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Tang 1 Francesca Tang Mr. Ziminski AP English III 01.04.12 A Doll House Questions 1.

a) In the beginning of the play, Torvald Helmer calls his wife Nora by many different nicknames, ranging from squirrel to songbird. However, despite these diminutive yet endearing names, Nora does not object to her husbands use of nicknames. Almost all the names that Torvald calls his wife revolve around weak, miniature animals, where he establishes his dominance and authority in the family. On the other hand, as the female figure in the family, Nora can only succumb to the wishes of her working husband and holds no real power in the family. When the couple discusses the issue of Christmas expenses, Helmer speaks of Nora as his pouty squirrel and his little songbird who musnt drop her wings (899). He subtly criticizes her for her extravagant spending habits and the author uses these terms to convey her lavish spending qualities and her tendencies to depend on her husband. Like the vulnerable squirrel and songbird, Nora appears unable to survive independently without the financial and emotional support of a more powerful man, her husband Torvald. Furthermore, she represents an obedient pet of her husband who responds dutifully and submissively to his criticisms. By purposely including these nicknames in the dialogue, Henrik Ibsen the author establishes Noras character as dependent, compliant, and weak. b) Throughout the play, Ibsen characterizes Nora as someone who indulges in sweet and sugary snacks, macaroons in particular, and lies to her husband about her clandestine interest and penchant for sweets. Despite her appearance as a mature adult, Nora possesses many child-like qualities, which her passion for sweets clearly exhibits. As the play opens,

Tang 2 the author describes her taking a bag of macaroons form her pocket and then walks cautiously over to the door (898-890). She acts cautiously and secretively in order to conceal her weakness form her husband; by doing so the author portrays her in a childish light. However, when she lies to her husband saying that she did not purchase any pastries and that she wouldnt do anything to displease you, the mischievous and devious side of her surfaces (901). Her capability to lie to her husband and cover her addiction to sweets demonstrates her deceitful character, further revealed later by her furtive behavior behind her husbands back. The penchant for sweets that she possesses simultaneously displays her child-like attributes of having a sweet tooth but also her cunning and dishonest tendencies. d) Before Noras transformation, the author depicts her as a lavish wife who spends money wastefully and uneconomically. Her constant need to purchase presents and decorations for herself and her family expresses her prodigality with her husbands money. Helmer jokingly scolds her for buying things she does not need and Nora responds by claiming that he does not know all the things [them] songbirds and squirrels need money for (900). She feels that her necessitation for money constitutes normal and accepted behavior and she possesses no real intentions of saving. Although her husband warns her for incurring possible debt in the future, she dismisses the idea simply. However, later readers discover that she herself owes large amounts of money that her husband is unaware about. As a wife to a wealthy husband, her character seems standard and expected, where she receives all her desires and gets spoiled by her husband who provides whatever she wishes. Also, in the beginning of the play, she appears nave and submissive, spending money carelessly and impulsively. But as the play progresses, her prodigality and wastefulness prove to be

Tang 3 incongruent with her secretive work that she performs to pay off her debt that she incurs for her husbands recovery costs. e) Although at first Nora may appear innocent and nave, her debt with someone from whom she borrowed money from in order to save her husbands life reveals the side of her character that displays intelligence, shrewdness, and determination. As she hears from the doctors that Torvald her husband needs to travel to Italy to prevent further progression of his fatal illness, she secretly gathers the money by borrowing it and deceives her husband by claiming she obtained the money from her father. She exposes her clandestine behavior to Mrs. Linde as she boasts about her accomplishments. When Mrs. Linde questions her about being honest to her husband, she responds by saying that she will tell the truth when [shes] no longer young and pretty (907). Despite her childlike mannerisms and carefree attitude, she knows that her husband values his reputation above all and telling him would detrimental. But Ibsen confirms her clear-mindedness when Nora decides to tell Torvald the truth when she grows old and no longer young and pretty. She is aware that the only drawing force from her to her husband comes down to her youth and her beauty, which only last while she remains in her early years as an attractive woman. Without her striking appearance or dancing skills, she holds no captivation from someone like Torvald and her deceptions from him illustrate her understanding of this reality. Her decision to keep the secret to herself and carry the burden alone emphasizes the presence of a sense of independence in her character as well as courage to deal with her troubling circumstances.

3. The title of the play A Doll House holds symbolic representation where the protagonist Nora embodies the doll in a picturesque and delicate dollhouse. As a married socialite who

Tang 4 entertains friends and spends money on luxury items, Nora, for the majority of the play, possesses no ability or intention to independently survive on her own and relies completely on her husband for both financial and moral support. Just like a doll, Nora appears controlled by Torvald, her husband, and submissively complies with all of his desires and expectations. After he discovers that she secretly borrowed money from his employee to pay for their familys trip to Europe, she comprehends the reality of her situation and compares her existence as an exquisite but powerless doll in a confined house. She decides to leave her husband and tells him that [she has] been [his] doll wife here, just the way [she] used to be Daddys doll child[she] thought it was fun when [he] played with [her] (949). This explains the title of the play with Nora as the doll wife or doll child and the more powerful and intellectual played with her. Torvald often enjoys dressing her up in various costumes and watching her dance, feeling entertained and content from her appearance and performances. However, the title also reveals the helpless and restrained nature of Noras existence. Instead of A Dolls House, which emphasizes a possessive nature of the house to the doll, the title here is translated as A Doll House. Despite the house partly also belonging to Nora, the doll, she holds no control over it or herself. She finds herself constantly conforming to the needs and expectations of her husband and father without ever behaving based on her own desires. Lacking absolute free will and control over her own life, she cannot own the house, thus, the dollhouse and Nora, the doll, can only stand as separate entities. Trapped within the power of the house and her husband and father who played with her, Nora lives in an impeccably beautiful house yet she can only fulfill others wants and needs but not her own. The owner of the house, Torvald, owns her too, and instead of the house being her property, she is part of the house, a part of the

Tang 5 owners possession. While the play A Doll House appears a simple play delineating the details of the life of a seemingly submissive wife of a wealthy man, it contains symbolism and suggestions of the nature of the relationship between Nora and her husband that the author Ibsen highlights. The play takes place mostly in the backdrop of an affluent Norwegian household; Ibsen connects their home to an extravagant yet exquisite dollhouse that provides a home for dolls. In this case, Nora symbolizes the doll, a beautiful and elegant figure that attracts attention for the house. However, despite this fact, her existence depends on the owner of the house and after Nora decides to leave her family, she tells Torvald, her husband that once again [she] was [his] little songbird, [his] doll, just as before, only now [he] had to handle her even more carefully, because she was so frail and weak (952). Referring to the nickname that Torvald calls her, Nora describes how he handle her carefully, because she was so frail and weak. The mention to the nickname songbird highlights the pet-like quality of Noras value to her husband, much like the relationship between a doll and its owner where it silently obeys its owners wishes. The attributes described resemble with those of a doll that appears similarly frail and weak. Noras inability to survive independently without her husband or someone to care for her and her doll house highlights her vulnerability as an adult. Just like a fragile doll, she seems easily breakable and her entire existence relies upon her owner, which in this case, her husband. Therefore, the play translated as A Doll House instead of A Dolls House reflects her helplessness and weakness, preventing her from being the owner of the house. In the Helmer household, Nora possesses little control in the affairs of the family; Torvald makes all of the important decisions and plays with his wife as if she were a doll. She serves only

Tang 6 as an accessory and entertainment to the family, a pretty toy on display for others. On the other hand, Torvald owns the dollhouse, where both Nora and her children inhabit as dolls that he can play with. Furthermore, the translation of the title into A Doll House emphasizes that the house holds not only one doll, Nora, but also other dolls, specifically her children and the servants. This translation captures the idea that all individuals, especially women of Ibsens time, under the same roof are subject to the authority of a single man, and each holds no control over herself or others, similar to the powerless nature of a doll. 8. Towards the end of the play, Nora has an epiphany that her life resembles that of a doll and the story reaches a climax upon her decision to leave her family and lead a life of her own without needing to satisfy others needs and repress her own desires. Krogstads letter triggers many years of suppressed emotions and Noras rebellion allows her to realize her longing for independence and freedom, which she can only fully obtain by leaving her current family. After her husband Torvalds harsh and selfish reaction upon his discovery of her debt to his previous employee, Krogstad, Nora accuses Torvald of [arranging] everything according to [his] taste, and so [she] came to share it or [she] pretended to and feels as though [shes] been living here like a pauper just a hand-to-mouth kind of existence and have earned [her] keep by doing tricks for [him], Torvald (949). She exclaims that her husband [has] great sins against [her] to answer for, Daddy and [him] and that its [his] fault that nothing has become of [her] (949). Here, Ibsen establishes a pervading theme that women of those days, when married into a family, often sacrifice their individuality, freedom, or happiness in order to fit in and maintain a stable lifestyle. For Nora, she realizes that her husband has authority to all aspects of her life where he

Tang 7 arranged everything according to [his] taste and she frequently pretended to agree with his decisions. She begins to lose her own personality and thoughts as she attempts to comply with all of Torvalds demands; even her desperate efforts to improve her husbands health are kept secret as she fears his disapproval and condemnation. Her final act of abandoning her family represents her rebellion from living here like a pauper and freeing herself from the reality that nothing has become of [her]. Her hand-to-mouth kind of existence limits her ability to think, feel, and survive on her own and by making the decision to leave her home allows her to obtain the one thing she longs for most: independence. Despite the seemingly cruel act of deserting her children, Nora believes that her children will benefit from another womans wisdom and nurture as she deems herself unqualified. Although her departure may evoke sadness and regret in the early stages, she nevertheless earns herself a deserving opportunity to exercise a freedom that she never possessed previously. Without a dominant male figure in her life, who she claims responsible for her weakness, she can now lead a life according to her own wants and rediscover her own identity. Henrik Ibsen, author of the play A Doll House, creates the breakthrough role of Nora Helmer, who rebels against societys expectations of women. Through her decision to abandon her family in search for independence in a new life, Nora represents an exception to 19th century European gender roles that make all women subject to their husbands demands. In the perspective of Torvald, her husband, women serve to please their husbands and care for the children. When he discovers her secret means of borrowing money to save his life, Torvald only considers his own pride and claims nobody sacrifices his honor for his love (952). This statement reflects a common belief in society in the 1800s as men

Tang 8 often selfishly demean the value of women and love, placing their pride and honor above all. Despite her previous acceptance of this fact, his extreme egotistical reaction to Noras debt to Krogstad leads her to realize that he cares not of her well being but for the damages to his reputation and thus, he puts his own concerns above hers. Prompting the abandonment of her family and her responsibilities, Torvalds reaction directly leads to Noras final act. Finally comprehending her role as a submissive and reliant wife, a doll in a delicate and pampered house, she feels the need to search for freedom and independence, where her needs are not placed behind the expectations of family and society. By ridding of her duties as a wife and a mother, Nora possesses new opportunities of finding a life of love, freedom, and respect, a life in which her desires are not repressed. However, although this act may appear bold and instrumental in her search for independence, societys rules and expectations limit such behavior and it may prove difficult for her to achieve her independence. But, despite this fact, her decision to leave her family proves triumphant as a first step toward freedom and self-reliance. 10. In the play A Doll House, Henrik Ibsen presents the idea of money as a major theme and demonstrates the value of monetary wealth to each of the five main characters. For Dr. Rank, money does not provide much contentment for him, but instead he accepts his imminent death with calmness and wisdom. On the other hand, Mrs. Lindes constant search for money on the surface appears to highlight her insatiable need for wealth; however, one can easily observe that she only possesses this need in order to financially support her two brothers and her sick mother. She sacrifices her love for Krogstad to marry Mr. Linde for his money, but her intentions originate not from a personal, superficial level, but from selfless and responsible characteristics. As opposed to Mrs. Lindes legitimate need for money and

Tang 9 Dr. Ranks seemingly disregard for it, the other three characters all show varying degrees of desire for money for personal gain. In Krogstads case, he blackmails and threatens Nora of exposing her secret debt to him, seeking an opportunity to regain his job at her husbands bank. Although he does possess selfish reasons for blackmailing Nora, like to protect his reputation, he proves to be not entirely unsympathetic towards her situation and appears forced to take extreme measures in order to provide for his children. Ibsen portrays Nora, the pampered doll of the Helmer family, as a prodigal and lavish spender in the beginning of the play. Her husband lightly accuses her as a little wastrel [that] has been throwing money around again (899). Clearly, her wasteful tendencies to spend money on unnecessary items cause her husband to call her a little wastrel, which reflect the materialistic nature of her behavior. She later claims that many women [are] throwing money around and that she requires the money to satisfy her material desires. However, after her transformation in Act III, Nora appears to abandon her old ways of relying on her husband and extravagantly pouring his money away; she embarks on her new life where material wealth no longer remains as one of her priorities. The last protagonist, Torvald Helmer, values his reputation and as well as his financial status much higher than his love and duties to his wife and family. He fears and censures the idea of owing others money and by calling his wife a little wastrel, Torvald not only establishes himself as a materialistic character but also as one who enjoys to flaunt his superiority and power over his wife, who seems weak and powerless. His selfish need for money places him as the epitome of one who desires money for personal gain, reflecting the same sentiment of many wealthy businessmen of modern times. Although much has changed since the 19th century, general patterns and belief

Tang 10 systems of society has not significantly altered and the significant role that money plays in most households has not been erased. In the time when the play was written, the industrial revolution had already overtaken Europe for around a century and more people begin acquiring wealth in more commercial and monetary-based businesses, such as the bank. Torvald Helmer, a manger in a large banking firm, falls into this category and garners attention from women like his wife, Nora. Due to his materialistic wealth, he becomes able to exercise authority over his family and those that earn less than him, thus, belong in a lower social class. With the knowledge that her husband possesses the ability to financially support her, Nora constantly requests money for her purchases. The play opens with a conversation between her and her husband about money and Torvalds fear of debt. However, for Mrs. Linde, a genuine need for money to sustain her ill mother and two destitute brothers separates her from Nora and Torvald where money only exists on a selfish and superficial basis. Similarly, Krogstad blackmails Nora to regain his position in the bank, only to provide for his own children. Unlike Krogstad and Mrs. Lindes selfless and honorable behavior, the Helmer couple view money as required need for themselves, an accessory almost. When Torvald playfully teases Nora about her spending habits, he seriously adds in that a home in debt isnt a free home, and if it isnt free it isnt beautiful (899). Ibsen illustrates that he enjoys lightly lecturing his wife and guiding her when he deems her incapable of appropriately deal with matters. Here, he expresses his distaste toward a home in debt and how it isnt a free home. There still exist the rich and the poor, and the bourgeois that linger in between, therefore, many of the ways in which money influenced the characters in A Doll House still apply today.

Tang 11 Works Cited Perrine, Laurence, and Thomas R. Arp. Literature: Structure, Sound and Sense. 6th ed. New York [etc.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978. Print.

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