A Dolls House Essay On Power

Free Essay - Nora in Act 1 in Ibsen's A Doll's House

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The Character of Nora in Act 1 of A Doll's House


The character of Nora, of Isben's A Doll's House, is particularly difficult to interpret. Her character is constructed by the combination of a number of varying traits.   Throughout Act 1 her ambiguity is particularly prominent. Her frivolous, playful moments are readily followed by moments of practicality and astuteness. It is not surprising that Nora is such a changeable character for she is constantly interchanging between three main roles: a supporting wife, fundamental mother and sexual being.

Ibsen uses the metaphor of a doll inside a doll house to portray Nora's attempt to become an individual while confined inside a male dominated world. Her wish to become self motivated is obstructed by Torvald's power over her.  Nora's home is the realization of domestic bliss, preserved and presented like "A Doll's House." Lacking experience of life in the real world and oblivious to the outdoor hardships, Nora is vulnerable. She enters muffled in protection from the outside, portrayed symbolically through her coat, scarf etc.

Immediately, Nora appears childlike and coquettish. She orders Helene in an excitable tone to hide the Christmas tree as the children "mustn't see it till tonight." Nora's secretiveness  in wanting to hide the tree, extends further, and is a constant theme. Following Torvald's light- hearted interrogation with regard to whether she has had any macaroons, she becomes nervous and lies, "No Torvald, I promise...No No...Torvald I swear." Of course, this is particularly important as the entire play rotates around Nora's "big secret."  With the entrance of Krogstad, Nora's sense of fun abandons her. Her attempt to enforce her social superiority over him is genuinely intimidated. In her ambitious attempt to be superior she states "one isn't without influence". However, within moments she is forced into pleading "Mr. Krogstad, I don't have any influence."

Nora's stereotyped roll as a doll confined to a doll's house constantly being fathered by Torvald encourages her childlike manner. However an entirely different contradicting side to Nora's character is revealed when Nora explains exactly what she did "for Helmer".  Although Nora is a woman who shirks or is probably unaware of her responsibilities (particularly with regard to her children who are under permanent care of Ann- Marie) here she has, apparently, fulfilled something of her duty as a wife.  Her personal attitude to her action, which in her mind saved "Torvald's life" is very childlike.

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She is very smug and unaware of potentially dangerous consequences.

Nora is trapped in debt. She seems, at times, unaware of the value of money. Her feckless, careless use of money is subtly hinted by her "keep the change" to the porter. The problem of her debt to Krogstad is later revealed and hardly surprising. Although we are supposed to see Nora as childlike and immature she has been carefully constructed so that her independence and native wisdom (which remain behind the veneer caused by her father and Helmer) have always shown through.  Her character at this stage is one enforced on her by society and those around her. However it is inevitable that her true self is destined to shine through.

Nora is a dependent woman, confined to a "play" world, striving to become independent and to enter reality despite the obstruction of her husband Torvald.  Nora has yet to discover herself.

Work Cited:

Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll's House. Introduction to Literature: Reading, Analyzing, and Writing.2nd ed. Ed. Dorothy  U. Seyler and Richard A. Wilan. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice, 1990.



Power in a Doll’s House

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“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton). There is much truth in this. The behavior of a powerful person often leads much to be desired. Some of the unsocial things they may do include acting as if they are entitled to get what they want, and expecting others to comply with their requirements without question. However, when one achieves power they tend to lose their values and humanity. In A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, power can dehumanize a person and cause conflict in a relationship.

Nora is treated like a doll and a possession by her husband. Torvald rarely calls Nora by her name. Torvald refers to her as an object rather than a human being. Nora is portrayed as a vapid, passive character with little personality of her own. Her whole life is a construct of societal norms and the expectations of others. Until she comes to the realization that her life is a sham, she spends her whole life in a dream world also known as a dollhouse.

Nora says “you arranged everything to suit your own tastes, and so I came to have the same tastes as yours, or I pretended to”. Likewise, Nora is treated as a possession of Torvald. Torvald relentlessly refers to Nora through the use of pet names such as “my little skylark”(Ibsen) and “my helpless little squirrel”(Ibsen). Torvald uses the possessive “my” often to reflect the notion that she belongs solely to him. Torvald treats Nora as if she was not important to him.

She is his pet, his toy, and his possession. Torvald even states to Nora that it was “quite expensive for him to keep such a pet”(Ibsen). Torvald looks down Nora because she is just a woman and nothing else. Nora is controlled by the men in the play and lies behind their back. Torvald continuously acts as a father figure to Nora. Torvald saysHe does not let her speak and feels only his voice matters. Torvald is not only demanding mentally and physically, but also financially. He does not trust Nora with money.

He feels that she is incapable and too immature to handle a matter of such importance. On the rare occasion that Torvald does give Nora some money, he worries that she will waste it on candy, pastry or something else of Childish and useless value. Nora’s duties, in general, are restricted to caring for the children, doing housework, and working on her needlepoint. But overall, Nora’s most important responsibility is to please Torvald. This makes her role similar to that of a slave.

Author: Brandon Johnson

in A Doll's House

Power in a Doll’s House

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