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A Broken Doll’s House

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Nora is a captivating character in Ibsen's A Doll's House. She swings between extremes: she is either very happy or immensely depressed, prosperous or completely desperate, wise or naive, impotent or purposeful. You can understand this range in Nora, because she staggers between the person she pretends to be and the one she someday hopes to become. Throughout the play, Nora is portrayed as subordinate to her male counterpart, Torvald. As most other men during this time, Torvald believed that women were not capable of making difficult decisions, or thinking for themselves. As the play progresses, Nora faces a life changing decision to abandon her duty as a wife and mother to find her own individuality. Even though Torvald is responsible for partial deterioration in their marriage, it is Nora's feministic beliefs, passion for life, thoughtlessness, and spontaneity that stimulate her ultimate plan to break away and shatter all that remained pleasant in Torvald's “perfect little dollhouse”.

Nora, the protagonist, has been treated as a "play thing" by her father and then her husband, Torvald. She is thought to be fragile and incapable of resolving any serious problems. The pet names like “lark”, “squirrel”, and “songbird” (pg.27) further diminish her status. He also neglected to give significance to her job as a homemaker. Yet her compassion and intelligence must be masked by her childish and supplicating behavior due to the

expectations of her society. At the beginning of the play, Nora is still a child in many ways, listening at doors and guiltily eating forbidden sweets (macaroons) behind her husband's back. She has gone straight from her father's house to her husband's, bringing along her nursemaid to emphasize the fact that she's never been on her own. She's also never gained a sense of self. She's always accepted her father's and her husband's opinions. And she's aware that Torvald would have no use for a wife who was his equal. So she would act like a child and manipulate Torvald by pouting or by performing for him. She uses her own being as a lure for the things she wants in life. Her drive to reach her goals are far more powerful than her desire to care for the family, and life, that she created.

When her secret is revealed, the reality of her status in their marriage awakens her. Although she may suspect that Torvald is a weak, petty man, she clings to the illusion that he's strong, that he'll “advise and protect her” (pg.64) But at the moment of truth, he abandons her out of disgust over her ablilty to keep something that important from him for so long. You can hear his resentment towards Nora when he exclaims,”you are ill, Nora" (pg.63). She is shocked into reality and sees what a masquerade their relationship has been. She becomes aware that her father and her husband have seen her as a doll to be played with, a figure without opinion or will of her own. She also realizes that she is treating her children the same way. Her whole life has been based on illusion rather than reality.

The believability of the play hinges on your accepting Nora's sudden self-awareness. Perceiving the situation differs as she might feel that she has been a child so long she couldn't possibly grow up that quickly. Or she might feel that she is already quite wise without realizing it, and that what happens is credible.

A common reaction would be one of sadness for Torvald's loss. He's a straight-laced, proper man, who has worked his whole life to support her and their family. At first, he seems genuinely in love with Nora, even if he does tend to nag and preach a bit. But as the play progresses, you discover more disturbing parts of his character. Like anyone who doubts his own power, Torvald tries to frequently prove it. He keeps firm authority over who comes to his study and whom he converses with at work, and over everything affecting Nora's life at all. He even holds the only key to their mailbox. As you can Imagine this is just another thing that drives Nora crazy, especially right before her secret about the loan is almost revealed.

During the third act, you see Torvald's need for dominance increase. His fantasies always have Nora in a submissive role. He is happiest when treating her as a father would a

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