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"a Doll’s House" by Henrik Ibsen

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"a Doll’s House" by Henrik Ibsen

Animal imagery is prevalent in a variety of literary selections. This paper will focus on animal imagery in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House by using the reader response strategy.

In the play A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, animal imagery is used in the development of the main character Nora. It is also later found that the animal imagery is a critical part in understanding who Nora is and how other characters perceive her. Ibsen uses creative animal imagery to develop Nora’s character throughout the play. The animal imagery is carried out through the conversation between Nora and her husband Torvald. Torvald uses a lot of bird imagery because he thinks of Nora as lark. It is also evident that the animal names he calls Nora, directly relate to how Nora is acting or how Torvald wants her to be portrayed.

In Act 1, Torvald asks, “Is it my little lark twittering out there?” referring to Nora (3). A lark is a happy and carefree songbird. In the beginning of the play it is evident that Nora is or appears to be a lively-spirited and carefree woman, just like a lark. She has already made the loan with Krogstad. Torvald refers to Nora early in the play as “my little lark” when she is moving around the room and humming with a carefree spirit that characterizes the lark (3). It seems that whenever Nora is happy, Torvald thinks of her as a bird, specifically a lark. In contrast to Torvald’s calling Nora a lark, he immediately refers to her as a squirrel in asking, “Is it my little squirrel bustling about?” (4). I think this is a interesting in the development of both Nora and Torvald’s characters because a squirrel is quite different from a lark. A squirrel is a small furry rodent that tends to have negative and sneaky connotations. If someone is to squirrel away something, he/she is hiding or storing it. This is directly related to what Nora is doing; she is hiding or squirreling away the bag of macaroons, and she is hiding the illegal loan. For example, Torvald says to Nora, “Hasn’t my Miss Sweet-Tooth been breaking the rules in town to-day?” (6). Nora replies, “No; what makes you think that?” (6). Through the animal imagery of the squirrel, Ibsen is also foreshadowing that Nora is hiding more than just macaroons from Torvald. She is hiding that she borrowed money from Krogstad. It also reveals that she is an almost pathological liar like the character Huck Finn in Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” As I look deeper into the play, I find that Torvald wants Nora to be a bird. The birds that Torvald calls her, a “lark” and a “songbird,” are stereotypically carefree and peaceful animals (3, 26). This is the case on the outside; however, on the inside birds may have many struggles, such as just finding food to survive. But these birds do not show their struggles, and despite what they may be going through they are a symbol of peace and happiness. This is how Torvald wants Nora to be, perfect and happy all the time no matter what she is really feeling. It is possible that because he wants her to be this way, Torvald actually thinks she is this way, always happy, and that she shows no emotion to what is going on in her life.

The squirrel imagery reminds me of last fall when I encountered a family of squirrels living in the roof of my house. One night I heard something scurrying around on the roof. The sound of the chattering was enough to drive me nuts, so I slept on the couch. The next morning I went up on the roof to see what caused all this commotion, and I found a small hole. There were acorns scattered on the ground below that had fallen from the oak trees. A few yards away, I saw a squirrel eating an acorn on a tree limb. That afternoon I told my father about it, and he said it would take him a long time to figure out a way to get rid them. My father and I set up a box trap and caught a few squirrels, and we set them free in the woods. We still have a few squirrels that live in our roof; it seems almost impossible to get rid of them. For example, Nora finally leaves Torvald at the end of the play because she finally had enough of him.

In Act 2, Nora begs Torvald to let Krogstad keep his position at the bank. When Torvald says that it must not be done, Nora panics. When Torvald calms her down, he notices her “frightened dove’s eyes” (36). A dove is the symbol of peace, which is in essence what Nora is trying to do. If Torvald fires Krogstad then she will have to give him the money she borrowed, and it could destroy her life. However, Torvald does realize that Nora is trying very hard to convince him to keep Krogstad at his bank, but he disregards it as her trying to keep things right and refers to her as a peaceful dove.

Later in Act 2, Nora tries a different approach in keeping things peaceful by keeping Torvald from finding out about the money she borrowed. She even goes as far as calling herself all the names

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