What would be a Freudian interpretation of Nora in A Doll's House? Nora is "possessed" by both her husband and her father. It appears that her failure in marriage is a subconscious attempt to...

What would be a Freudian interpretation of Nora in A Doll's House?

Nora is "possessed" by both her husband and her father. It appears that her failure in marriage is a subconscious attempt to continue the father-daughter relationship.

Asked on by jhand14

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e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The relationship between Nora and Helmer is nearly explicitly paternal. This can certainly be related to the notion of Freud's "Electra complex" wherein the daughter seeks a romantic affiliation with the father figure (and engages in competition with the mother figure). 

In Act I, Nora is little more than a child playing a role; she is a "doll" occupying a doll's house, a child who has exchanged a father for a husband without changing or maturing in any way.

At the close of the play, however, Nora finds a way to break free from (to subvert) this Electra complex. 

We might read her initial desire to both please and be saved by her husband as a neurotic extension of her natural, healthy psychological impulses regarding her father figure. The transference of this neurosis from her father to Torvald Helmer is, essentially, the nature of her psychological conflict. She must find a way to overcome the unhealthy exaggeration of her feelings toward the father figure. 

Importantly, Nora becomes aware of this dynamic. She consciously connects her husband to her father and recognizes the pattern of behavior in which they (and she) have stunted her development into an adult identity. She chooses at this point to take positive action, to become assertive, and to break away from the paternal bond that has been the subject of her neurosis. 

We see the nature of her decision expressly stated in her confrontation with Torvald in the play's final act. 

Helmer: Before anything else, you’re a wife and mother.

Nora: I don’t believe that any more. I believe that before anything else, I’m a human being, just as much a one as you are … or at least I’m going to turn myself into one.… I want to think everything out for myself and make my own decisions.

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