In Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House, what is the significance of masking and how does it foreshadow Nora's changes at the end of the play?  

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his play A Doll's House, Henrik Ibsen uses references of masking to foreshadow Nora's change, or unveiling, at the end of the play. Throughout the play, Ibsen indicates that Nora is more than what she appears to be, she is especially more than what her husband, Torvald, sees her to be.

One instance of masking is seen through the mascarade, or fancy dress ball, that is given by Nora's neighbors after Christmas Day. According to Torvald's suggestion, Nora goes dressed as a Neapolitan fisher-girl and dances the Tarantella (Act II). The costume represents the pretenses Nora employed to get her husband to Italy. Although, Nora wanted to get her husband to Italy to save his life, she used lies and cunning to get them there. The mask of the costume Torvald chooses for her represents the innocent, propper wife that Torvald believed her to be in Italy, and still believes her to be. The costume also foreshadows change at the end of the play, because finally Nora acknowledges the truth to her husband, and also acknowledges knew truths to herself.

A second instance in which masking occurs is in Act I when Nora first asks Torvald to let Krogstad keep his post at the bank. Torvald refuses because he knows Krogstad is guilty of a fraudulent crime, such as forging a signature, that Krogstad was never punished for because he managed to get himself out of it. Torvald refers to Krogstad as a "guilty man" who wears "a mask in the presence of those near and dear to him" (Act I). The phrase wearing a mask refers to Krogstad pretending to be innocent when he is really guilty. Krogstad's mask directly parallels Nora's mask, because they both committed forgery for similar reasons, to save the life of someone dear to them. Just like Krogstad, Nora must pretend that she is innocent. The mask also foreshadows Nora's unveiling at the end of play, because finally, Nora sheds her mask and admits the truth.

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A Doll's House

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