What are the main points that I should cover in a discussion of characterization in Ibsen's A Doll House? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In discussing the process of Ibsen's development of character, there are certain aspects to consider:

  1. the physical description of characters
  2. the characters' actions
  3. the characters' thoughts, feelings, and speeches
  4. the characters' impressions upon others (i.e.how the other characters react to and comment on a particular character)
  5. direct statements giving the author's opinion of the characters. [This last method is called direct characterization, while the other four are indirect characterization. The reader can look at the stage directions and sometimes find examples of direct characterization]

Using the methods of indirect characterization, Ibsen develops the personality of the play's characters, a development from which issue internal and external conflicts. In addition, character development usually contributes much toward the development of themes and issues. Therefore, characters are absolutely intrinsic to the other elements of the play.

For instance, an examination of the characterization of Nora would include many of the small actions that she performs in the first part of Act I. Her surreptitious eating of the macaroons hints at how repressed she is in her marriage as do her responses to Helmer's patronizing epithets such as "my little prodigal," and "pouty squirrel." Further in Act I, the main conflict is also foreshadowed by Nora's response to her husband's complaint that she spends too much money:

NORA (hums, smiles mysteriously) You don't know all the things we songbird and squirrels need money for,Torvald.

Then, one foreshadowing of Nora's growing reaction to Helmer's oppression comes in Act I when she speaks with the boarder and her friend, Dr. Rank, about her husband's forbiddance of macaroons When he asks her what it is that she is "dying to say so Torvald could hear," she replies vehemently with a curse which contrary to her apparent submissive character: "I want to say G--dammit!" 

Along with development of Nora's character, the demeaning treatment and condescending and disparaging words of her husband Torvald also contribute strongly to the theme of the Feminine Issue that Ibsen illuminates in his drama. Indeed, an approach to the characterization of the personages of Ibsen's A Doll House must necessarily include the consideration of themes and issues as these characters interact.

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A Doll's House

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