What literary devices are used in A Doll's House?

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The cultural, traditional and emotional connection that Ibsen creates between the characters of A Doll's House and the audience are what make his play a narrative which is still relevant to audiences today.

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There are several literary devices used in A Doll's House.

First, there is a great deal of irony in the play. As he is trying to calm his wife, Torvald demonstrates verbal irony when he tells Nora, "You will see I am man enough to take everything upon myself." Yet Torvald could not even navigate his own health issues in the past; Nora had to secretly pay for his treatments herself. Later, when Nora tells Torvald that she is leaving him, he begs her to stay and even offers to live like "brother and sister" instead of man and wife. Torvald is so baffled about Nora's decision to leave that he cannot fathom how he could have possibly influenced her decision. Clearly, he is not able to "take everything upon [himself]" and validate his wife's needs.

Mrs. Linde uses a simile when she recalls a comment Krogstad made and then admits that she understands this comparison: "I am like a shipwrecked woman clinging to some wreckage." This simile portrays the sense of desperation that Mrs. Linde feels, completely alone in the world.

There are numerous examples of foreshadowing in the play, as well. The play opens with Nora snacking on some macaroons, and later in the scene, Torvald questions her about it: "Hasn’t Miss Sweet Tooth been breaking rules in town today?" The fact that Torvald has "rules" for his wife to follow is shocking, but then Nora lies about eating those sweets several times during his subsequent interrogation. Nora's need to hide such a trivial fact from her husband establishes an undercurrent of deceit and foreshadows further trouble on the horizon.

Those macaroons can also be seen as a symbol in the play, representing Torvald's need to control his wife and also symbolizing Nora's deception. Dolls are another symbol used to represent women who are easily controlled by the men in their lives. Nora tells Torvald that her father called her "his doll-child" and that she has become Torvald's "doll-wife." Interestingly, earlier in the play, she calls Emmy her "sweet little baby doll," indicating that Nora has been raising her own daughter to fulfill this same passive role which she has grown to hate.

The ending can also be seen as a paradox. As she leaves, Nora tells Torvald that he cannot write to her, because she cannot receive anything "from a stranger." On a superficial level, this seems to be inherently untrue. After all, Nora and Torvald have been married for years. She has birthed his children and has even risked her own reputation in order to secretly obtain funds for medical treatment for him. Yet in the end, Nora realizes that Torvald never really knew her at all; he has only seen his wife as a "heedless child" who needed his guidance and influence.

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

Literary devices are techniques (ways to do things, styles, or forms) that authors use to get the attention of the reader. Getting the reader's attention can be done in a myriad of ways, which include playing with words, creating imagery, comparing and contrasting, or using metaphors, just to name a few. 

Since A Doll's House is a play, one must analyze what elements that may be allusive to something else. Also, check the language used to see if some things are allegorical, ironic, metaphorical, figurative, and so on. 

According to The Continental Drama of Today by Barrett H. Clark (1914, pp. 17–19) Henrik Ibsen had a desire to expose ideas that, at the time, would have caused horror in a puritanical society such as the one he lived in. Case in point, the idea of a woman leaving her husband, children, and position in society, to go "somewhere" and find herself as a human being is quite subversive. If this idea still sort of pulls a nerve in the 21st century's social mindset, imagine what it did 200 plus years ago when society was entirely bound to norms and rules that women were expected, nay, obligated, to follow.

This being said, a topic of this nature had to be treated in a very subtle way. To do so, figurative language and literary elements would come quite handy to disguise an otherwise controversial topic.

Here are some examples:

Doll's house—The title of the play itself entails that the home where Nora lives is not really a typical family household, but a type of stage where she gets to play the part of her husband's "little squirrel," that is, entertainer, nurturer, and keeper. Nora is not a real doll, but she definitely plays the part. The title is a metaphor of her situation.

Holiday season (Christmas)—The play takes place during a season that is joyous, family-oriented, but also cold and isolating. It is also a season of indulgence and gift-giving. Most of these elements also describe Nora's marriage: cold, isolated, but filled with little indulgences that seem to make up for the lack of everything else. Some of these indulgences include the eating of macaroons behind Torvald's back, shopping, dancing, and playing the role of the house's "doll."

The Tarantella—In Act II, with a gripping fear of the incriminating letter left by Krogstad, Nora diverts her husband's attention by asking him to watch her dance the Tarantella. This, is an ancient Italian dance that is folkloric, and supposedly meant to rid people of the poison caused by spider bites. Similarly, there is a poison Nora wants to get rid of: the secret of her dealings with Krogstad. As such, Nora danced so widly that her hair came down, and her husband was shocked about it:

"Stop! This is sheer madness. You have forgotten everything I've taught you."

This quote also tells volumes: Nora's secret is oppressing her but, her husband, who is expected to dictate her life, oppresses her as well. She is on the verge of a serious shift of mind.

Macaroons: The famous macaroons (which should read "macarons"—one "o") that Nora is so fond of, are symbols of her secrecy. She eats them behind her husband's back (although he is fully aware of her sweet tooth) in a way that shows a mild rebellion towards him. She knows that her husband likes to curb her enthusiasm for this treat. As such, she eats them regardless, and in hiding. This is another way to show how Nora wants to defy what would be an "establishment" that intends to dictate the way she should lead her life. 

These are just a few of the many literary elements in A Doll's House. For further help, visit eNotes' Guide to Literary Terms and see for yourself how rich this play is in terms of irony, metaphors, similes, and much more.

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

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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How does the author create meaning in A Doll's House?

The "meaning" of the play, according to the definition of the term "meaning" in literature, would be, in the words of Professor Jon Lye,

In the conventions, traditions, cultural codes which have been handed down, so that. . . the meaning of the text. . . would be created by common traditions and conventions of usage, practice and interpretation.

This being said, meaning has to convey a cultural, traditional, and emotional connection with readers in order for the text to make any sense to them. That is the essential notion of what meaning is. Let us then explore how the playwright uses these three elements to convey connection and thus create "meaning" in the play. 

Culture and conventions connection- The culture to which this refers is the composite of mannerisms, social expectations, and idiosyncrasies of the time and place in which the play occurs. In this case, the "culture" is Victorian society of the mid to late 1800s. The woman is expected to be the proverbial "angel of the household" and social and gender ranks are clearly delineated. 

Ibsen creates meaning when all of these elements are presented well in the play, yet they are endangered by the changes that loom in the horizon: changes that are not just circumscribed to Nora, but to a whole era. These will be times in which women will ask questions, demand an active role in society, and question the "establishment." The pretty little "doll's house," in which Nora is the doll, is slowly coming to a sure and steady end. 

Tradition- Again, the author presents us with visual "stamps" that, for us, are quite easy to relate to: the warming hearth during winter, the Christmas tree in the living room, children playing in the household, a "happy," cheerful wife, and a hardworking husband.  The Helmers are the epitome of traditionalism. Here, the author uses those very stamps to slowly filter in how they are all part of a very large facade. They are all part of a huge illusion of comfort and joy which hides a massive crack in the pavement: the reality which lies beneath that illusion. These include the sacrifices that women make to perpetuate the image of "virtuous perfection" that they are expected to fulfill, the suppression of the rights of females, and the ridiculous expectations bestowed upon them which make the charade continue. 

Emotion- All of the examples of connections mentioned above elicit feelings of commiseration in the audience. In the case of A Doll's House, the play mainly caused shock when it was first staged.The rebellion of Nora was seen as immoral, and Ibsen caught a lot of backlash with his play. 

Certainly, he has an ethical comprehension of human life; however, his own feeling does not always dictate to him the moral law, which in each single case must and should be applied. Besides, as far as the present work is concerned, the effect of the resolution is weakened by the fact that the final scene is too long. Fædrelandet (The Country), Copenhagen, 22 December 1879.

However, the modern reader (and even the progressive reader of Ibsen's era) can understand the meaning that Ibsen intended to convey. Meaning is entirely relevant to the story that we can connect to it. Ibsen created meaning by creating a scenario which we can all relate to in terms of what is real and fake about it. He gave us the entire meaning to the point that it is still understood in today's modern times.

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