A Dolls House World Literature Essay Example

  Role play seems to be the name of the game in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. The main characters in the play pretend to be someone who others would like them to be, instead of being their true selves. The person that stands out the most as a character whose role play is almost impeccable to the point where it seems she leads two different lives is Nora. She is Torvald’s loving and childish wife, and unknowingly, even to herself, a strong, independent woman. As the play progresses, Nora’s persona shifts from that of the everyday playful, trophy wife seen by Torvald and friends, to that of a self-empowering, willing woman. This is a good, clear opening. As is, you are describing the story. You might close with a kind of thesis statement to indicate what you are going to do with theis information.
     Nora’s first impression on the audience is of an obedient, money-loving, childish wife. In the first act, Nora seems to just want money from her husband Torvald. In the first encounter with Torvald after showing him what she just bought for their kids, she doesn’t delay [herself] in asking for money. Even when asked what she would like for Christmas, money is her answer. It is impressive how Torvald addresses Nora as she was just a little girl, or even a pet, “my little lark mustn’t droop her wings like that. What? Is my squirrel in the sulks?” (Ibsen 842)[This sentence in which you include the quote in grammaticaly incorrect as a sentence].. It seems as if he is talking to a [little] child. And he says that as he is giving her money, which makes their interaction seem almost of a grown grandparent giving money to his precious, favorite young granddaughter. All of which makes Nora seem more like a prized possession than an equal partner in marriage. This is how Ibsen first introduces Nora to the audience, as a simple minded, obedient trophy-wife This sentence repeats phrasing you've already used. . Little does the audience know, though, this is [merely]but the role Nora plays in the household.
     As the play progresses, the audience comes to learn that due to a sickness Torvald had in the past, Nora, in order to pay for a trip needed to save Torvald’s life, was forced to take a loan from a rich man[a moneylender] known as Mr. Krogstad. There is a little subtlety, Nora not only got this loan behind Torvald’s back, but in the legal process of obtaining it, she was forced, due to the circumstances, to forge a signature so that she could get the money in time to save her husband’s life. It is impressive that Nora was able to get the loan as Nora’s friend, Mrs. Linden, remarks “a wife can’t borrow [money] without her husband’s consent” (Ibsen 848). This implies Nora is not completely a money loving fiend who just follows every instruction given by her husband, but she is a willing and determined individual who does what is needed for the best of her loved ones. Your explication of this aspect of Nora and our understanding is very clear--well presented.
     The plot of the play becomes increasingly interesting when the audience finds out that now Krogstad is one of the employees of Torvald, and Torvald plans on firing Krogstad. Krogstad knowing now of theNora's forgery, blackmails Nora on the condition that if she doesn’t persuade Torvald to not fire him, Krogstad would tell Torvald and everyone else that she forged that signature; in which case it would have legal consequences for Nora. Yet most significant to Nora, knowing Torvald’s abhorrence towards dishonesty and debt is her fear of ruining her family’s image. This might be stated more precisely. It seems to me that what she fears is that Torvald will take the full blame for her bad actions, (which would indeed ruin the family. The revelation of this secret to the audience completely changes the perception of who Nora truly is, or at least leaves the audience in a state of momentary confusion without knowing how to label Nora. This secret shows the strength of her character to carry with a burden she shouldn’t have had to carry on her own. Not only is she paying back for a debt that shouldn’t be hers (why not?), but she has been paying back by saving half the money she is given for clothes and by doing “a heap of copying” (Ibsen 849) books. It is admirable what is now known of Nora. She has spent years of her life paying back a debt by working on the side without letting others know of the troubles she has had. Specially the fact that the money she got she didn’t use for clothes or drinks; the money was used to save her husband’s life. Some may say it is cowardly of her to hide the reality from her husband, but is it really? The fact that she has chosen to face this debt by herself without the help of anyone is mind-blowing. (You might look for less slang-y phrses to use in your essay. "is staggering to consider.") Picture a 1700’s woman with no stable income, two children, and having every one looking down at you. Instead of asking for help to pay it back and telling Torvald it was money used on him and for him, she takes the hard road by choosing to work what little she can by earning whatever she can. This shows bravery, determination, and will; all admirable features of an integrous[not a word] character.
     Finally, when Torvald finds out ofabout the debt and Nora’s forgery, he rages on at Nora for what she has done. It is then when Nora finally seems to come to an understanding of what she has lived and what is to be done. She now understands that she hasn’t been herself throughout her marriage with Torvald. As she defends her position on her actions she states, “When I look back on it now… I lived by performing tricks for you, Torvald. But you would have it so” (Ibsen 885). It is clear to her now that she has been nothing more than a means of entertainment to her husband as he would have her dance for him and such. And Torvald, as much as he might have critiqued her in the end for her childish behavior, Nora points out that it is for performing those tricks he loved of her. I think here it would show an extension of your theme to point out the Torvald, too, shows that he is not what Nora expected him to be--instead of heroic self-sacrifice, he shows a petulant and cowardly desire for self-protection.
     Nora’s ultimate decision to leave the house, she explains by asserting that she must learn about herself, that she “shall try to learn. I [Nora] must make up my mind which is right - society or I” (Ibsen 886). Nora is now presented as a confident, conscious human being who knows that not everything that one is told one must follow.watch awkward phrasing. "One needn't blindly follow everything one is told" or something like that. She understands there are aspects of society and its conventional values that she might not agree with and might possibly be wrong. Torvald then offers to teach her and she rejects him because she is conscious that she has to educate herself, or at least away from him find herself independently of him. She also points out that they never spoke of serious things, which could be the reason why she believes he isn’t right to teach her; along with the fact that he has been looking down on her since they’ve met.
     In the end, Nora comes out as a strong willed, independent woman who knows what she wants. Nora is not only Ibsen’s vessel to show women’s strong character, but serves the purpose of showing women as equal human beings. The character of Nora also helps point out that there might some aspects of society which might be incorrect besides the perception of women as the less sharp sex; the law of those days for example. All of these are shown with Nora’s possession of a secret life. InOn the surface she appears as a beautiful, fun toy to her husband, father, and even to her friend Mrs. Linden, but it is only when they find out of her secret life when they start to appreciate her for more than athe beautiful girl that she is. That second life of hers allows Nora to show that she can work, that she can withstand enormous amounts of pressure, and that she is capable to do things when she is determined. It is this secret life that eventually leads to her being freed from that doll house, as she calls it, and ultimately allows her to leave without being afraid to study and learn about herself and society.

Works Cited
Ibsen, Henrik. "A Doll's House." Damrosch, David and David L Pike. The Longman Anthology of World Literature. Trans. William Archer. 2nd Edition. Vol. E. Pearson Education, 2009. 840-888.

  • 11-25-2007, 03:21 PM#1

    Student

    Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House"

    Hi, Im currently working on an essay for my IB coursework:

    "How does Ibsen use the play to explore free will and determinism?"

    And i dont have many ideas for paragraphs. So if anyone could offer any quotes or ideas, that would be greatly appreciated.


    Alexxx

  • 08-12-2009, 11:46 AM#2

    Registered User

    Help!

    Hey Alex,

    My name is Helen and I am doing my IB World Literature on a similar topic to yours. Mine is on Free Will and Determinism in A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen and L'etranger by Albert Camus. Did you manage to write your essay on it? Is there any advice/quotes you can help me with with regards to A Dolls House! I really am stuck!

    I would be soo greatful!!

    Let me know,

    Helen xx

  • 08-12-2009, 05:43 PM#3

    the beloved:
    Both Nora and Mersault act courageously, if recklessly, with a conscious and sustained disregard for social norms and conventions. Both decide for themselves based on the present, the here and now. Both act outrageously from the viewpoint of their communities. Mersault is driven by rational despair; Nora by a search for what is true and authentic. Mersault sees no point in living a lie; Nora rejects living as a doll for father and, later, husband.

    Both existentially choose, and fashion their lives accordingly, rejecting the spineless self-deception of the world around them.
    Originally Posted by Helly

    Mine is on Free Will and Determinism in A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen and L'etranger by Albert Camus.


  • 08-13-2009, 07:03 AM#4

    Registered User

    Thanks.

    But, how does that link to free will and determinism?

    In A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen it is Nora's free will that enables her to depart from the House. It is however deterministic that Helmer finds out about the debt because Krogstad had decided to tell him therefore there was nothing Nora could od about it, correct? What do you think of these two ideas?

    In L'etranger by Albert Camus however I have no ideas about how free will and determinism are demonstrated. Any idea?

    Thanks for this help,

    Helen xx


  • 08-13-2009, 11:42 PM#5

    the beloved:
    Let's agree that by determinism we mean that human choices and actions can be determined from external causes; and by free will that human choices and actions are determined by internal causes within an individual's control.

    The radical choices of Nora and Mersault determine arise unexpectedly and with little or no input from external causes. A more deterministic Nora would have remained, at least to some extent, in society's ethical straight-jacket, but she left home, husband and children! A more deterministic Mersault would have considered the medium or long term impacts of his action, but he takes 'no thought for the morrow'. Such choices can hardly be explained by external cause.

    'That Helmer finds out about the debt' does not determine his reaction to it. He, himself, does. While external constraints are always with us, the characters of Ibsen and Camus are free to act in more ways than one. And these characters are able to postpone acting long enough to consider the consequences of a choice.
    Originally Posted by Helly

    In A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen it is Nora's free will that enables her to depart from the House. It is however deterministic that Helmer finds out about the debt because Krogstad had decided to tell him therefore there was nothing Nora could do about it, correct? What do you think of these two ideas?


  • 08-14-2009, 10:10 AM#6

    Registered User

    Ok, I think I understand what you mean.

    So in L'etranger by Albert Camus it was Mersaults free will to shoot the Arab. However it is deterministic that the court case etc happens as that is beyond Mersaults control?

    And in A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen it was free will of Nora to leave but pre determined by Krogstad that Helmer would find out about the borrowing, and therefore that is determinisitc as it is beyond Noras control?

    Ahh I am so not getting this.

    Could you put it in simple language?

    Thanks,

    Helen


  • 08-14-2009, 12:01 PM#7

    Haribol Acharya


    “Those who seek to satisfy the mind of man by hampering it with ceremonies and music and affecting charity and devotion have lost their original nature””

    “If water derives lucidity from stillness, how much more the faculties of the mind! The mind of the sage, being in repose, becomes the mirror of the universe, the speculum of all creation.

    I read this book several times and find it very inspiring.


  • 08-14-2009, 08:30 PM#8

    the beloved:
    If you look up free will and determinism on Wikipedia, Helen, you will see that the concepts are murky and problematic. It's far from simple.

    Wiki states, 'The question of free will is whether, and in what sense, rational agents exercise control over their actions and decisions'. Whether free will or determinism, depends on the writer's philosophical perspective rather than, as you suggests, the circumstances or external forces that impact on characters. As Hamlet says to Rosencrantz, "O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space..."

    Both Ibsen and Camus seem to embrace a free will view of human decision making. Both have endowed all their characters with free will. I suspect there is little or nothing of a determinist philosophy in either book.

    Nevertheless, philosophical debate on free will or determinism can be complex. Thomas Hobbes, for instance, claims that 'a person acts freely only when the person willed the act and the person could have done otherwise, if the person had decided to'.
    Originally Posted by Helly

    Ahh I am so not getting this.


  • 08-15-2009, 05:34 AM#9

    Registered User

    Ok, cool thanks.

    Just kind of wish I hadn't picked that title now!

    Helen xx


  • 08-15-2009, 06:53 PM#10

    the beloved:
    Don't despair. In the witching hours, I realised that the Thomas Hobbes definition of 'free will' has interesting application to both the Ibsen and the Camus.

    Nora and Torvald Helmer are locked in a determinist mindset, living society's image of them until the impact of Mrs Linde's 'No, Nils, you must not recall your letter'. With eyes opening, Nora learns the stark truth about Torvald's sham morality, and can act freely for the first time in her life! So the doll escapes the straight-jacket of her upbringing and her 'marriage'.

    Mersault acts with existential freedom unlike Raymond, for instance, who is locked into cultural habit. Mersault is unencumbered by his past or society's hypocritical values; he lives in the moment. Raymond thrives on pride, shame and guilt; driven by the past (for Mersault, a bygone fantasy) the predictable Raymond cannot act freely in his world.
    Originally Posted by Helly

    Just kind of wish I hadn't picked that title now!


  • 04-16-2010, 02:28 AM#11

    Registered User

    class discussion for 4/16

    Well I want to mention some of important stuff on Act 3.
    Definitely, Act 3 was really interesting... I am doing my discussion thread now. Because I don't want you to think that I am copying others thoughts after I participate the discussion tomorrow in class.

    Throughout the book, There are alot of scenes that shows Torvald treating Nora as a doll. I guess that's why it relates to the title. When Nora and Torvald finished their dance and came downstairs, Mrs. Linde was waiting for them. And she said she wanted to wait to see Nora in costume. And Torvald was removing Nora's shawl and said, "Take a good look." I mean seriously this is ridiculous. Torvald doesn't treat her as a wife, but as a doll. He undressed her clothes without asking her permission and told someone to take a look? This guy just makes me really mad. Also, since the dance of tarantella represents Nora's psychological mind, she seems to be more calm and relax later. She just gave up on the letter from Krostad. Because Torvald said "the performance may have been a bit too naturalistic... she made a success, an overwhelming success." So by looking at this quote, I realized that she is more clam than she used to be. Because her dance movement used to be really violent, which symbolized that she had a confusion in her mind. Also, this thing relates to the [I]Yellow Wallpaper[I]. Because that girl who crawled around the room like crazy later on kinda gave up on it and relax after she believed she acheived something. So I guess it's kind like a same thing. It's really cool how this book relates to a lot of different books that we've learned. Also, I thought Torvald's hand position is pretty significant. Because throughout the book, his hand position is someway pressing Nora's body. For example, putting his arm around her waist was mentioned pretty much every where. So he is basically limiting her capacity and position.
    And the candles were mentioned again. I guess it has a same role as the lamp from Act 2. Because Torvald said, "Why's it dark here?" and then he lighted candles. So basically candles are foreshadowing what's going to happen next.

    Sorry, I am throwing a lot of stuff at the same time. Because I am writing this thread and reading at the same time. So.. haha

    There is another scene makes me really mad, Torvald said "now my little Lark is talking like a human being." What is that supposed to mean. He considered her as non-human being before? He is really pissing me off.. I think that I should stop reading any of victorian-type of novels. Because this is ridiculous.

    Also, there is another scene that shows Torvald expecting Nora to be a doll. I think he believes that Nora is a doll and she has to be perfect as a doll. And the way he described Nora was pretty creepy. But he said " I place the shawl over those fine young rounded shoulders over that wonderful curving necks." I also noticed that Torvald is obsessed with the costume. It's like the same thing as if you have a doll, you want to dress it up. When Nora and Dr. Rank talked about other party, Torvald said " find a costume for that!" So that was another scene that shows Torvald treating Nora as a doll.

    Also, Dr. Rank's letter and everything about him is relate to Dr. Jeckyll or Mr. Hyde. I mean they are the same person. However, I think he is more likely Dr. Jeckyll at the beginning considering the fact that he has a good reputation in the society. And this is really scary. Because Dr. Jeckyll was so weak for a long time and when a few days before he completely shut him down, he looked so delightful and healthy. And the way Nora described Dr. Rank was so similar to that.

    And also, she is rejecting herself as a doll by showing Torvald off that she is grown up and she can't be his doll anymore. I've seen a lot of scenes that shows Nora is very immature and childish in Act1; however, she is very mature and grown-up metally in Act 3.

    And finally, I really like the ending!

  • 04-16-2010, 05:37 AM#12

    the beloved:

    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

    Great to see someone posting on Ibsen!

    Also, most Ibsen plays focus on the nature of house and home.

    Nora only becomes calm after Torvald reacts angrily to Krogstad's letter.

    Neither yellow nor wallpaper are in the text!

    Nora misjudges both Torvald and Dr. Rank, who is more pathetic than evil and debauched like Mr Hyde.

    Nora's long-standing misjudgement of Torvald is all important. She is not so much grown up as needing to spend the next year or more to grow up, at long last.
    Originally Posted by nickname0811

    There are a lot of scenes that shows Torvald treating Nora as a doll. I guess that's why it relates to the title.

    Originally Posted by nickname0811

    Because Torvald said "the performance may have been a bit too naturalistic... she made a success, an overwhelming success." So by looking at this quote, I realized that she is more calm than she used to be. Because her dance movement used to be really violent, which symbolized that she had a confusion in her mind.

    Originally Posted by nickname0811

    Also, this thing relates to the Yellow Wallpaper.

    Originally Posted by nickname0811

    Also, Dr. Rank's letter and everything about him is relate to Dr. Jeckyll or Mr. Hyde. I mean they are the same person.

    Originally Posted by nickname0811

    And also, she is rejecting herself as a doll by showing Torvald off that she is grown up and she can't be his doll any more.


  • 04-16-2010, 07:27 AM#13

    Dance Magic Dance

    "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia."
    - Margaret Atwood

    Also, Dr. Rank's reputation can't be all that good in the community, Nora knows from the beginning that he has Syphilis. Aside from what we can conclude about Rank's character given he is wasting away from disease, it gives us a clue about Nora being less naive than she really appears.


  • 04-16-2010, 06:38 PM#14

    the beloved:

    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

    Is Rank's syphilis congenital? I seem to recall that his father had led a dissolute life. If so, what are we to make of Dr. Rank's character?
    Originally Posted by OrphanPip

    Also, Dr. Rank's reputation can't be all that good in the community, Nora knows from the beginning that he has Syphilis. Aside from what we can conclude about Rank's character given he is wasting away from disease, it gives us a clue about Nora being less naive than she really appears.


  • 04-16-2010, 11:09 PM#15

    Dance Magic Dance

    "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia."
    - Margaret Atwood

    Even if it were acquired at birth there is still a symbolic significance to his wasting away from disease. In fact, I might even venture that it might be more significant if the disease was inflicted on him with no fault of his own. He is corrupted in a medical sense just as the society Nora lives in is corrupted.

    He's troublesome though, he seems to just be a standard representative of the society, respectable on the outside and corrupt on the inside (and in private given he flirts with a married woman). However, it's hard to be too judgmental of him because he's unfortunately dying and he is, in a way, kind to Nora.
    Originally Posted by Gladys

    Is Rank's syphilis congenital? I seem to recall that his father had led a dissolute life. If so, what are we to make of Dr. Rank's character?


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