A Doll's House by Henrik Isben
In the play A Doll’s House, Henrik Isben brings out the character of Nora. Ruled her whole life by either her father or husband, Nora must question the foundation of everything she believes in when her marriage is put to the test. Having borrowed money from a man of bad reputation named Krogstad, and by forging her father’s signature, she was able to pay for a trip to Italy to save her sick husband, Torvald’s, life. Her husband was unaware of the loan and Nora led him to believe it came from her father. Since then, she has had to contrive ways to pay back her loan without her husband’s knowledge, growing particularly concerned with money and deceit. The main theme brought out in this play is that sometimes people seek outlets to freedom when they feel suppressed. This is supported through symbols and irony.
The title A Doll’s House has significant irony throughout the play. Torvald views himself as the dominant person in the house who has to think for Nora because she does not have a head of her own. Torvald’s pet names for Nora reveal that he does not see her as an equal by any means; rather, Nora is at times predictable and acts like a silly doll at times. Throughout the play, there are references to Nora’s father who treated her just like Torvald. When Nora was younger she only conversed with the servants. As an adult she mainly talks to her friend Linde and family physician Dr. Rank. She never felt she could talk to her father or husband because they never would listen to what she had to say. Nora’s quest for freedom was brought out in a conversation with Linde, “… it was a tremendous pleasure to sit there working and earning money. It was like being a man.” (Pg. 14) She had found an outlet to freedom while working to pay back the loan during a time when most women did not work outside of the home. Nora had the power in the marriage even though she and Torvald did not know this to be true.
The macaroons symbolize Nora’s rebellion and give a foreshadowing of what is to come. Dr. Rank says, “What macaroons? I thought they were forbidden here.” Nora replies, “ Yes, but these are some Christine gave me.” (Pg. 17) Nora hides the fact she bought the macaroons and is eating them. Although this is a small gesture, it shows that despite acting weak, Nora can defy Torvald even in the smallest of ways. The macaroons show that Nora has the desire to do what she pleases and not always obey Torvald. This act of rebellion brings out Nora’s freedom. As Nora manipulates Torvald she gains liberation.
Nora’s ball dress symbolizes the character she plays in her marriage to Torvald. “Taking off my fancy dress” (Pg. 61), Nora decides to become free from all of her lies. Her dress represents the suppression she felt throughout her marriage. When Nora first sees the dress it is torn in little pieces. This represents how Nora feels. She feels enslaved because she cannot tell Torvald the truth. While Mrs. Linde mends the dress back together, Nora thinks about everything she has done in the past and begins to think of her future. After Nora comes home from the party, she decides to take the dress off. “Yes, Torvald, I have changed my things now.” (Pg. 61) While taking off the dress, Nora decides to free herself from lies. It is then she feels strong enough to tell Torvald the truth.
Nora uses charm and manipulation to get what she wants. She uses her captivating charms to prevent Torvald from reading the letter from Krogstad that tells him about the loan. Torvald ask Nora if she has practiced the tarantella and Nora replies, “… I can’t get on a bit without you to help me; I have absolutely forgotten the whole thing.” (Pg. 46) She makes Torvald feel superior. After Torvald reads the letter and finds out about the forged signature, Nora sees Torvald's true character for the first time in their marriage. Nora then sits her husband down to tell him she is leaving him to seek a new life.
This play supports the fact that people sometimes seek outlets to freedom at particular times in their lives. Nora felt she owed it to herself to become fully independent and to explore her own character and the world for herself. This realization helped Nora to become her own person, free from the restraining controls placed on her by others.
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