What quotes from Ibsen's play A Doll's House express Nora Helmer's reactions to pressure from other people?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Ibsen's play, A Doll's House, Nora is very good at dealing with pressure from others. With Torvald she can flirt with him, or distract him.

In Act Two, when Torvald is ready to read the mail, and Nora is afraid he will find Krogstad's damning letter, she diverts his attention by striking the first chord of the tarantella, the dance that Nora will perform at the party. She plays the child, pretending that she just cannot do a good job unless he helps her.

No, I haven't practiced at all yet...Oh, it's absolutely necessary, Torvald. But I can't get anywhere without your help. I've forgotten the whole thing completely...I can't dance tomorrow if I don't practice with you...[I'm] so terribly frightened. Let me practice right now; there's still time before dinner. Oh, sit down and play for me, Torvald. Direct me. Teach me, the way you always have.

Torvald does not give Nora credit for being very bright, and it seems ridiculous to even consider that she might be manipulating him in some way. He falls right in with her plans, coddles her like a child, and is distracted by teaching her the dance, which she knows quite well.

In another instance in Act Two, when Nora is showing Dr. Rank her costume, she innocently flirts with him, showing him the dress, but also the flesh colored stockings she will wear. At the time, this would have been outrageous, as women did not let me see their legs, let along their undergarments. She even playfully slaps him on the ear with them, and then tells him he is "naughty."

Dr. Rank is dying and begins to think about how little time is left to him. Unaware of his struggle at that moment, Nora goes about "testing the waters" to see if she might be able to borrow money from Dr. Rank to pay off the loan. He is more than a little in love with her and would do anything for her, but she is unaware. She tells him he is her truest friend. However, when she begins to explain and tell him that Torvald would do anything for her (or so she thinks), Dr. Rank steps over the line of propriety (though Nora had just done so herself) and declares his feelings. Rank says:

Nora—do you think he's the only one—...Who'd gladly give up his life for you...I swore to myself you should know this before I'm gone. I'll never find a better chance. Yes, Nora, now you know. And also you know now that you can trust me beyond anyone else.

This confession has made things very uncomfortable for Nora. In so many ways, she really is a child. Rank's declarations have upset her. The first thing she asks the maid to bring in is light, so that the sense of reality returns. Then Nora acts as a petulant child and scolds Dr. Rank for "being mean" by telling her of his feelings, and, basically, ruining the "fun" they had been having. Then she scolds him a little more. When Rank says he should not return, she disagrees, saying he should come as always. For as soon as the matter is swept away, like a child, Nora pretends that it never happened.

Nora is excellent at diverting attention away from a problem at hand either with flirting or by providing a distraction. And she only uses the tools at hand. She is not consciously manipulative, but treated as a child, she has learned how to act within those confines.

Read the study guide:
A Doll's House

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