How to discuss materialism in A Doll's House in an essay?

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Materialism in A Doll's House manifests in Torvald Helmer's desire for more money, possessions, and outward signs of success, including having an image of the perfect wife in Nora.

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Materialism is not as major a theme in A Doll's House as gender inequality, but it is an idea which runs throughout the play, intersecting with Nora's unhappiness and Torvald's delusions. Torvald manages a bank and this occupation emphasizes how much importance he puts on money. He berates his wife Nora for spending money too freely, but money and the things it can buy are a major part of the outward appearance of success that Torvald craves. Money and possession are what make Torvald proud. From his house to his position at work to the very clothes Nora wears, Torvald is obsessed with making it appear as though he has everything. His aim is to impress others with things.

Nora is somewhat the same, though she is more interested in keeping Torvald impressed until after his sickness. She claims that for a long time, she liked being a doll for Torvald to play with as he pleased, but over time, she has become unhappier about being seen as one of many possessions, a sign of Torvald's success more than a person in her own right. Nora ultimately rejects the materialism which plagues Torvald, shattering the illusion that their life together is picture-perfect.

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How could I write an analysis essay for A Doll's House?

One area that might be particularly ripe for analysis would be the play's major conflict. There are four types of conflict: character vs. self, character vs. character, character vs. society, and character vs. nature. Nora does not seem to really oppose or antagonize herself in this play; once she makes up her mind to do something, she pretty much does it. She also does not seem to oppose nature (though a character like Dr. Rank who suffers from some chronic illness might). We might think that Nora's conflict is either one with another character or one with society in general. Therefore, the major conflict may be that which exists between Nora and her husband, Torvald. She disobeys him and breaks the law in one fell swoop; when he learns of her "deception" (which was done for his health), he belittles and insults her.

However, we might read the major conflict as one that exists between Nora and her society. Torvald could just be a representative of that society. It is a society that infantilizes women, prevents them from acting independently, and turns them into virtual "dolls" for their fathers and husbands to manipulate. Torvald isn't really acting in a socially unacceptable way. He is well within his rights to boss Nora around and punish her for disobedience. You could analyze the play using specific lines and passages in order to determine what the major conflict is and then write about the conflict's relationship to a theme. A major theme of this work is the idea that patriarchal societies deny women the opportunity to learn who they truly are as people, and this is damaging to everyone in society.

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