In Ibsen's play A Doll's House, what is "the importance of an unclouded knowledge of self to a development of true maturity"?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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At the beginning of the play, Nora Helmer is not able to reach true maturity because she is oppressed by her husband and the values of the male-dominated Victorian society surrounding her. Nora Helmer is considered a second-class citizen and objectified as a doll in her husband's home, which is a role Nora fulfills and embraces for the majority of the play. She does not seem to mind being called pet names and living underneath her husband's authority and supervision. Nora is essentially a naive, ignorant woman, who subscribes to her restricted role in society and must deceive her husband in order to avoid his wrath and public shame. It is only after Torvald discovers that his wife committed forgery and deceived him for an extended period of time that Nora realizes the truth about her oppressed status and lack of agency. Torvald's response to this shocking discovery reveals that he does not genuinely love Nora or view her as his equal. Nora experiences a dramatic transformation and decides to leave her husband and children to explore and express her individuality. By the end of the play, Nora acknowledges the unclouded truth about her oppressed status and objectified position in Torvald's home, which motivates her to pursue her own happiness. One could consider Nora's decision to embrace her individuality and pursue her personal desires as a mark of maturity, which directly correlates to her unclouded self-awareness.

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The short answer is very important indeed. This is a play consisting entirely of people alienated from their true selves by the identities imposed upon them by society. The result is that no one's able to reach true maturity, kept as they are in a state of arrested development by their pre-assigned social roles.

Nora would be the most obvious example here. Her husband, Torvald, treats her like a child, feeling he has to protect her from the dangers of a harsh, unforgiving world. His condescending attitude keeps Nora in a state of prolonged childhood, denying her moral agency and preventing her from forging a life for herself outside the stifling confines of the home.

It's only when the truth of her marriage is revealed that Nora is able to take the fateful leap and slam the door on Torvald and her children. For years, Nora had been kept down through ignorance. Torvald, seeing her as nothing more than a child, consistently denied her unclouded knowledge of the world outside. Although he may have believed he was only doing this for Nora's benefit, in actual fact he was preventing her from developing as an adult. And it's difficult to see how this could possibly have been in Nora's best interests.

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thanatassa eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One of the major themes of the play "A Doll's House" by Henrik Ibsen is that self-knowledge is needed for an authentic life. Throughout the play,Torvald has treated Nora like a child, and routinely refers to her using terms of endearment that portray her as a child. It is only at the end of the play when Nora obtains the self-knowledge that allows her to understand the marriage as a sham and recast herself as an adult making adult decisions that she can act as a moral agent and claim full responsibility for her actions, making mature ethical decisions about her own life and that of others. Nora acknowledges this responsibility that comes of self-knowledge when she claims responsibility for her own actions, saying:

I don't believe that any longer. I believe that before all else I am a reasonable human being, just as you are—or, at all events, that I must try and become one

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