Doll’s House By Ibsen

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In many pieces of literary work, there are elements that are used to helpdevelop the audiences understanding of characters and events. In the play ADolls House * by Henrik Ibsen, animal imagery is used in the development ofthe main character, Nora. It is also later found that the animal imagery is acritical part in understanding who Nora is, and how other characters perceiveher. Ibsen uses creative, but effective, animal imagery to develop Norascharacter throughout the play. The animal imagery is carried out through thedialect between Nora and her husband Torvald. He uses a lot of bird imagery,seeming that Torvald thought of Nora as some kind of bird. It is also evidentthat the animal names he calls Nora, directly relates to how Nora is acting orhow Torvald wants her to be portrayed. In Act I, Torvald asks, “Is that myskylark twittering out there?” referring to Nora. A lark is a happy andcarefree songbird. A lark can also be used as a verb that means to engage inspirited fun or merry pranks. Right from the beginning of the play it is evidentthat Nora is a lively spirited and carefree woman, just as a lark might be.

Torvald again referrers to Nora early in the play as “my little lark” whenshe is moving around the room and humming with a carefree spirit that mightcharacterize a lark. From this we might assume that whenever Nora has spirit oris supposed to be happy, Torvald thinks of her as a bird, specifically a lark.

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In contrast to Torvald calling Nora a lark, immediately after he refers to heras a squirrel in asking, “Is that my squirrel rustling?” This is interestingin the development of both Nora and Torvalds characters because a squirrel isquite different than a lark. A squirrel is a small furry rodent that tends tohave negative and sneaky connotations. If someone is to squirrel away something,they are hiding or storing it. This is directly related to what Nora is doing,she is hiding or “squirreling” away the bag of macaroons. Through the animalimagery of the squirrel, Ibsen is also foreshadowing that Nora is hiding morethan just macaroons form Torvald. She is hiding that she borrowed money fromKrogstad, however we dont learn that until later in the play. Looking deeperinto the meaning behind Ibsens animal imagery, we find that Torvald possiblywants Nora to be a bird. The birds that Torvald calls her, such as “lark”and “songbird” are stereotypically carefree, peaceful animals. This is thecase on the surface however. On the inside birds may have many struggles, suchas just finding food to survive. But these birds do not show their struggles,and despite what they may be going through they are still a symbol of peace andperfect happiness. This is how Torvald wants Nora to be, perfect and happy allthe time no matter what she really may want or be feeling. It is possible thatbecause he wants her to be this way, Torvald actually thinks she is this way,always happy and that she shows no emotion to what is going on in her life. InAct II, Nora begs Torvald to let Krogstad keep his position at the bank. WhenTorvald says that it must be done, Nora gets quite worked up about it. WhenTorvald calms her down, he notices her “frightened Doves eyes.” A dove isthe unmistakable symbol of peace, or peace keeping, which is in essence whatNora it trying to do. If Torvald fires Krogstad then she will have to give himthe money she borrowed and things will be anything but peaceful after that.

However, Torvald does notice that Nora is trying very hard to convince him tokeep Krogstad at his bank, but be disregards it as her trying to keep thingsright and refers to her as a peaceful dove. Later in Act II, Nora tries adifferent tactic in keeping things peaceful and from Keeping Torvald fromfinding out about the money she borrowed. She even goes as far as callingherself all the names that Torvald calls her and she says that, “Id turnmyself into a little fairy and dance for you in the moonlight Torvald.” Shedoes this because she wants Torvald to be happy with her at this point, for sheknows he is going to eventually find out about the money she owes. In parallelto what she is trying to do, a fairy is a small creature with magical powers,which at this point Nora would love to be so she could prevent Torvlad forfinding out about what she has done. In ACT III, Torvald discovers the note, butalso quickly dismissed it because of a second note form Krogstad. Nora tries tocalm down after Torvalds outburst at her for her betrayal. He attempts tocomfort her by saying that he will keep her despite the incident. He also saysthat he is has, “broad wings to shield Nora,” and that he “shall watchover her like a hunted dove which he snatched unharmed from the claws of thefalcon.” This is Torvalds way of saying how he wished to watch over andprotect Nora. On the surface this sounds like a good offer, considering thatNora did deceive him and hide the fact that she borrowed money form Krogstad.

But Torvald says that he will watch over her, implying that he does not trusther or want to trust her. He is in a sense treating her like a child or like adoll, instead of as his wife. Torvald thinks he needs to be there to watch outfor her, and that she would be nothing without him to play with her or tell herhow she should be. This is a big part of the reason why Nora left. She no longerneeded, or maybe she never did need his “broad wings” to shelter her. Andjust as the bird that Torvald always wanted Nora to act like, she flew away,just as a dove or a lark would do when they were afraid or no longer wanted tostay somewhere. In many pieces of literary work, there are elements that areused to help develop the audiences understanding of characters and events. Inthe play A Dolls House, Ibsen uses animal imagery as a way of helping hisaudience come to a better understanding of the events and characters. Animalimagery is critical in the character development for both of the maincharacters, Torvald and Nora, in showing how both of them perceive the other. *ADolls House appears in Sylvan Barnet, et al. , Introduction to Literature,11th ed. (New York: Longman, 1997), 1061-1112.

BibliographyIbsen, Henrik. “A Dolls House.” An Introduction to Literature. Ed.

Sylvan Barnet et al. 11th ed. New York: Longman, 1997. 1061-1112

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