How does the author use literary elements in A Doll's House?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In A Doll's House, Nora is a flippant, self-absorbed, nineteenth century wife who comes to a stark realization that there is more to her life than being her husband's "little spendthrift," and that there is something essentially flawed in the concept of a woman as a pretty possession, having left her father's house, not to become an independent young woman, but dependent on her husband and treated almost like a child.

Henrik Ibsen uses a fairly traditional story-line to reveal to his audience that there is nothing healthy about a relationship based on control (Torvald's) and deception (Nora's). Literary elements include such things as the setting, the plot, the themes and the way characters are portrayed and these allow Ibsen to develop characters who contribute to the overall conflict, itself a literary element.

Nora's character develops more through her actions. Hiding her macaroon habit from Torvald reveals a great deal about her, and the fact that Torvald is condescending and controlling, helps the audience understand him better. This is indirect characterization, where actions reveal more than physical descriptions, and is a technique used significantly by Ibsen. He also uses a more direct approach when describing the lives of his other characters, such as Dr Rank. Dr Rank must suffer the hereditary effects of his father's indiscretions which do seem to define him.  

The setting in a traditional home, in the nineteenth century and the plot or story-line set the audience up to understand the apparent conflict: that of Nora's internal struggle to fit into her society and her external struggle as she fights the establishment by defying her husband and forging her father's signature. Things come to a head when Nora sees her life as meaningless and unfulfilled. 

The tone of A Doll's House also makes a contribution as the audience sees what appears to be a relaxed, family atmosphere but is also aware of the tension below the surface. This foreshadows events that will follow.

Ibsen, therefore, makes good use of literary elements to enrich his play and this ensures that audiences will continue to enjoy it and to recognize its value in highlighting problems within family structures. This adds a timeless element to the play as similar problems, still exist today. 

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