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Noras Journey Of Discovery In Dolls House English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1153 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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A Doll’s House, written by Henrik Ibsen in 1879, is a play that follows the marriage of a woman named Nora and her husband Torvald. It is set around Christmas time in “a comfortable room, furnished inexpensively, but with taste.” (p147) One of the central themes in the play is Nora’s journey of self discovery. When the play opens, the audience sees Nora as a juvenile housewife with little understanding of the ways of life, although by the end of the last act, she becomes a single-minded woman determined to educate herself.

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As the title of the play suggests, Nora is a ‘doll’, trapped in a doll’s house. She is a typical nineteenth century Victorian housewife living in a patriarchal society, dominated by men. At the start of the first act, when Nora arrives home after she has been out shopping, Torvald accuses her of being “up to mischief today” (p151). He asks her “didn’t Little Sweet-Tooth” “nibble on a macaroon or two?” This immediately shows Nora’s limited independence and lack of freedom as even simple rights such as what she can and cannot eat are restricted by her husband. It also shows the dishonesty in their relationship as Nora straight out lies to Torvald about the macaroons the audience is aware she has been eating.

Torvald and Nora’s relationship is more similar to that of a father and daughter than of a husband and wife. Torvald’s doll like treatment towards her is reflective of the childish treatment she previously received from her father. The demeaning names such as “featherbrain”, “little song-bird”, “my little skylark” and “scatterbrain” (p148) that Torvald uses when communicating with her, also indicate Nora’s unintelligence and his dominance.

In the last act, Nora realises that throughout their marriage, Torvald and herself have “never exchanged a serious word on any serious subject.” (p225) Although, when she confronts him about this, Torvald replies “but, Nora dearest, what good would that have been to you?” He believes, as most men of the time would have, that Nora does not need to be involved in anything serious as she is merely a woman.

Nora confesses a deep secret when she is reunited with an old friend, Kristina. She tells Kristina that when her father died, he did not actually leave her money to pay for the trip to Italy that saved Torvald’s life and “it was [her] who raised the money.” (p159) When Nora is telling Kristina this she claims “I’ve something to be proud of”, this makes her seem as if she is bragging about how wonderful a deed it was, making her appear childish. It can however, be seen as a strength of Nora’s as she went against society and risked her wife status in order to save the man she loves. The audience realises that she is not as helpless as she was originally perceived to be.

Throughout the play, it is as if Nora is living in a childish fantasy where everything is faultless. Her marriage to Torvald consists of him providing her with generous amounts of money that she wastes on various bits and pieces. He believes that Nora only needs protection and amusement, as most women were thought to need. This indicates a materialistic relationship with no real depth. Their marriage, Nora later realises has been of suitability and an aspect of public need for Torvald. As she says to him “you don’t understand me. And I’ve never understood you – until tonight.” (p224) There is nothing under the surface of what appears to be their marriage.

When Torvald reads the letter Krogstad wrote him outlining Nora’s wrongdoings, he is outraged claiming Nora has “completely wrecked [his] happiness.” (p221) Although despite his anger, he says to Nora, “we must seem to go on just as before . . . but only in the eyes of the world of course.” This shows that their marriage has been based on social reputation as even when Torvald sees their marriage as over, he still wants to maintain the appearance of the marriage to society.

Nora realises that she has “been dreadfully wronged – first by Papa, and then by [Torvald]”. Throughout her marriage with Torvald she has been his “doll-wife” as she was her father’s “doll-child” before. She has never been her own person as her father “used to tell [her] his opinion about everything, and so [she] had the same opinion.” She was forced to take on the traits of her father as if she thought differently “he wouldn’t have liked it.” (p225) This shows how Nora is confined by the male influences around her.

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When Krogstad states “the law is not concerned with motives”, Nora replies “then it must be a very stupid law.” (p175) This shows how Nora is little educated as she knows little about the world around her. She believes that “a wife [has] the right to save her husband’s life” despite any crimes she must commit in order to save him. As this is not predominantly true, Nora realises that the world is a much more complicated place then what she had thought it to be.

At the end of the play when Nora’s ‘miracle’ doesn’t happen, she realises that she has “lived by performing tricks for [Torvald].” (p226) The tarantella is a good example of Nora performing for Torvald. When practicing, she tells him “Torvald dear; criticize me, and show me where I’m wrong, the way you always do.” (p203) This demonstrates Nora’s need to satisfy him. Shortly after Nora has danced for her life, Torvald brings her downstairs to satisfy his desires. When Kristina walks in to the room, Torvald takes Nora’s shawl off declaring “yes, just look at her! She’s worth seeing, if you ask me! Isn’t she lovely, Mrs Linde?” This shows that to Torvald, Nora is merely something that he can show off to society.

When Nora comes to terms that her marriage with Torvald is a lie, she realises that she must leave him. As she becomes aware that the world is a very different place from what she thought it to be, she realises that in order to be able to understand the ways of the world “[she] must try to educate [herself]” (p227) into a mature woman.

At the time, society would have been outraged at Nora for leaving her “most sacred duty” (p227) behind. When Nora walks out on Torvald, she is not just leaving him behind; she is also leaving her children behind. As Nora says “before everything else [she’s] a human being” therefore she must care for herself before she does anyone else.


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