How do we learn about or analyze the character Nora from Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House ?

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tamarakh's profile pic

Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The process of learning about or analyzing any character is called character analysis. Doing a character analysis can actually be a simple process once you know some things to look for. Some typical things to look for are the character's driving motivations, the character's ethics, and whether or not the character's actions can judged as wise or unwise. This same sort of character analysis can be applied to the character Nora from A Doll's House and below are some things to think about to help you get started.

Throughout the play, we see that Nora has many driving motivations. Her primary motivation that gets her into so much trouble is the desire to save her husband's life, which would have naturally helped secure her future by ensuring that she continued to be financially cared for. While money certainly is a dominant motivation, we also see that Nora is indeed a loving, caring person. At the beginning of the play, she believes that she genuinely loves her husband. In fact, at the end of the play when Nora declares to Torvald that she no longer loves him, she confesses that the declaration is causing her great sorrow due to the kindness he has shown her over the years, as we see in her lines, "It gives me great pain, Torvald, for you have always been so kind to me, but I cannot help it. I do not love you any more" (III). Since her realization that she no longer loves her husband is causing her pain, we see that earlier she genuinely did love him or at least thought she loved him. Hence, we see that one of Nora's driving motivations is love, which leads her to sacrifice her honor for the sake of her husband's life.

Nora's ethical beliefs are also very interesting to examine. While others may place the law above anything else, Nora chose to place her husband's life above the law. In fact, she genuinely believed that their must be a law that permitted a woman to spare her dying father from learning about something as distressing as the fact that his daughter's husband may be dying as well. She also believed that their must be a law that allowed a woman to rescue her ill husband at all costs. We especially see Nora express this naive belief to Krogstad in her lines:

Is a daughter not to be allowed to spare her dying father anxiety and care? Is a wife not to be allowed to save her husband's life? I don't know much about law; but i am certain that there must be laws permitting such things. (I)

Since Nora has a naive belief that there are laws that protect ethical principles, it shows us that she actually places more value in ethical principles than in law. She gives what she views as right more thought than what the law views as right.

Hence, through our character analysis of Nora, we learn that her driving motive is love and that her ethical views are much higher than the common man in that she believes in upholding ethical principles, even those that contradict the law.

sanaviya's profile pic

sanaviya | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

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The ''Drama of Ideas'', A Dolls House, is simply based on the conversion of its protagonist, Nora from a ''doll'' into a mature thinking woman. Nora, who appears to be a mere "little squirrel" in the beginning takes a sudden turn near the end when she says: 'Sit down here,Torvald.You and I have a lot to say to one another'   Says John Gassner," Nora's leaving house and children is not so outrageously incredible as it seems at first sight, Ibsen having very astutely planted an extenuating circumstance. Like so many of her comfortable sisters,Nora has had very little function in her own household;servants had managed everythinh,uncluding the children, and they can continue to do so."

Nevertheless, Nora was bound to her husband by her trust in his love for her:once it was shattered, there was no point in her staying with him.

Indeed hers is a very complex character, made up of contradictory traits. She plays a dual role- that of 'a child and a heroic woman in one'

kellisa's profile pic

kellisa | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

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Nora, like many women, wishes to please. She has been raised to be only charming, decorative and amusing.  Her husband does not dream her to be anything else.  Because of what seems to be her lack of concern about politics or philosophy or anything deep and involved, her husband sees her as a child. 
However, although she is indeed childlike, having been left so, Nora has an inner determination and drive.  We know this because she has been assiduously working and saving to repay the debt she incurred, secretly, years before. 
One obvious theme of the play is how, no matter how humans are trained and expected to behave, their real selves will emerge somehow, although often in distortion.  Nora has not been expected or even allowed to bear responsibility for her life, but she wants to be helpful, refuses to sit by and let her loved ones suffer if she can prevent it.  Her forgery of the signature on the loan and its rejection of 'human laws' evokes Antigone's rejection of the King's edict, in favor of the higher law of compassion and love.

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