Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, a play originally written in Norwegian during the nineteenth century, provides an excerpt of the life of Nora and Torvald Helmer. Throughout the play, the characters experience struggle with situations such as emotional conflicts, keeping secrets, conversational exploitation, and physical distractions. Ibsen manipulates clothing to signal infiltration and withdrawal with the characters. The expressions of infiltration and withdrawal illustrates a spectrum from internally to externally. The internal expressions apply to the emotions the character either feels or does not feel and the secrets they withhold from each other. The external aspect denotes interactive events such as the conversations and entrances.
Ibsen removes characters’ emotions by having them adjust clothing. From the first act, Nora speaks to Torvald about wanting more money. In doing so, Nora begins, “[playing with his coat buttons and without raising her eyes to his]” (Doll act I). In this conversation with Torvald, Nora shows emotional withdrawal from Torvald through her refusal to look at him, in order to receive more money. Nora feigns innocence when she wants something from her husband; however, she does not have any emotional attachment when she manipulates Torvald. Moreover, Torvald, like Nora, demonstrates emotional detachment. When Torvald prepares to leave in act one, he concerns himself more with work than his feelings, “[Helmer comes out of his room with his coat over his arm and his hat in his hand]” (Doll act I). Although Torvald has a conversation with Nora before he leaves, he strictly talks about business. The conversation demonstrates how much emotionally detached Nora and Torvald really appear. Since Nora mentions the idea of Christine working at the bank, she partially holds the same amount of emotional withdrawal as Torvald. Additionally, Nora establishes her emotional withdrawal from Torvald. Ibsen describes:
TORVALD. But to part!—to part from you! No,no, Nora; I can’t understand that
idea. . .
NORA. [putting on her cloak]. I cannot spend the night in a strange man’s room.
(Doll act III)
Nora completely removes her emotional bond to Torvald by simply putting on her cloak. The implementation of the cloak acts as a symbol of Nora’s final separation of emotions from Torvald. The cloak also acts as a shield for Nora’s emotions. Her emotional withdrawal causes her desire to leave Torvald and her life behind.
When Ibsen unveils Nora’s intentions, clothing appears more frequently in the scenes. As Christine enters the play, Ibsen notes her traveling dress as if Christine is preparing to carry out information when she leaves. Nora mentions, “Whenever Torvald has given me money for new dresses and such things I have never spent more than half of it” (Doll act I). As soon as Nora speaks of clothes, she reveals that she has been withholding money from Torvald. The conversation about new dresses aids in the exposure of Nora’s...