What are two ways you can show contrasts in A Doll's House, and how can what is being contrasted become evident to the audience?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, a drama written to expose social problems, there are contrasts in behaviors and in attitudes.

  • Behavior

There is a marked contrast between the way in which Helmer treats his wife and the manner in which Dr. Rank, who stands as a foil to Helmer, relates to Nora. With her husband, Nora must play the submissive role and pretend that she knows little about practical matters. Helmer calls his wife such names as "singing lark," "pouty squirrel," and "little spendthrift"; he also criticizes her, telling her she is like her father,

HELMER ....You're always looking for ways to get money, but as soon as you do it runs through your fingers....Well, I  guess I'll just have to take you the way you are. It's in your blood.

Clearly, Helmer's treatment of Nora is demeaning. On the other hand, Dr. Rank is in love with Nora; he tells her he would give his life for her. He also understands Nora, unlike Helmer, observing,

RANK ....It has often seemed to me that you'd just as soon be with me as with Helmer.

  • How this contrast would be apparent to audiences:

Certainly, the dialogue would indicate much about Helmer's and Rank's characters. But, one distinguishing contrast is that of tone.

  • Attitudes

Helmer, who places an emphasis upon appearances and honor without concern for the feelings of those whom he presumably loves, contrasts greatly with Dr. Rank and especially Mrs.Linde, who extends herself lovingly for Nora. Worn and desperate for work, Mrs. Linde appreciates Nora's convincing her husband to give her work. In return, she offers her friendship to Nora and love to Krogstad after having had to reject him years ago, and they are reconciled,

MRS. LINDE ...You and I need one another. Nils, I believe in you--in the real you. Together with you I dare to do anything.

Mrs. Linde is understanding and giving, imparting her trust in Krogstad; Helmer is intractable and selfish, displaying no understanding or love; consequently, Nora leaves him when he reviles her--"You wretch! What have you done?....You have ruined all my happiness. My whole future...."-- rather than displaying any gratitude, for her having obtained the money that purchased his life-saving trip to a warmer climate.

  • How this contrast of attitudes would become apparent to audiences 

The Use of Dialogue: In the first part of Act 3, Nora's honesty and caring words to Krogstad in their dialogue greatly contrasts with the exchange in the latter part of Act 3 between Nora and Helmer when he learns of her having forged her father's name for a loan.

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A Doll's House

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