She was spoon fed all of her life by her father and husband. She believes in Torvald unquestionably, and has always believed that he was her god or idol. She loves so much that nothing else matters; she has no social, legal, or moral considerations. She is the perfect image of a doll wife who revels in the thought of luxuries that she can afford because she is married. She is very flirtatious, and constantly engages in childlike acts of disobedience.
Nora goes through life with the illusion that everything is perfect. Because of the society she grew up in, when Nora is placed in a responsible position that demands moral judgment, she has none to give. Slowly Noras Stevens 5 character is forced to discontinue the role of a doll and seek out her individuality. She progressively confronts the realties of the real world, but still clings to the hope that her husband will protect and defend her from the outside world. Nora shows many contradicting actions in the play.
These actions emphasize her inferior role in her relationship with Torvald. Nora is infatuated with luxuries. She is at a point in her life where her family is very comfortable with extra money to spend. Her love for nice things contradicts her resourcefulness in scrounging and buying cheap clothing. Her flirtatious behavior also contradicts her devotion to her husband. These two sides of Nora contrast each other and emphasize the fact that she is lacking in independence.
She cannot act the way she wants to act because society and her husband will not allow her to (Magill). At the end of the play Nora finally confronts the realities of the real world and her subordinate position. She comes to see herself as an ignorant, unfit mother. She realizes that playing with and dressing her children does not make her a suitable mother. At the end of the play she also is aware of her ignorance, and her desire to go into the real world is not to prove herself, but to educate and discover herself.
Throughout the play Nora tried to avoid having Torvalds pride injured. She knew forcing him to borrow money would have been a huge blow to his self-esteem, even though it was necessary to save his life. To spare him she took matters into her own hands and borrowed the money herself. She grows from this experience. She learned about human nature, about the value of money, and learned a lesson of practicality.
She lived her life pretending to be the old Nora, and hid …