A Doll’s House

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When we first meet Nora she enters with a bag on presents after ringing the doorbell, this would at once strike an audience as strange as despite the fact that Nora lives in this house she must ring the doorbell in order to enter it which thus gives us the impression that perhaps she isn’t as free as we are later led to believe. On Nora’s first entrance she is shown to be quite immature as she acts very child-like and as the season is Christmas Nora is happy and joyous mirroring the time of year as she ‘continues to laugh happily to herself’ showing that she is cheerful.

On its own this wouldn’t strike an audience as strange added with her other childish actions such as the way she ‘tiptoes’ to listen ‘at her husband’s door’ and also the way she clandestinely wipes her mouth after she “pops the bag of macaroons in her pocket” which is a similar action a child would make if they were about to be caught eating something they shouldn’t. Nora is shown to be more child-like than the adult she supposedly is through her speech as uses phrases just ‘a tiny bit’ when she talks of shopping or “lots and lots of money”.

This makes her sound very childish and so adds to the little girl image that has been built up thus far. We can also deduce that Nora likes to spend money and does this a lot as her husband, Torvald, calls her a ‘spendthrift’ and a ‘squander-bird’. The things Nora buys and wastes money on are viewed as ‘useless things’ by Torvald who feels that they aren’t really need.

Torvald also calls Nora a ‘skylark’ and a ‘squirrel’ could be taken as being sweet and affectionate terms Torvald uses for his wife which imply that Nora is cared for and loved bb her husband but perhaps not on an equal level as a ‘skylark’ and a ‘squirrel’ are really quite small and delicate creatures. To a modern day audience these pet names may seem patronising and demeaning as we tend to believe that women should be strong and independent.

Torvald even goes so far as to call Nora “an expensive pet” which ,during this period, was essentially partly what a wife was to some men-simply objects to be shown off to their friends and family as a symbol of their own wealth- to us this is perhaps unbelievable but a contemporary audience wouldn’t be so shocked to see a man (Torvald) treating a woman (Nora) as if she were a child who couldn’t understand anything too complex or complicated as they were just so “delicate” and “little”.

Despite this, we are given the impression that Nora is content with her life as she starts ‘humming’ to herself when she finds out that her husband is at home. This adds to the perfect wife image the beginning of the play builds up as we see this happy young wife who “simply wanted to make [her family] happy”. Nora is not only acts like a child but she is also treated like one as well. T his is shown through Torvald’s actions and attitude towards her as he “wags his finger” at her when he is telling her off for eating sweets and also as he “takes her playfully by the ear” as you would a child.

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So from this we can infer that although Nora is childish, it could be said that she is encouraged to behave so by her husband. Whether because Torvald likes to feel like she must depend on him – which is actually true as without Torvald and as her father is dead Nora would be helpless without a man’s financial support so Nora’s child-like manner emphasizes Torvald’s authority. Therefore, Nora is a woman who knows her place, but also one who know how to make her husband happy as she reacts in just the right way, showing her ‘admiration’ for Torvald as she “claps her hands”.

Furthermore, although Nora’s obsession with money makes her seem very materialistic as she even starts to plead with Torvald as she begs him to “please, please” give her money. It also reinforces Nora’s dependence on Torvald as without his money she would have nothing. Nora knows this and so all her actions are geared towards making Torvald feel happy and good just as a ‘good wife’ should. However, Nora’s repeated lies throughout the opening of the play show that Nora isn’t as innocent and pure as she may at first appear.

Nora even says that she “I could never act against [Torvald’s] wishes” straight after she has done just this in eating sweets though Torvald didn’t want her to and so this makes the audience think that maybe Nora isn’t very trustworthy and unconditionally obedient as they once thought. This also begs the question as to whether this supposedly perfectly happy family unit is really as idyllic as it first appeared. As beneath the surface lies, lies.

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