Choose any character from A Doll's House and indicate what we learn about them prior to the onset of the play and what happened to them during the course of the play. What was the author hoping to demonstrate by this character?

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A Doll’s House is a play written by the Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen. It was first published in 1879 and follows the story of the couple Nora and Torvald Helmer.

There are many indications about the past history of various characters in this play, but in order to help you to answer your question, I will focus on one of the main protagonists of the play: Torvald Helmer.

When reading the play, you will find many references to the fact that Torvald and Nora had to endure severe financial restraints prior to the onset of the play. We can see indications of this in several of Nora’s statements, such as “it will be splendid to have heaps of money and not need to have any anxiety.” You can clearly derive from this statement that Nora and Torvald had significant money worries in the past. Torvald had to work very hard to earn money, which eventually made him sick. However, through Torvald’s promotion in the bank, these days are now over.

Knowing about this part of Torvald’s past will help you to understand Torvald’s personality better. It explains, at least to some extent, why he treats Nora in such a patronizing manner throughout the play. In the course of the play, the author portrays Torvald as a man who has very little regard for women and their worth: Torvald feels that as a man, it is his responsibility to work hard in order to improve their financial situation. We can see that when Nora says that Torvald “had to make money every way he could, and he worked early and late.” This is why Torvald, who is initially unaware of Nora’s attempts to try and help him, wrongly feels that Nora is not concerned or sufficiently appreciative of his efforts. Instead, he thinks that she is only interested in spending the money that he has worked for. When he finds out about Krogstad's blackmail attempt, he does not at all appreciate the fact that his wife had been trying to help him. Instead, he is angry with Nora and blames her. He only forgives her, again in a very patronizing manner, when he finds out that the blackmail is no longer a threat.

You could potentially explain most of the conflicts between Nora and Torvald throughout the play by pointing out that Torvald’s previous struggle for money has severely impacted how Torvald perceives his and Nora’s roles in their marriage. Even at the end of the play, when Nora is leaving him, Torvald is unable to understand Nora’s reasoning and even questions her ability to leave him. You could therefore say that the author is using Torvald in order to reflect society’s inability to change its view of women. Through Torvald, the author shows that it is dangerous to underestimate women and that women should be treated with more respect.

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