I have to write an essay about the elements of A Doll's House that show that Nora and Torvald live in a doll's house. How can I form a good thesis statement?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In developing a potential thesis statement about the doll's house existence of the Helmer family in A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen some considerations could be:

A doll's house is usually a treasured toy kept and enjoyed for many years. It is filled with perfect miniature furniture and perfectly placed accessories which tend to depict an ideal scenario.

In Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, Torvald and Nora Helmer are living a lie even if they do not realize it at first. The image of a doll's house implied in the title is apparent on various occasions and all the elements of Nora as a "doll-wife" and her children as dolls are revealed.

Some good examples from Act I are useful in discussing the elements that reveal Nora and Torvald's doll-house existence.

1. Torvald is patronizing when he talks of Nora as his "little spendthrift" or any of the other diminutive names he has for her. Nora is keeping a secret which threatens to unhinge the family dynamic. On the surface, they live a picture-perfect life and the doll's house is a symbol of their own false outward-focused appearance.

2. Nora shows Torvald what she has bought for the children. The doll she has bought for Emmy is inexpensive and obviously not expected to last long, but that does not worry Nora because it is "good enough for her to pull to pieces." The doll has no personality and a doll's house lacks personality. Nora and Torvald have personalities that are shallow and lack real emotion. They will ultimately destroy their volatile relationship just as Emmy will break her doll and never form a lasting bond with it such as many little children do.

3. Torvald talks to Nora in the third person on numerous occasions, for example when he says, "Hasn't she even nibbled a macaroon or two?" He questions Nora directly but calls her "she" instead of "you." 

4. Torvald will not entertain the idea of taking out a loan and Nora therefore keeps her secret from him because she fears he will find out "our beautiful, happy home would never again be what it is," says Nora. This confirms that the Helmers have their life arranged like a doll's house with nothing out of place.

5. When Nora's children return from their outing, Nora refers to them as "little dolly children," revealing her own awareness that she in fact lives in a doll's house but that this lifestyle suits her at this point. 

The thread continues throughout, and finally in Act III when Nora's secret has been revealed she talks to Torvald. She talks about how she was her father's "doll-child" and how her father played with her in a manner similar to how she played with her dolls. She continues and tells Torvald how she has been his "doll-wife" and admits that she has treated their children like dolls.

All of these examples reveal the doll's house which Torvald and Nora occupy and their life which up to this point has lacked any depth.  Explore these examples in explaining the concept.