A Doll's House: Analysis of Major Characters

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A Doll's House: Analysis of Major Characters

Post by Rachid Amri on Fri Feb 22, 2008 6:40 pm

Analysis of Major Characters
Nora Helmer

At the beginning of A Doll’s House, Nora seems completely happy. She responds affectionately to Torvald’s teasing, speaks with excitement about the extra money his new job will provide, and takes pleasure in the company of her children and friends. She does not seem to mind her doll-like existence, in which she is coddled, pampered, and patronized.
As the play progresses, Nora reveals that she is not just a “silly girl,” as Torvald calls her. That she understands the business details related to the debt she incurred taking out a loan to preserve Torvald’s health indicates that she is intelligent and possesses capacities beyond mere wifehood. Her description of her years of secret labor undertaken to pay off her debt shows her fierce determination and ambition. Additionally, the fact that she was willing to break the law in order to ensure Torvald’s health shows her courage.
Krogstad’s blackmail and the trauma that follows do not change Nora’s nature; they open her eyes to her unfulfilled and underappreciated potential. “I have been performing tricks for you, Torvald,” she says during her climactic confrontation with him. Nora comes to realize that in addition to her literal dancing and singing tricks, she has been putting on a show throughout her marriage. She has pretended to be someone she is not in order to fulfill the role that Torvald, her father, and society at large have expected of her.
Torvald’s severe and selfish reaction after learning of Nora’s deception and forgery is the final catalyst for Nora’s awakening. But even in the first act, Nora shows that she is not totally unaware that her life is at odds with her true personality. She defies Torvald in small yet meaningful ways—by eating macaroons and then lying to him about it, for instance. She also swears, apparently just for the pleasure she derives from minor rebellion against societal standards. As the drama unfolds, and as Nora’s awareness of the truth about her life grows, her need for rebellion escalates, culminating in her walking out on her husband and children to find independence.
Torvald Helmer
Torvald embraces the belief that a man’s role in marriage is to protect and guide his wife. He clearly enjoys the idea that Nora needs his guidance, and he interacts with her as a father would. He instructs her with trite, moralistic sayings, such as: “A home that depends on loans and debt is not beautiful because it is not free.” He is also eager to teach Nora the dance she performs at the costume party. Torvald likes to envision himself as Nora’s savior, asking her after the party, “[D]o you know that I’ve often wished you were facing some terrible dangers so that I could risk life and limb, risk everything, for your sake?”
Although Torvald seizes the power in his relationship with Nora and refers to her as a “girl,” it seems that Torvald is actually the weaker and more childlike character. Dr. Rank’s explanation for not wanting Torvald to enter his sickroom—”Torvald is so fastidious, he cannot face up to anything ugly”—suggests that Dr. Rank feels Torvald must be sheltered like a child from the realities of the world. Furthermore, Torvald reveals himself to be childishly petty at times. His real objection to working with Krogstad stems not from -deficiencies in Krogstad’s moral character but, rather, Krogstad’s overly friendly and familiar behavior. Torvald’s decision to fire Krogstad stems ultimately from the fact that he feels threatened and offended by Krogstad’s failure to pay him the proper respect.
Torvald is very conscious of other people’s perceptions of him and of his standing in the community. His explanation for rejecting Nora’s request that Krogstad be kept on at the office—that retaining Krogstad would make him “a laughing stock before the entire staff”—shows that he prioritizes his reputation over his wife’s desires. Torvald further demonstrates his deep need for society’s respect in his reaction to Nora’s deception. Although he says that Nora has ruined his happiness and will not be allowed to raise the children, he insists that she remain in the house because his chief concern is saving “the appearance” of their household.
Krogstad
Krogstad is the antagonist in A Doll’s House, but he is not necessarily a villain. Though his willingness to allow Nora’s torment to continue is cruel, Krogstad is not without sympathy for her. As he says, “Even money-lenders, hacks, well, a man like me, can have a little of what you call feeling, you know.” He visits Nora to check on her, and he discourages her from committing suicide. Moreover, Krogstad has reasonable motives for behaving as he does: he wants to keep his job at the bank in order to spare his children from the hardships that come with a spoiled reputation. Unlike Torvald, who seems to desire respect for selfish reasons, Krogstad desires it for his family’s sake.
Like Nora, Krogstad is a person who has been wronged by society, and both Nora and Krogstad have committed the same crime: forgery of signatures. Though he did break the law, Krogstad’s crime was relatively minor, but society has saddled him with the stigma of being a criminal and prohibited him from moving beyond his past. Additionally, Krogstad’s claim that his immoral behavior began when Mrs. Linde abandoned him for a man with money so she could provide for her family makes it possible for us to understand Krogstad as a victim of circumstances. One could argue that society forced Mrs. Linde away from Krogstad and thus prompted his crime. Though society’s unfair treatment of Krogstad does not justify his actions, it does align him more closely with Nora and therefore tempers our perception of him as a despicable character.

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Re: A Doll's House: Analysis of Major Characters

Post by Iibtihel on Sat Feb 23, 2008 6:55 pm

A Doll’s House
Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)

Main Characters

Torvald Helmer - He is a lawyer who has been promoted to manager in the bank.

Nora - She is Torvald’s wife who is treated like a child by Torvald’s but leaves in the end because of it.

Krogstad - He is the man Nora borrowed money from to pay for the trip to Italy.

Dr. Rank - He is an admirer of Nora who has spinal TB and announces his death at the end of the play.

Minor Characters

Christine Linde - She is an old friend of Nora who comes to Nora and asks her to ask her husband for a job.

The children - Nora plays with her children and treats them like dolls.

Setting

Helmer’s Apartment - The entire play takes place at the apartment

Torvald’s study - a door leads from the stage into an imaginary room which is Torvald’s study where some off-stage action takes place.

Ballroom - This is where Nora danced the Tarantella.

Plot

The story starts on Christmas eve. Nora makes preparation for Christmas. While she eats macaroons, Dr. Rank and Mrs. Linde enters. Rank goes to speak with Torvald while Linde speaks with Nora. Linde explains that her husband has died and that she needs to find a job. Nora agrees to ask her husband to give Linde a job at the bank. Nora tells her about borrowing money to pay for the trip to Italy for her and her husband. She explains that Torvald doesn’t know that she paid for it. Rank leaves the study and begins to speak with Nora and Linde. He complains about the moral corruption in society. Krogstad arrives and goes to the study to talk to Torvald about keeping his job. A few minutes later, he leaves and Rank comments that Krogstad is one of the most morally corrupt people in the world. Rank and Linde leaves and Krogstad reenters. He tells Nora to ask her husband to keep Krogstad, or else he will reveal Nora’s crime of forgery. Krogstad leaves and when Torvald reenters, Nora asks him not to fire Krogstad. Torvald says that he must fire him because of his dishonesty and because he gave Krogstad’s job to Linde. Torvald returns to his study. The Nurse, Anne-Marie, enters and gives Nora her ball gown. Anne-Marie explains that she had to leave her children to take the job taking care of Nora. Anne-Marie leaves. Linde returns and begins to help Nora with stitching up her dress. They talk for a while about Dr. Rank. Torvald enters and Linde leaves to the nursery. Nora asks Torvald again not to fire Krogstad and Torvald refuses. He gives Krogstad’s pink slip to the maid to be mailed to Krogstad. Torvald leaves to his study. Rank enters and tells Nora about his worsening illness. They talk and flirt for a while. Rank tells Nora that he loves her. Nora said that she never loved Rank and only had fun with him. Rank leaves to the study and Krogstad enters. He is angry about his dismissal and leaves a letter to Torvald explaining Nora’s entire crime in the letter box. Nora is frightened. Nora tells Linde about the matter and Linde assures her that she will talk to Krogstad and set things straight. Linde leaves after Krogstad and Rank and Torvald enter from the study. They help Nora practice the tarantella. After practice, Rank and Torvald exists. Linde enters and tells Nora that Krogstad left town, but she left a note for him. Nora tells her that she’s waiting for a miracle to happen. That night, during the dance, Linde talks to Krogstad in Helmer’s apartment. She explains to him that she left him for money, but that she still loves him. They get back together and Krogstad decides to forget about the whole matter of Nora’s borrowing money. However, Linde asks Krogstad not to ask for his letter back since she thinks Torvald needs to know of it. Both leave and Torvald and Nora enter from the dance. Torvald checks his letter box and finds some letters and two Business cards from Dr. Rank with black crosses on them. Nora explains that they mean that Rank is announcing his death. After the bad news, Torvald enters his study and Nora prepares to leave. However, before she can get out the door, she is stopped by Torvald who read Krogstad’s letter. He is angry and disavows his love for Nora. The maid comes with a letter. Torvald read the letter which is from Krogstad. It says that he forgives Nora of her crime and will not reveal it. Torvald burns the letter along with the IOU that came with it. He is happy and tells Nora that everything will return to normal. Nora changes and returns to talk with Helmer. She tells him that they don’t understand each other and she leaves him.

Symbols

black hat and black cross - symbolizes death

Fisher girl costume - symbolizes Nora’s pretending to enjoy her life.

Italy - symbolizes the good false image of Nora’s life.

Norway - symbolizes reality.

Doll House - symbolizes the tendency of the characters to play roles.

Toys - symbolizes the act of pushing the roles onto Nora’s children.

Macaroons - symbolizes Nora’s deceit to her husband.

Tarantella - symbolizes Nora’s agitation at her struggle with Krogstad and with her husband.

Christmas tree - symbolizes the mood of the play.

Stockings - symbolizes Nora’s attitude trying to please men and her flirting with Rank.

Letter box and letter - symbolizes a trap for Nora and the cause of her demise.

embroidery - symbolizes the stereotypes pressed on woman.

ring - symbolizes the marriage, and the end of it.

skylark - symbolizes the way that Torvald treats Nora like a child.

Style

Ibsen writes typical of the ways that the characters might talk in relation to their position and their relationship with each other. For example, the way that Torvald speaks with Nora shows that he condescends to her and that Nora enjoys it. Krogstad speaks sternly but softens up when Linde tell him she still loves him.

Dominant Philosophy

A person can’t be happy when falling into the mold of someone else. To be happy, one must be oneself and know oneself. Since all of Nora’s life, she followed right behind her father and her husband, she did not know herself and had to leave to learn.

Quotes

“HELMER: My little songbird mustn’t droop her wings. What’s this? Is little squirrel sulking?” Torvald asks this to Nora after she returned from shopping at the start of the play.

“NORA: I’ve the most extraordinary longing to say: ‘Bloody hell!’” Nora says this to Rank and Linde expressing her desire to rebel against her husband.

“RANK: Oh, a lawyer fellow called Krogstad - you wouldn’t know him. He’s crippled all right; morally twisted. But even he started of by announcing, as thought it were a matter of enormous importance, that he had to live.” Rank tells this to Nora and Linde expressing his philosophy about morally corrupt people corrupting society using Krogstad as an example.

“NORA: Never see him again. Never. Never. Never. Never see the children again. Them too. Never. never. Oh - the icy black water! Oh - that bottomless - that -! Oh, if only it were all over! Now he’s got it - he’s reading it. Oh, no, no! Not yet! Goodbye, Torvald! Goodbye, my darlings.” Nora says this to herself when Torvald had left to his study to read the mail. She prepares to leave and possibly commit suicide.
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Re: A Doll's House: Analysis of Major Characters

Post by Iibtihel on Sun Feb 24, 2008 6:16 pm

Topic Tracking: Honesty

Honesty 1: When Nora tells Mrs. Linde about the money she borrowed, she also informs her that Torvald knows nothing about it. She has been keeping this information a secret from her husband for years, and continues to do so. When Mrs. Linde questions such dishonesty, Nora explains that Torvald has such great pride, that a story like hers would damage his sensitivity and maleness.
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Honesty 2: Nora and her two friends, Dr. Rank and Mrs. Linde, urge her to do something small that Torvald forbids. He wants her to act ladylike and not eat cake nor swear. They urge her to do something opposite of he desires right under his nose. She simply cannot take the first step - in something minor - to act dishonestly towards him, despite the fact that he has already lied to him about something major - money.

Honesty 3: Krogstad comes to the Helmer home to visit Nora, this time, instead of Torvald. He threatens to reveal the truth to Torvald, unless she protects his job at the bank. Nora is terrified of her lie escaping into the open and into Torvald's ears, and tries to convince Krogstad to reconsider. Her dishonesty towards her husband has escalated to a greater level than previously thought.

Honesty 4: Krogstad reveals proof of Nora's ultimate dishonesty with the bond. She had forged her father's signature years earlier to get the loan to save her husband. Krogstad proves this by asking the date of her father's death and then presenting the papers that Nora signed - as her father - several days after her father's death. This lie is not only devastating to her marriage, but to society and the law. She now realizes the gravity of her situation caused by lies and dishonesty.

Honesty 5: When Nora questions Torvald about Krogstad's character, he explains that Krogstad is a moral outcast, for he lied and forged a legal bank document. He continues to say that any household that contains lies (and dishonesty) is tainted, infecting the entire household and family with evil.

Honesty 6: Nora lies to Dr. Rank so that she may be alone to discuss the loan with Krogstad. He tells her that he has been honest and trustworthy for nearly 18 months and cannot be pushed back into the gutter of dishonesty. He has worked too hard to become legitimate and honest, and will not be discharged by her husband. He continues to threaten to bring the Helmer family down with him, by telling Torvald the truth about the loan and the forged bond.

Honesty 7: Kristina knows that Torvald must know the truth behind all of Nora's actions. She realizes that everything will be fine and that she had prevented Krogstad from destroying Torvald's professional reputation. Regardless, she understands that the Helmer home cannot continue as it has been. He must know the truth so that Nora can be the person she truly is, without acting as his doll, his skylark, and his scatterbrain.

Honesty 8: Upon her exit, Kristina tells Nora that everything will be fine. However, she must tell Torvald the truth about the loan. Nora refuses, yet again, and Kristina leaves.

Honesty 9: When the truth finally comes out through Krogstad's letter, Torvald explodes with a venomous tongue. He verbally abuses Nora, who accepts each harsh word willingly. His reaction is exactly what Nora feared when faced with honesty herself. Perhaps this reaction is the true and honest character behind Torvald, when under pressure.

Honesty 10: Nora realizes that she has never truly been honest with herself. Although she lied to her husband about the money, she has always been lying to herself, for she has never given herself the option of discovering her own strength, personality, or independence. When she thinks of continuing to live the same life she has led with Torvald for the past eight years, she cringe
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Re: A Doll's House: Analysis of Major Characters

Post by Iibtihel on Sun Feb 24, 2008 6:17 pm

Topic Tracking: Independence

Independence 1: Nora reminisces about the past times she worked to make money. When she and Torvald were going through difficult financial times, she was forced to work a little bit. She thinks back to those times with fond memories, and also refers to her working world as acting like a man. Women are still not allowed to become independent workers.
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Independence 2: Torvald inquires as to Mrs. Linde's marital status. Only if she is a widow, can she work independently in his bank. When he realizes that she is a widow, he can then accept her into his society and his bank as a co-worker. If she were still married, she would be unable to assert her professional independence.

Independence 3: Nora discusses raising children with the nursemaid, Nanny. She questions her ability to leave her own family to raise her and her children. Nanny responds that it was such a great opportunity to raise Nora, that she left her own family with little problem. For better or worse, Nanny asserted independence by going after the best job at the time. Nora looks upon her with admiration and trepidation at the same time.

Independence 4: Nora pleads for money from her husband. She does so by acting into his method of flirtation and communication, by illustrating her complete and utter dependence on him. By calling herself a skylark (and all other pet names deemed appropriate by Torvald), Nora plays into her husband's form of communication. Furthermore, she becomes dependent by begging for money from her husband, for she has no other method of getting money.

Independence 5: Torvald cannot bear to let any form of dependence or non-individuality be exposed. He could not let it be known that any action or word would be influenced by his wife. He must act completely on his own, individually, and in his mind, independently. He does everything professionally independent of his wife's opinions, desires, and thoughts.

Independence 6: The tarantella is a dance that showcases a single dancer - independent of those around her. Nora dances the tarantella alone, highlighting her ability to work by herself and illustrate her individual values and strengths. It is the tarantella that traces her individual abilities throughout the play, from the crazed rehearsal to the final performance at the Christmas party upstairs.

Independence 7: Mrs. Linde suggests to Krogstad that they leave town and leave the bank and the Helmers together and form an independent team. She does not feel whole unless she works and helps others. Although this may seem like independence to her, in the sense that she must work, as an independent soul, to feel whole, she is also saying that she must work for others - dependent on their use and financial retribution - to feel whole. The two can become dependent on one another, yet independent of all others.

Independence 8: When Dr. Rank teases Nora about coming to the next costume party as a mascot in her own daily attire, he is subtly making a strong statement about her lack of identity and independence. He is planting the seed in Nora's head that she must find her own identity and independence and stop playing the doll and the mascot to her husband.

Independence 9: For the first time, Nora asserts her independence in spirit. She verbally expresses her own mind and opinions to Torvald. She cannot believe that she has let herself stay so dependent and childish for so long. She realizes that she has never even had a normal conversation with her husband. At this point, she speaks back to her husband as an independent person, with a brain and a personality. She knows that the next step is to assert her independence not only in thought, but in action.

Independence 10: When Nora walks out on Torvald and her family, she has asserted the final step on her first course to independence. This active step towards independence leads her into new and uncharted territory. However, it is a place that she knows that she must enter, scared and excited at the same time. She leaves her husband to find a new and independent life on her own.
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Re: A Doll's House: Analysis of Major Characters

Post by Iibtihel on Sun Feb 24, 2008 6:18 pm

Topic Tracking: Money

Money 1: Torvald expresses his frustration with Nora over her shopping and spending habits. She goes through money entirely too quickly, rendering the family a team of spendthrifts. Nora continues to ask for money, despite Torvald's warning that he has not yet begun his new job that pays a larger salary. Nora is thrilled to have her husband earn more money than he used to, so that she can spend as freely as she desires.
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Money 2: Nora continues to ask for money, much to Torvald's dismay. He tells her that he is worried that she inherited some bad (financial and scrupulous) traits from her father. He also treats her as a pet and a doll, as if she is extremely costly to have around. He loves buying her things, but knows that he cannot always afford to do so at her high and expensive taste.

Money 3: Nora cannot contain her excitement at the prospect have having more spare money. She gloats to her friend about Torvald's promotion at the Savings' Bank - a center of finance and money - and how she will now have enough money to do what she wants all the time. Nora also expresses her frustration over how much money the Helmers spent while away in Italy.

Money 4: Mrs. Linde explains to Nora why she married her late husband. It was solely because of money. He offered her security, and at that time, she desperately needed a large source of money, for her mother was ill and she had to take care of her two younger brothers. However, his finances soon depreciated and he died penniless and poor, leaving her the same.

Money 5: Nora discusses her methods of financing the trip to Italy on her own. She borrowed money from creditors and worked a bit to pay it back. She is in constant fear of her husband discovering her secret business past, and always buys the cheapest clothing and accessories, so that she may continue to pay back her loan.

Money 6: Money is not the only thing that Krogstad is after. Nora begs him to stay quiet and not tell Torvald about the loan. However, Krogstad no longer simply wants his money back. He wants to become the right-hand man at the bank and eventually take over Torvald's job. Money, and consequently power, are the motivating forces behind Krogstad's actions.

Money 7: Kristina explains to Krogstad that she left him solely to marry her husband for money. She desperately needed it at that time for her mother and brothers and did not want to break up with him. She had to do it. Money dictated her actions, as it continues to do for so many people.

Money 8: When Torvald is excused from his wife's loan and bond, he is overjoyed! The problems that the money-loan could have caused him, cost him more than a temper. They cost him his wife and his regular lifestyle.

Money 9: Nora excuses Torvald from all financial duties he owes her as her husband. When she walks out the door, she walks away from his new large salary, comfortable home, and convenient servants. She looks forward to developing independence and her own method of making money.
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