Discussion Topic

Nora's plight, downfall, tragic flaw, and the antagonist in A Doll's House

Summary:

Nora's plight in A Doll's House is primarily due to the way her father and husband treated her as a fragile possession, preventing her from achieving independence. Additionally, society's view of women as weak contributes to her situation. Other characters like Krogstad and Mrs. Linde also play roles in her downfall by forcing her to confront the truth, which they believe will help her mature.

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Who is to blame for Nora's plight in A Doll's House?

This is a very pertinent question to ask about this excellent play. Certainly there is ample evidence in the text to suggest that Nora's situation is the result of more than one person and society. A key part to analyse closely is the end of the play, when Helmer and Nora have their final showdown. Nora is able to be completely honest with her husband and is able to express how she was treated both by her father and then by her husband:

When I lived with Papa, he used to tell me what he thought about everything, so that I never had any opinions but his. And if I did have any of my own, I kept them quiet, because he wouldn't have liked them... then I passed from Papa's hands into yours. You arranged everything the way you wanted it, so that I simply took over your taste in everything...

Thus we can say that Nora's plight is the result of the way she has been treated by her father and then the way that her husband treated her in exactly the same way. This has resulted in Nora being married to a complete "stranger" and has never been able to achieve independence herself, because her father and then her husband have always protected her from the world because she was supposedly so "weak and fragile."

However, it would be unfair to lay all the blame at the feet of Nora's father and Helmer. Ibsen equally blames society for the way that it treats women as fragile objects or possessions that men need to dominate and protect. Ibsen seems to be suggesting that we do society at large a profound disservice by treating them this way and that women need to be recognised as human beings rather than just another possession, like the "doll" that Nora identifies herself with.

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Who else is responsible for Nora's downfall in A Doll's House?

I think we can safely conclude that the other characters of this excellent play, in particular Krogstad and Mrs. Linde, are most definitely responsible for Nora's downfall. It is clear in Act Three of this realist drama that things are catching up with Nora. Krogstad is threatening to reveal the truth about her spending habits fo Helmer, and there appears to be no escape. However, Mrs. Linde does have the ability to stop Krogstad from sending the letter, but she believes that Helmer should know the truth about Nora and her actions. Note what she says to Krogstad:

Helmer must know the truth. This unhappy secret of Nora's must be revealed. They must come to a full understanding. There must be an end of all these shiftings and evasions.

Mrs. Linde clearly feels that the artificiality and deceit of the relationship of Helmer and Nora must come to an end, and she sees Krogstad's letter as an excellent way of bringing things to a head and forcing Nora to grow up and mature. Clearly, therefore, Nora's downfall, if you choose to call it that, can be said to be the responsibility of other characters who are choosing to act in a way that they thing will help Nora.

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What is Nora's tragic flaw in "A Doll's House"?

Nora's flaw (until she finally had enough) was her insatiable need to seek acceptance from the outside, instead from herself.

Her entire life she lived pleasing her father to obtain his love and affection; then she did the same with her husband, and with society as a whole. Sure, this was expected of women of her time, but the character she let others make her become was a game of negotiation for approval.

Since a "tragedy" is made of the battles of the protagonist against circumstances then the circumstances which enabled this behavior on Nora's part surely put her on the losing end, considering that women were seen as caricatures, and as "dolls" to be played with.

Hence, when Nora finally noticed that, during all those years of seeking approval, acceptance, and love she was never seen with humanity, her negotiations ended in cold. She literally realized how much of a game she had been playing, and she simply turned around from it all, and made something of herself (or so we hope).

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What is Nora's tragic flaw in "A Doll's House"?

I don't see Nora as a tragic heroine in the classical sense; however, her primary flaw is her deceptiveness. Nora cloaks her every thought and deed in lies, regardless of whether there is any real benefit in the charade. She is almost a compulsive liar. Nora does not hesitate to commit forgery and then lie to Torvald about how she got the money from the loan. She lies to him about household expenses. Deceit appears to drive all of her actions.

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To what extent is Nora a tragic victim in A Doll's House?

Until Nora comes to the realization that her husband is a source of oppression in her life, she can certainly be seen as a tragic victim. She is dehumanized and infantilized by her husband on a daily basis. She internalizes this treatment to such an extent that she does not understand her own strength or independence. Nora is a victim of her husband as well as of her own complacency in her oppression. However, once Nora suddenly understands that she has the power to change her situation, she is no longer a victim of her circumstances. One may argue that she is not a tragic victim because her story does not end in tragedy. However, tragedy and victimhood can be just a part of someone's life, be it a beginning or an end. They can be a moment, however long or brief. Nora can be viewed as a tragic victim for a portion of her life and then can be viewed as a valiant and brave individual.

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To what extent is Nora a tragic victim in A Doll's House?

I don't think Nora is a tragic victim at all! In the end, after Torvald has revealed to her that his personal honor is worth more to him than her love for him, Nora tells him, "you neither think nor talk like the man I can share my life with." He has, all of a sudden, become a "strange man" to her, and she feels that she cannot stay another night in the house with him. She refuses to compromise, and she insists on having her own freedom and granting Torvald his. She returns his ring and demands her own in return. She returns the keys and leaves the children in the care of her husband and their servants. Had Nora submitted to Torvald's request that they continue to live together "as brother and sister" if need be, if she had agreed to return in any way to a life that she no longer found fulfilling or acceptable, this would be tragic. Instead, she abruptly ends her marriage and goes off into the night, alone and independent.

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To what extent is Nora a tragic victim in A Doll's House?

Nora is a tragic victim primarily because she is the "doll" wife to Torvald.  She has no real identity of her own and is never taken seriously by her husband.  She is simply this "porcelain doll" that acts on command and is there for everyone to admire her beauty.  This is an illustration of the reality of 19th century Europe, where a wife was regarded as property and not as an equal partner.  To make things worse for Nora, she is forced to lie to Torvald because she is trying to be this perfect "little" wife he desires.  He not only treats her as his prized possession (similarly to owning his home and other valuable possessions), he further humiliates her by treating her like a child.  He "lovingly" refers to her with pet names such as "singing skylark," "little squirrel," and "little spendthrift," while patting her on the head like she is his daughter instead of his wife.  As a result, Nora believes she is totally dependent upon her husband to survive, that is of course, until the end of the play.

This reason this Nora is a tragic victim is because she is a product of the time period and the social attitudes that repressed her true desires loving her husband as an equal.  It is not until she realizes his "fakeness" and deceit that she has the power to take control of her life and leave her husband.  Most readers sympathize with Nora and are routing for her to get a backbone, as she does when she leaves Torvald in the end of the play.

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What is Nora's tragic flaw in "A Doll's House"?

One opinion regarding questions like this is that it is not necessarily agreed that this play is a tragedy, and thus it is hard to consider the characters tragic in any traditional sense of the word. Maybe it is just an interpretation, but although the ending of the play is obviously sad, some critics side with Mrs. Linde in thinking that the confrontation that Helmer and Nora have is necessary and healthy for their relationship. Nora's decision to leave and the slamming of the door gives the play a hopeful ending. We are presented with a Nora who has gained self-knowledge about her character and the role that she has had in her life, both as a daughter and as a wife. Now, Nora desires more self-understanding, independence and control, which she thinks is impossible to attain whilst still married to Helmer. The path that awaits her is very unsure and uncertain, but because she has grown so much some find it a path that is very inspiring and hopeful. So therefore some do not think Nora can be conceived of as a tragic heroine.

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Who is the antagonist in A Doll's House?

On a concrete level, Nora's antagonists are her husband, Torvald, and his dismissed employee, Krogstad. Torvald keeps Nora in a submissive position in which she can't ask for anything and must borrow money in secret (and by illegally forging her father's name) to restore her husband to health. Torvald treats Nora like a child and does not allow her to have full agency. Krogstad, upset about having been fired by Torvald, writes Torvald a letter explaining Nora's misdeeds regarding the way she borrowed money. Torvald's immediate reaction to this letter is to repudiate Nora and tell her she is not fit to be a mother.

Therefore, both Torvald and Krogstad function as antagonists to Nora. However, on a larger, more abstract level, Nora's antagonist is the sexism inherent in her society. As a woman, she must rely on men to borrow or earn money, and she is treated like the doll in the play's title. It is only by rejecting her place in society and leaving her husband that she can begin to live more fully and with greater agency.

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Who is the antagonist in A Doll's House?

This is actually a much more complicated question than it first appears. The antagonist is defined as the character or force who is trying to prevent the protagonist achieving their goal. Obviously, Nora is the protagonist of this excellent play, but when we think about what she is trying to achieve, it becomes more complicated. It appears that Krogstad is the antagonist, as he is threatening Nora's security and position with the knowledge that he has. Thus we could argue that Nora's aim is to prevent Helmer discovering her fraud and to keep everything smoothed over in her marriage.

However, when we come to the final act of this play, and Helmer has discovered the truth, we come to reassess such conclusions. From what Nora says, we could state that Helmer has been the antagonist all along in the way that he has kept Nora in a "doll's house," just like her father, and treated her like a child rather than as an adult:

Now I look back on it, it's as if I've been living here like a pauper, from hand to mouth. I performed tricks for you, and you gave me food and drink. But that was how you wanted it. You and Papa have done m great wrong.

Thus, arguably, we can say that it is Helmer who is the true antagonist of the play, as he has constantly acted to prevent Nora developing a true self or understanding of her own identity.

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