Explain realism in drama as introduced by Ibsen in A Doll's House.

Realism in drama can be seen in Ibsen's A Doll's House by the way that the playwright strips away the veneer of social convention to reveal what's really going on underneath. Ibsen shows us men and women as they actually are, warts and all, without in any way trying to idealize them.

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Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House exemplifies realism in drama through its overall approach to representing life. This approach is laid out through the setting, plot, characters, and dialogue. The trend toward realism to which Ibsen contributed is generally contrasted to the earlier nineteenth-century Romanticism.

In literary realism, the author focuses on everyday aspects of life in a familiar setting rather than fantastic, heroic exploits in far-off lands and times. Realism may be described as holding a mirror up to life. In realist drama, such as Ibsen helped pioneer, the stage set often represents an ordinary home. This is the case in A Doll’s House, where the playwright offers a detailed description of rooms in the Helmers’ house. Realist plays are often staged in proscenium theaters, retaining the imaginary fourth wall separating play from audience.

Characterization and dialogue also go hand in hand in a realist drama. The characters often have ordinary jobs or vocations; Torvald is a banker and Nora is a housewife and mother. They are not elevated heroes such as knights or supernatural deities. The characters converse in dialogue that approximates normal speech rather than poetry or flowery prose and rarely address the audience, as that would break the fourth wall.

Although the characters have flaws, which often contribute to the plot development, these are not the grand flaws of classical tragedy. A realist play is usually serious, and the incidents may have grave consequences—such as Nora’s decision to leave her home and family—but rarely ends in tragic events such as a main character’s death. It could be argued, however, that by taking such a bold step, Nora is embarking on a quest and thus resembles a Romantic hero.

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Many of Ibsen's contemporaries were positively scandalized by his portrayal of middle-class life in A Doll's House. They felt that it was somewhat scandalous for a playwright to delve beneath the respectable facade of bourgeois existence and present such a frank and honest portrait of people as they are, rather than as we want them to be.

Such criticism is a backhanded compliment to Ibsen's fidelity to the principles of dramatic realism, which he turned into an art form, here as elsewhere in his plays. Ibsen wanted to present men and women warts and all, capturing both their good sides and bad sides. There is no sentimentality or idealization of people in A Doll's House; instead, we are introduced to them as they really are.

In real life, people, even ostensibly good people, do bad things. They lie, cheat, and steal, showing themselves to be quite complex characters beneath their respectable exteriors. Nora Helmer is one such person. On the face of it, she seems like an ordinary, middle-class housewife, a respectable member of society. However, as the play progresses, we discover that there's much more to her than meets the eye.

Nora once forged her late father's signature on a loan application so that she could pay for...

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her husband to have some much-needed rest and recuperation after an illness. This is not the kind of behavior we'd expect from such a respectable lady as Nora.

But Ibsen's not interested in ideals; he's interested only in reality. And the reality is that outwardly respectable people do such far from respectable things much more often than we'd like to admit.

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Ibsen's play stands as an example of modern realism because portrays truthfully the characters and the conflicts. The play lacks sentimentality and romance of any kind. Nothing is glorified. There is no "happy ending." The ending instead is rather shocking, given the society in which Nora lives, but it is consistent with the way in which her character has been developed throughout the drama.

The marriage between Nora and Torvald is presented realistically for what it is: a sham. Nora points this out to her husband in the play's conclusion, explaining that they have been "playing" at marriage rather than living in an authentic partnership of mutual caring and sharing. Their home has been only "a doll's house." Ibsen shines a strong light on the Torvalds' relationship, softening none of its aspects.

Torvald's character is treated realistically, as well, revealing his arrogance, authoritarianism, and selfishness. His "concern" for his wife is not romanticized. Torvald does not "take care" of Nora because he loves her; he "takes care" of her only because he treats her as his inferior. In truth, he does not take care of her at all. He only controls her, exercising his power over every detail of her daily life.

The play's conclusion is also realistic. As a genre, realism does not specifically demand an "unhappy" conclusion, but it does demand a concusion that is consistent and reasonable, given the circumstances. Nora's leaving Torvald is consistent with her character as she has grown in self-awareness. The play does not offer a sudden "happy ending" with Nora and Torvald falling into each other's arms. Even when Torvald swears he will change and begs Nora to stay, she looks truth in the face and rejects his promises, placing no faith in his integrity.

Ibsen does not glorify or romanticize Nora's leaving. She will be separated from the children she loves, and she will have to make her way in the world alone. Nothing in her life has prepared her for what lies ahead. Her future will not be an easy one. There is no glory or sentimentality in A Doll's House," only painful choices.

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How does A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen exemplify realism?

As the creative work of Henrik Ibsen, the pioneer of realist theater, A Doll’s House  exhibits all the defining elements that are unique to the genre. Among the fundamental factors that are evident in the play, the most salient are:

a) Real-life characterization: Nobody is idealized and there are no symbolic personages that will hold a magical solution to any given issue.

Notice how transparent each character is, and how easy it is to describe them, as well as to connect with them. 

Nora is an over-pleasing wife, desperate to gain validation from her husband. Christine is a lonely woman in dire circumstances. Dr. Rank is a terminally-ill, love sick man. Krogstad is a disgruntled employee seeking revenge. Torvald is…a lot of things. Either way, all descriptors are simple enough and true to life.

b) Unadorned scenarios: Life occurs as-is.  Actions may or may not have consequences. Justice may or may not be served. Love may or may not conquer all. Like life, nothing is entirely black and white. Twists and turns are possible, and things can fall apart if something makes it happen.

Nora’s problem is quite real.  She owes money and she made a rotten deal. She is being blackmailed and the rationale behind her issue will be met with neither understanding nor compassion. Another example is the Helmer marriage. The marriage is a sham, and only the audience (and Christine) knows it. Slowly, situations will come to a boiling point and all will be exposed. This will not be due to divine intervention, or even Karma. It is simply the way things turn out when a relationship lacks a solid foundation.

c) Dialogues and insights that imitate daily conversations: Forget the fluff. No Shakespearean experience here. There will not be soliloquies of passion, and epiphanies will happen if they happen.

In A Doll’s House, even the most poignant events are not talked over using too much drama. Christine boldly tells Krogstad that she is happy to get with him because she is alone and wants someone to take care of.

What a difference! what a difference! Someone to work for and live for—a home to bring comfort into. That I will do, indeed.

Even when Nora leaves Torvald, while she does wax from sad to resigned, she does not do this by ranting a long-winded argument defending herself. The dialogue is ongoing, back and forth, between her and Torvald. She simply states what she already knows: that she is a plaything to the men in her life. She then tells Torvald, plainly and simply, that she is leaving all behind and admits that she has no clue as to what to do next. One thing is clear: She has decided to leave and there is no turning back.

That's right. Now it is all over. I have put the keys here. The maids know all about everything in the house—better than I do. To-morrow, after I have left her, Christine will come here and pack up my own things that I brought with me from home. 

This leads to further evidence of realism in the play, and it is that:

d) There can still be evidence of melodrama. Realism is a very close approximation of life, but it still can hold on to dramatic traditions such as the dramatic entrances and exits of characters on key occasions, the appearance and disappearance of crucial things (such as the letter of Krogstad), and the appeal to the emotions of the audience.

There is still a strong vibe of love in the play. We can still feel the “ups and downs” of unreturned devotion in the characters of Dr. Rank, in Krogstad’s history with Christine, and in Nora’s own issues with Torvald. There are dramatic spikes in the wait for the letter, and dramatic lows when Dr. Rank sends in his death card. It can all still be there. All realism does is tone down excessive drama and imitate life as is.

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