Reading Pointers for Sharper Insights
To better appreciate the focus of Ibsen's work in A Doll's House, readers need to understand how he uses his characters to develop commentary on social issues:
Ibsen creates characters that are stereotypical for the era of the play:
Torvold and Nora Helmer depict the traditional roles of husband and wife.
Belief in male dominance, responsibility, power, and control characterize the conventional role of a husband as the breadwinner.
The superiority of husband over wife is emphasized through Ibsen's use of bird metaphors and references to small or frail creatures.
Notice how Nora defies her prescribed role as a dependent, weak, and suppressed wife.
Marriage was a private institution that was closed to outsiders, but was under society's constant scrutiny:
Notice how Ibsen clearly defines societal duties for a wife, and how Nora struggles emotionally with these restraints.
Mrs. Linde's character foreshadows Nora's ultimate conclusions and actions about her marriage with Torvold.
Aspirations of married women were suppressed, as they maintained positions subordinate to their husbands. Pay particular attention to how different women in the play relate to this concept.
The interaction of two characters and the coincidental nature of their meeting are key to developing the subject of women's independence. Pay attention to how Krogstad and Mrs. Linde drive Nora to establish her own individuality.
Ibsen's philosophy as expressed in A Doll's House is that all humans have a need to be fulfilled, and each unique personality strives for the di gnity of individuality. Pay particular attention to the following:
Consider the title of the play and what it might signify.
Analyze how characters interact within the confinement of the house.
Note how Nora's small acts of rebellion slowly escalate until the climax of the play.
Pay attention to how the motifs of pride, deception, and betrayal are portrayed through Nora and Torvold's relationship in the following ways:
borrowing and spending money
expectations of certain behaviors
taking outside jobs
Dr. Rank's feelings for Nora
Mrs. Linde's confrontation with Nora
Torvold's treatment of Nora as property
Torvold's job as a public figure
ramshackle – rickety and in disrepair
time-graven – deeply marked and sculpted by time
salient – noticeable; prominent
niggerheads – [slang] dark-colored clumps of vegetation found in Northern regions
pertinacity – stubbornness
belie – to prove to be false
formidable – alarming
rampant – unrestrained and unchecked
wantonness – cruelty
paroxysms – sudden outbursts
ambuscade – an ambush
slake – to quench
dejected – disheartened
excrescence – an abnormal growth
usurp – to overthrow
advent – a momentous arrival
sluice boxes – square tubes where mud and gravel from a riverbed is placed. Water is then screened through to reveal gold dust and nuggets. It is a large contraption made specifically for gold panning.
cessation – an end
pell-mell – helter-skelter
- What is the structure of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House?
- How does Henrik Ibsen incorporate the relationship between learning and sacirifice in A Doll's House?
- In Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House, what symbols demonstrate the theme of identity vs. appearance?
- Please discuss the theme of corruption in the A Doll's House.
- In A Doll's House, why does Torvald refers to Nora as "skylark" and "squirrel?"
Test Your Knowledge