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A Dolls House Essay, Research Paper

Ever since the beginning of man in Literature there has been a discussion over appearance vs. reality. The appearance of the apple to Eve was one that it would give her great wisdom as to that of the gods. In reality it did give her wisdom, but with that also came the expulsion from the garden of Eden. The appearance of the apple was good but the outcome was bad so was marriage in the 19th century. In Henrick Ibson’s play “A Doll’s House,” where a man treats his wife with inferiority and where to him appearance of things is as water is to life, various symbols are used to express a theme. Three symbols used, a Christmas tree, the title, and the nicknames that Torvald calls Nora emphasize the theme of a comparison of perfect marriage relationship to the reality of their relationship that is an artificial ” Doll’s house” relationship.

Ibson’s use of a Christmas tree is used throughout the play epitomizes Nora’s feelings. In the first act there is a festive tree with “pretty red flowers” and Nora comes into the house acting frivolously. (27) Both tree and the Helmers look very happy. Nora’s mood is festive and the tree gives a merry glow to the reader. In the end of Act I, Nora has been threatened by Krogstad that if she doesn’t help him keep his job he will tell Torvald of their illegal loan.(22) Torvald has said that Krogstad “has forged someone’s name” so Torvald is going to fire him so in Act II, the tree is “stripped of its ornaments and with burnt down candle-ends.”(29) In this act the tree is drooping along with Nora’s hope and happiness. She has tried to help Krogstad keep his job, but Torvald has refused and so along with Nora’s feeling’s of anxiety the tree helps the reader feel this anxiety. “Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; And I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these”(Matthew 6:28-29) then so much more must a Christmas tree be a symbol of life and beauty. The flashy candles of a Christmas tree will always remind people of its felicity and joy because we associate the tree with a happy memory of Christmas. A Christmas tree itself is a symbol for joy and so that is why it is used. Through all time and even in the bible trees and flowers have been a subject of awe and wonderment; a symbol of life, that is why Ibson uses this as his symbol of Nora’s feelings.

The title, “A Doll’s House,” is a symbol of the childish relationship between the two adults and foreshadows the theme of this play. In Webster’s dictionary a dollhouse is defined as “a child’s small-scale toy house,” a game played by children who wish to be adults. What other symbol could bring to the mind of the reader better than this that this play is one where someone is treated as if in a doll’s house. A dollhouse is a small symbol of a real house so this play is of a real house called a doll’s house because of this very fact that in it people act as if in a doll’s house. Like children playing a dollhouse game Torvald the “Daddy,” tells Nora, the “Mommy,” what to do or expects her to do things and Nora being the doll responds acting like a “squirrel [and] run[s] about and do[es] all her tricks.” (34) Dolls, like Nora is, are inanimate and so Nora acts, to Torvald’s wishes. This juvenile way to speak with each other shows exactly how unreal their marriage is and how little they really know each other. These words they use have no real meaning to them and make the reader to feel that this marriage is pseudo realistic. The staging of the house is characteristic of a real dollhouse, nothing ornate, just ordinary items such as, ” a fire burning in stove, small table and engravings on the wall” (3). This sense of regular furniture and nothing ornate is of a dollhouse that one would buy at a store with a Ken and Barbie sitting in the kitchen. The description of the house brings to the mind of the reader a cross section of a house where one is looking in on the characters as if they were in a doll’s house. Nora for only reacting to what Torvald wants and never acting on her own shows the doll house treatment she receives from him.

Torvald uses nicknames that influence the reader in a negative way allowing the reader and helping the reader to view how he treats her as an inanimate doll. Torvald, when he sees Nora, will always talk to her using silly and degrading names, such as, “spendthrift, squirrel, and skylark” (4). This little display of name calling shows who is in control. Torvald by calling Nora names allows Nora to fall into this character of not acting only responding. Torvald also controls Nora like a puppet with other more degrading names and things, calling her a “featherhead” and doling out money to her as if she is a child, “ten shillings–a pound–two pounds!”(p4-5). This controlling attitude of Torvald forces Nora to obey or to break from this fake relationship called a marriage. Torvald’s rationing out money to Nora puts her under his control and the only way Nora can break from this is getting a job for herself, highly unlikely for her to do. Now Ibson also has Torvald control Nora mentally without really knowing what he is doing. Torvald says “just think how a guilty a man like that has to lie and play the hypocrite with every one . . . such an atmosphere infects and poisons the whole life at home.” Torvald doesn’t even know that what he is saying is exactly what Nora has done. This mental trick Torvald does on Nora brings out the true falsehood in their relationship where Torvald is condemning Nora’s actions without knowing that Nora has done that. Ibson really allows the reader to see the gap in their relationship here.

Torvald is living in a make believe world that he has made for himself. By forcing what he believes to be true into his own life proves to be his downfall. Herman Hesse, a well-known author wrote, “There is no reality except the one contained within us. That is why so many people live such an unreal life. They take the images outside them for reality and never allow the world within to assert itself.” If Torvald could follow this rule he would see that the reality inside himself is one of a loving relationship with his wife not one of a domineering relationship


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