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Great question for the discussion board!
For me, it is clear why this play has its title from the moment it is apparent how Torvald treats Nora. It is clear early on how Torvald views Nora. She is treated with kid gloves and is not taken seriously. Torvald belittles her and doesn't listen to her feelings, wants, and desires; therefore, she resorts to doing many things without his knowledge. In the end, she simply cannot take any more of it and leave Torvald and her children behind for a new life.
The title of this play makes reference to Nora's position in her own household, as well as Nora's perception of the world. Not only have the men in her life treated her like a "doll", to be dressed up and played with, but she herself has lived as that doll. She has played into the role, and she has always viewed the world from only the perspective of her little house. This is why she does not understand the seriousness of the fraud that she committed, and why she doesn't understand the situation of either Krogstad or Mrs. Linde. Her house is her own little world.
The action of the play works to pull Nora from her single-minded perspective and from the role she has played. There are a few hints to the title's significance in Act I and II. For example, in Act I, Nora calls her own daughter "My sweet little baby doll!"
The moment where the title is revealed comes in Act III, however, after the conflict with Krogstad has been resolved:
- NORA: When I was at home with papa, he told me his opinion about everything, and so I had the same opinions; and if I differed from him I concealed the fact, because he would not have liked it. He called me his doll-child, and he played with me just as I used to play with my dolls. And when I came to live with you—
Nora finally understands how others have viewed her, and is on the brink of establishing her independence.
sullymonster makes some really great points.
I also think that if you'd take the idea of a 'doll house' very literally, you could discover some really interesting themes and symbolism.
If you think about a doll house, you see that it's open for everyone to see. This could show the idea of being constantly observed and lack of privacy. Looking at the dolls, the one playing with the dolls has complete control over them. Torvald has complete control over Nora.
Many dolls wear permanent smiles. Nora is always trying to be the perfect wife and pleasing everyone. There is a lot of pretending and Nora and Torvald seem to be the perfect happy couple.
I think that as soon as the audience realises that Nora doesn't have the freedom she has the right to and doesn't have an own will, you understand why the play is called 'A Doll's House'. At least, that's when I understood the title. Especially in the beginning of the story when we find out about how Nora uses the money Torvald gives her.
When I really understood why the play is called A Doll's House is the scene when Nora tells all that she feels and what she has done to Torvald. At frist I thought that it was because of the way Torvald treats her and how he wants her to keep herself thin and not eat the macaroons. The author also portrays her as a beautiful woman that her husband still likes to flirt with. Torvald says that at the parties he likes to imagine that they have a secret relationship and that that is why she keep glancing her way. When I truly knew why, is when she talks about her relationship with her father and how he treated and talked to her. That is when I went "Oh, I get it". It was then that I understood why the story is called that way and specially why Nora acts the way she does. She went from being a doll in her father's house to being a doll in her husband's house.
When I understood the meaning of the title was when Nora spoke of how she grew up as a "thing" to her father just as she is to Torvald. This house that she has lived in has been her life. It is as if (as in a true dollhouse) people are watching her from an outside view. Torvald would always watch and be entertained by Nora, yet Torvald's pride was what never wanted his appearance and reputation to be infringed upon. Everything was about this perfect little world and all about appearance. Not until Nora revealed the treatment that her father gave her did I fully understand the title.
The moment in which I understood the title of the play was when Nora explained how she felt she lived as her father's "doll" as a young child, serving a role of entertainment and pleasure, just as she did for Torvald. She claimed that she lived as a doll in her childhood, as a doll to her husband, and that her children were now her dolls. By finally leaving, Nora escaped the feelings of imprisonment she felt nearly her entire life.
Very simply put, the moment when Nora passes down a doll to her daughter did the title become clear. This lone, plain symbol stands for the continuation of stereotypes and abuse that swarm the "Doll's House." Nora furthers the very judgements that hold her down by seeing nothing in her little girl but a doll.
The full significance of the title became evident when Nora says, "One day I might, yes. Many years from now, when I’ve lost my looks a little. Don’t laugh. I mean, of course, a time will come when Torvald is not as devoted to me, not quite so happy when I dance for him, and dress for him, and play with him." Not only does this allude to the doll, but it also foreshadows that Nora will not always be a plaything to be dressed and messed with by Torvald.
From the very beginning of the dialogue, I made the connection between the play and a literal doll's house. The pseudo-affection and empty conversation demonstrated between Nora and Torvald in the earler scenes are similar in appearance to that of a doll's world, as if Ibsen were manipulating the two characters personally. "There, there! My little singing bird musn't go drooping her wings, eh? Has it got the sulks, that little squirrel of mine?" (pg. 1767). Also, the playful mood contributes to the overall doll motif.
The moment that I understood why the play is called 'A Doll's house' is the moment where Nora explains how she was just a 'doll' to her father as a child and he used to 'play' with her. Then, she married Torvald and everything was brand new at first. Torvald was a new person to 'play' with Nora, and she enjoyed this for some time, but eventually it all grew old to her. Nora represents the 'doll' in this 'perfect doll house' with decorated Christmas trees and fancy parties.
The first inkling for the title "A Doll's House" to me was when Nora snuck the chocolate macaroons like a child. When Torvald mentions his reasoning for Nora laying off the sweets, he implies the importance of her perfection for his reputation. Another hint for the reasoning of the title was Torvald's preference on the clothing she buys. To me, Torvald's dependence on Nora's appearance is clearly reflected in these two instances, ultimately creating their household to be a "doll house". Since Nora is under strict orders by her husband regarding her eating habits and clothing style, she is indeed like a toy doll living in a doll's house.
The moment I understood the title of the play was when Nora sits Torvald down and says "I have been your little doll wife." She then explains how her father had treated her like a doll too. Every scene with Torvald and Nora began to make sense at that moment because they interacted as if Torvald was merely playing with her. Nora was a plain, lifeless doll until this moment.
When the door slams shut with the closure of the final scene in the play is when the title's meaning is truly visable. Nora makes the choice to leave her home, proving that the house was her doll house. She had to choice whether or not to change it all along.
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