The title is A Doll House rather than A Doll's House, and this might be significant because you could argue that Nora is not the only doll.

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cybil eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nora isn't the only doll in this house because she has made her children dolls as well. When they return from playing outside (right before Krogstad appears for a private visit with Nora in Act 1), she calls Emmy "my sweet little babydoll" and all three of the children "my pretty little dollies." Nora takes off their coats and hats as though she were undressing dolls and then proceeds to play hide-and-seek with them as if she were playing with dolls herself.

Nora has little idea of how to be a mother, having had only Anne Marie to serve in that role. Now Anne Marie continues in that position with Nora's children. Is Anne Marie also responsible for making Nora a doll? Her stunted personality development is typically attributed to her father and Helmer, but I think the nurse has a role as well. 

sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Not getting into the translation, but arguing the validity of the choices:

While Nora is the only doll in the house, I think A Doll's House is an appropriate title for the story.  She is the doll, and the house is of her creation.  She realizes this at the end.  She has allowed herself to be established in the role of the doll - she allowed her father to treat her that way and she has allowed Helmer to do the same.  More so than allowed, she has played the game with them, using it to her advantage.  She is the creator of her house and her decision to leave her marriage house at the end is symbolic of her decision to leave the role she created for herself.

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a good point, and one I've addressed before, but here is my understanding.  The title has been translated as both "A Doll House" and as "A Doll's House."  I've even seen it translated as "A Dolls House," though to me this is the poorest interpretation. In any case, the original Norweigan is difficult to translate and a choice is made on the part of the individual translator.

Your take is certainly valid, but if you argue the other side, you might postulate that the possessive is true, that Nora lives in a superficial, closed world, treated as an object rather than a real person. 

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Personally I don't see that there's a real difference between the different intepretations of the title. Is there a material difference between "A Dollhouse" "A Doll's House" or even "The Dollhouse"? It doesn't affect the meaning, I don't think.

I'm with you. If someone does have an argument for why there is a difference, please enlighten us. This discussion is very interesting.

alexb2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Personally I don't see that there's a real difference between the different intepretations of the title. Is there a material difference between "A Dollhouse" "A Doll's House" or even "The Dollhouse"? It doesn't affect the meaning, I don't think.

alexb2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ah I see, that's a good point. Is Nora a doll or not? This may be the central idea behind the story. Either title could work but the one you suggest "The Dollhouse" is more of a stark contrast, showing that Nora, who is not a doll, must escape living like one.

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You may be right, but this is still the fault of the various translators and it indeed exists in both forms.  As for the proper Norwegian, geez, I am only proficient in English, get by in French, and can successfully order a beer in Spanish.  :)

claireemartin1 | Student

The title is "A Doll's House" for a reason.  I belive the doll's house is not under Torvald's jurisdiction, but Nora's.  Torvald's ability to control Nora is only withheld until she no longer condones it.  At the beginning of the play, Nora has just as much of an opportunity to leave Torvald as she does at the end of it.  However, she does not understand that she has this power.  The play is a series of events that lead Nora to the realization that she has control of the entire house and its future.  Where would Torvald be without his picture perfect wife?  Nora is the centerpiece of the Hemler family image and sinks the entire ship with her departure.

mikeyg51 | Student

I love this post! What a bunch of great ideas! I am wondering if Nora had some choice, somewhere, throughout the play. I know you guys know more about this play than I, but is there a chance that she is playing this up a little bit, toward the end? Some people only thrive when controlled. You can see this often in codependent relationships, where the two depend on each other to be controlled and to do the controlling. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

gcrete | Student

Hi Sullymonster,

I would argue that Nora doesn't create anything, least of all her doll house. This is the whole point. She is a victim of the world created for her by both her father and then her husband, and ultimately by society at that time. It's only when she realizes this, that she decides to leave so that she can "find herself".

Her whole world then, is a dollhouse, i.e. a pre-fabricated artificial existence and she discovers that she can no longer tolerate being a part of it.

Blazedale, the difference is subtle. If you say the title is a doll's house, then you are implying that she is the doll in the house. This can work too but I think the title dollhouse is more poignant. If she's a doll, then she, as a doll, must break free from the house. But if she's the person (with Helmer) who plays house then it is more realistic that she can walk away.  

 Thanks for the discussion. And I can only take your word for it about the Norwegian lol.

pkbrask | Student

I don't despute your interpretations, sullymoster and jaimie-wheeler, I merely wanted to clarify the linguistics. I do believe, though, that there's an ethics involved in translation that calls for, in this case, a play to be playable and persuasive in its new language while also being as precise as posible. If a writer wishes to "play around" with the source text, it ought to be clear by designating the result as an adaptation or a rendering. Just 2 cents from someone who dabbles in literary translation.

pkbrask | Student

Michael Meyer's translation is A Doll's House because he's British. In American English Rolf Fjelde's got it right with A Doll House, though it probably should be A Dollhouse. I guess if a british writer were to update the play the title to use today would be Playing Happy Families. :)

pkbrask | Student

In the Dano-Norwegian Ibsen wrote the title is Et Dukkehjem. In North American English according to Webster's this is A Dollhouse, A Doll's House is British usage. If Ibsens title had been En Dukkes Hjem, the meaning would have been a single doll's house and the North American title would appropriately have been A Doll's House.

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A Doll's House

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