Dolls House Essay Topics

  • 1

    The play is usually considered one of Ibsen's “realist” plays. Consider how far the play might be anti-realist or symbolic.

    Answer: Consider the symbols, metaphors, and imagery of the play, and weigh their importance against the elements that seem realistic. It also should be very helpful to define “realism” over against the uses of symbols and elements that are absurd, grotesque, or fantastic. Note that “realism” and “symbolism” have gained specific connotations within Ibsen criticism.

  • 2

    When Nora says in Act One, “I can't think of anything to wear. It all seems so stupid and meaningless,” Ibsen illustrates the symbolism of clothing in the play. Describe how Ibsen’s use of clothing works in the play.

    Answer: Consider, especially, Nora's tarantella costume and fancy-dress box, as well as her black dress when taking the clothing is a symbol. Explore the metaphor of clothing as something which covers up, something which disguises, or as something which confers identity. Ibsen also uses clothing to make points about agency and gender. Consider who dresses whom and who wears certain clothes for the sake of personal expression or in order to please someone else.

  • 3

    Why is freedom important in the play?

    Answer: Nora sees herself as not free when she is confined in the domestic life of her husband’s home. The direction of the play is to perceive Nora’s awakening as someone who deserves freedom. Consider, too, that Torvald becomes free of his marriage obligations, which also have been oppressive of his own liberties. Finally, consider the ambiguous nature of the freedom Nora wins. She is going from a fairly predictable life into something unknown. Remember that Mrs. Linde would rather be tied to a family rather than alone and on her own. Is that because of human nature or because of her individual choice?

  • 4

    Is Torvald Helmer a deeply abhorrent character?

    Answer: To answer this question, perform a detailed character study of Torvald Helmer. Do not jump to a conclusion based on your initial feelings about his words and actions in the play. Weigh both sides of the argument—what specifically is the problem in the marriage and in his choices? If you decide to abhor the character, how bad is he? Consider the ways in which he genuinely loves his wife, earns money for the household, and pays attention to her against his selfishness, oppression of his wife, and ability to handle stress.

  • 5

    How does the play illustrate inheritance, the passing along of traits from parent to child?

    Answer: Consider Dr. Rank's illness as attributed to his father’s indiscretions. Krogstad's shame for his own alleged errors is inherited by his children by way of reputation. Consider, most of all, Nora's relationships with her father and her nurse as influences on how she treats her own children.

  • 6

    What is the importance of the title of the play?

    Answer: This is a reasonably straightforward question that could be taken in a number of directions. How far is Nora a doll, an object or toy for others? How does her home represent a doll’s house, from which the doll cannot escape on her own? When Nora leaves the house, she is breaking free of the metaphor, though it is unclear what will happen if she is going to return to her earlier family home, where she was something of a doll to her father.

  • 7

    Ibsen once described Mrs Alving in his play Ghosts as a version of Nora in later life. Imagine what Nora’s earlier life might have been like, based on her characterization in the play.

    Answer: If up till the last day, Nora has been living in a fantasy world, she must have been even less self-aware or independent when she was younger. She probably married by being enthralled by her society’s ideas of love and marriage. Under her father and nurse, she seems to have had few opportunities to get anything like a liberal education; instead, she seems to have learned only how to be a traditional girl and a traditional woman.

  • 8

    To what extent is the play a comedy?

    Answer: As well as considering smaller touches, such as individual lines, or jokes that might be funny or comedic, it is worth learning about the theatrical definitions of comedy and tragedy to consider how the structure of the play and the main plot elements might count as part of the tradition of comedy. Consider the roles of marriage, death, friendship, self-awareness, irony, family, holidays and parties, and the various themes of the play in this context.

  • 9

    Is A Doll's House a feminist play?

    Answer: Ibsen claimed that his play was about liberation in a more general, human sense, rather than specifically about female liberation. If feminism focuses on both men and women, it is reasonable to see the mutual liberation of Torvald and Nora as a feminist goal, liberating people of both sexes from social and cultural limitations based on gender. Consider the various women in the play as well. How are we to know whether Ibsen wants us to approve or disapprove of their various choices in relation to men and to their own goals? How do the characters themselves exhibit any goals or points that could be described as feminist?

  • 10

    How does Ibsen provide suspense in the play?

    Answer: The audience wonders when Torvald will read the letter and what will happen when he does. We also do not know if Nora is going to decide to kill herself, leave, or stay home, but we do know that the pressure on her is building and that something in her is going to burst. Foreshadowing contributes to these issues, such as when Nora tells Mrs. Linde that she has plans Mrs. Linde cannot understand.

  • 11

    Compare the relationship between Mrs. Linde and Krogstad with that of Nora and Torvald.

    Answer: Nora and Torvald have lived in something of a fantasy marriage for years, and finally they are separating. Meanwhile, Mrs. Linde and Krogstad have been apart, thinking about one another, and finally they are getting together with a larger degree of self-understanding and maturity.

  • Outline

    I. Thesis. Justice and injustice in the relationships between the main characters of A Doll’s House
    II. The transformation of Nora’s expectations for the future

    a) The husband’s career promotion and Nora’s hopes for a better future
    b) Mrs. Linde asks for Torvald’s assistance in applying for a position in the bank
    c) Nora’s secret. Mr. Krogstand starts blackmailing Nora to keep his position in the bank
    d) Social injustice in Torvald’s attitudes to people who are less powerful and influential, such as Mr. Krogstand and Mrs. Linde

    III. Nora’s early stereotypical ideas of a happy life

    a) “Armload of packages” (43) as Nora’s ideal of a good life
    b) Wealth changes Nora’s attitudes to Christmas
    c) The lack of money makes Nora selfish and unjust toward her husband’s efforts to make the family’s living

    IV. Social justice and injustice in other characters’ deeds

    a) The differences between Kristine and Krogstand’s methods of making their living
    b) Relativism of Krogstand’s situation: blackmailing – that is, injustice toward another person, is the only means for Krogstand to achieve social justice
    c) Anna-Marie’s capitalistic worldview and her understanding of justice based on this worldview

    V. Conclusion: the final change in Nora’s personality and the selfish nature of her rebellion against social injustice

    The Notions of Justice and Injustice in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House

    In A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen examines conventional roles of men and women in the nineteenth century. In the play, Nora exemplifies the conventional feminine standard of the period. She seems to be powerless and confines herself through patriarchal expectations, which signify a woman’s social role at that time, that is, of a wife and mother. In turn, the masculine perspective measures feminine conduct during that period. Finally, Nora makes a decision to break up with her family in order to become independent. She does this also in order to gain and assert her personality through social identity. However, her deed is rather a manifestation of her selfishness than her rebellious spirit. This means that none of the gender parties in this play can be considered as completely just or unjust. So, the paper considers various manifestations of justice and injustice in the relationships between the main characters and considers the social background of their decisions and deeds.

    The protagonist of A Doll’s House is a woman named Nora Helmer. Ibsen shows how Nora’s design of perfect life gradually transforms when her secret unravels. Promotion of Nora’s husband to a bank manager in the town bank makes her convinced that she will live a worry free and careless life ahead. Conversely, Nora’s notion of a magnificent life totally changes as her long-kept secret is exposed. The play begins at Christmas time and a larger income begins after the New Year. The beginning of a new life makes Nora excited. However, the ideal life starts to change when Mrs. Linde, an old friend, visits Nora’s home. Mrs. Linde is searching for a job and has come to Helmer’s house for help via Nora’s husband. Torvald gladly offers Mrs. Linde a job, yet Nora is ignorant that this is a step closer to the revealing of her secret. Nora realizes her husband’s ability to offer Mrs. Linde a novel job as the story continues. She sees the benefits of assisting Mrs. Linde get a job, as Mr. Krogstand, who holds her secret, misses an employment opportunity.

    “Do as you please. But let me tell you this- If I lose my position a second time, you shall lose yours with me” (688). During this instance, Mr. Krogstand exploits the influence he has on Nora in order to secure his job. Mr. Krogstand tells Nora that in case he loses his job at the bank to Mrs. Linde, he shall inform Nora’s family about her secret. Nora begs Torvald to get Mr. Krogstand a position in the bank; this is to guarantee the wonderful life before the New Year. Nevertheless, Torvald decides not to give the position to Mr. Krogstand and Mrs. Linde. The play has various illustrations of justice through the economic and social conditions of the characters. Each individual’s economic and social conditions undermine their relations with others. The rich as seen in the play exploit the less fortunate and the weak. In A Dolls House the play by Henrik Ibsen, justice manifests through economic and social conditions. The rich and strong exploit the poor and the weak. They are obsessed with material possession. Most characters in the play are in various ways affected by the acquisition or lack of money. Their ways of thinking and living revolve around justice and economic empowerment.

    Nora’s outlook of life and way of thinking revolves around her financial conditions and material wealth. At the beginning of the play, Nora is going home from a shopping trip and gets to her house with an “armload of packages” (43). There is also a boy following her carrying a Christmas tree. At the apartment, Nora informs Hellene, one of the house maids, to conceal the tree from the kids until it gets decoration. As Torvald gets to the apartment, Nora asks him for cash to “hang the bills in gilt paper” (45) for the Christmas tree decoration. In the play, this Christmas tree indicates Nora’s obsession with cash. Nora did not intend anyone to view the tree decoration to show off the new wealth. In the past, Nora decorated the tree on her own, and spent the whole day doing so. Presently, she cannot do that as it will make her think poor; therefore, Nora spends a lot of money on decorations and presents for the tree as they can afford. Nora belongs to a higher social class and this makes her spend a lot of money. She pays double for the same item as she tells the boy escorting her to keep the change. The situation shows the lack of justice and Nora confirms this by insisting, “we can borrow until then” (44), while Torvald’s income will not be there for three months. Nora claims that previously they used to save each penny they got with Torvald from odd jobs to supplement their income.

    Justice is unfulfilled in the play as Nora becomes more selfish and claims that in case something happens to Torvald after borrowing money, “it just wouldn’t matter” (44) as they borrowed the cash from strangers. It shows that they are not in a position to return the borrowed money, thus making the creditors suffer or face losses. In addition, presently because of their higher social standing, Nora feels her responsibility is past others and only minds of her personal interests. Nora does not care for the “strangers” she borrowed, and concentrates only on what she can get from others. Additionally, this is shown when Kristine, who is Nora’s friend, goes to visit. Nora just mentions her husband’s novel job by saying she is happy and feels light as now they “have stacks of money and not a care in the world” (49). She gets a wise answer from Kristine, saying it is better to simply have the necessities in life. On the other hand, Nora says that is not sufficient and she needs “stacks and stacks of money” (50). Injustice manifests, when Nora informs Kristine how she borrowed money for her Italy trip, and that she has worked so hard to pay back the cash to have peace. Nora equates freedom with gaining wealth, claiming being economically empowered makes her (56) “carefree and happy.” Nora realizes that despite her freeing herself from her debts, she if financially enslaved to her husband and as a woman, she has to be dependent on her husband. Nora says divorce leads her to “closing out their accounts,” (108). Furthermore, Nora feels that this means renouncing the marital vows and financial dependence as personal and human freedom are not in economical terms only. Her life outlook changes with the change in economic conditions and this indicates injustice in how human beings view financial conditions…

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