Describe Nora's character in A Doll's House.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Nora is the "doll" of the title of this excellent play, kept in her "house" by her husband Torvald. It is clear from the very beginning of this play that her main preoccupation in life is being the "perfect wife" and charming her husband with her youthfulness, naivety and supposed innocence. What is notable in the first Act is how she receives and even welcomes her husband referring to her variously as a "rustling squirrel," a "twittering skylark" and a "little squanderbird." Each of these titles seem to demean Nora's character and places her in the role of a little child to her husband, but she accepts them and even appears to delight in them.

However, apart from playing this "role" she also has her secrets that she keeps from Torvald even when it appears there is little advantage in doing so. It appears that we are presented with a central character who practices deception naturally and almost as if it has become second nature for her. Let us consider her secrets: she lies to Torvald about the housekeeping money, conceals the jobs she takes to earn a little extra and forges her father's signature on a loan. It is clear that she is regarded as the "doll" that is referred to in the title: a child, an object or toy, and yet she is never regarded as a fellow human being equal in intellect. She feels she is totally dependent on Torvald for all her needs until she realises her own self-sufficiency and inner-strength that becomes apparent at the end of this memorable drama. As Norma herself describes her life to Torvald:

You've always been very kind to me. But our home has never been anything but a playroom. I've been your doll-wife, just as I used to be Papa's doll-child. And the children have been my dolls. I used to think it was fun when you came in and played with me, just as they think it's fun when I go in and play games with them. That's all our marriage has been, Torvald.

It is this epiphany that Nora experiences about her character and her desire to finally exit her doll's house and become a human that marks this play as such a masterpiece.

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