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Nora: An Extraordinary "Doll" In "A Doll's House"

1351 words - 5 pages

Nora, the wife of Torvald Helmer and mother of three children, plays a fundamental role within Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House," published in 1879. Nora's character demonstrates typical characteristics of the `average woman' during the 1870's and 1880's. Women were not regarded as equals according to men; however women did have a large impact on the economy. This was caused by large sums of money spent on several garments, costumes, and accessories. It was customary, not to mention fashionable, for a woman to wear undergarments, a bustle, narrow shoes, and an expensive, lavish dress as well. The appearance of a lady was of utmost importance, so one must recognize that women strove to meet those standards. Nora strives to look and act pretty in order to please Torvald; however she, like many other women during this time period, does not address the manner in which she may have liked to dress or act. This is obvious in "A Doll's House" in Act One. Nora implores Torvald to decide what she will wear to the party. He takes this lightly, and decides moments later. One could conclude at this point in the play that Nora is growing tired of being treated as though she is a child or animal that needs to be tamed or calmed. In spite of her true emotions, Nora plays along with Torvald out of desperation for time, and money. She does not want him to sit down and read his letters, for Krogstad has sent a response to his dismissal that includes Nora's previous actions. It is the mere thought of Torvald gaining consciousness of her faults that creates the initial worry for Nora.

Many women during the 1870's and 1880's began to realize and emphasize their self-worth. Many women yearned for an escape from the confines of the home. Much like the underground man from Notes from Underground, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Nora seeks independence from the ties of society, as well as from her husband. She no longer wants to participate in a lifestyle that proves to be demeaning and lonely for herself, nor does she want to live according to what other people will think or say about her. She sets aside what others will say and decides for herself that she must leave Torvald. The concept of consciousness comes is a most important aspect to discuss at this point. All is well in the Helmer household until Krogstad's visit bestows the "gift" of consciousness to Nora. He informs her that it is obvious that she forged the papers three days after the death of her father. "The curious thing is, Mrs. Helmer, that your father signed this document three days after his death" (Ibsen 28). Upon receiving this "gift," Nora realizes that Torvald will discover her wrongdoings, thus consciousness grants Nora suffering, worry, and pain, just as consciousness granted these such things to the underground man, to Abraham, and to Hamlet. Nora knows that the second that Torvald gains consciousness, or knowledge, of what she has done, she will be doomed and their relationship...

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