A Dolls House by Henrik Ibsens - Literary Analysis Essay

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Written at the beginning of the 20-th century Henrik Ibsen’s drama A Dolls House realistically portrays the ornamental position of a woman in the household that was generally characteristic of the epoch. Being constantly occupied with everyday petty troubles as well as her big and little secrets, Nora considers herself genuinely happy and seems hardly aware that her husband treats her rather like a pet than a human being. Both Nora and Torvald need a shock of Krogstads villainy letter to realize the truth about their lives. Torvalds truth was the awareness that his treasured wife is not an innocent lark whose main business is to chirp and dance to amuse him. Torvald is astonished to find out that Nora is a secretive intelligent person, able of a crime as he sees it. However, the Noras truth seems much harder: she realizes that she is married to a man who only declares that he wants to protect her and shield her with his broad wings (Ibsen 126) from whatever disaster may come. In reality, when the catastrophe of Krogstad’s letter revealing Nora’s deception and forgery comes forward, Nora suddenly becomes aware that her beloved husband is in fact a coward and a traitor whose main concern is public opinion and outward decency of his position.

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Examples of Dramatic Irony in a Dolls House by Henrick Ibsen

The irony of Torvalds situation lies in the fact that he is actually not aware that he himself vividly represents the vices he condemns most moral corruption and lying. His moral corruption is his vanity and oversensitive perception of himself in the eyes of society. He wants everybody to see him dignified, a successful career man, and a strict but loving husband. He claims that he would not condemn a man for a single false step in order to look generous and big-hearted in his own and his wife’s eyes. However, Nora, along with the reader, realizes those are merely words that Torvald never intends to live up to, as he contradicts them multiple times. At first, he is ready to fire Krogstad not even because of his spoilt reputation but only since Krogstasd as Torvalds old university acquaintance calls him by his Christian name, and he insists on doing it even when others are present. He delights in putting on airs of familiarity-Torvald here, Torvald there! (Ibsen 60). Such overt familiarity on the side of a person whose status in society is questionable is painful for Torvald as if he fears being stained by Krogstad. Moreover and more importantly, Nora grasps that Torvald will immediately stop being protective and patronizing of her as soon as he finds out that she is a more complicated person than he has always assumed. Upon finding out that Nora has committed a crime of forging her father’s signature to get a money loan from Krogstad, Torvalds in no time withdraws from Nora as his wife and the mother of his three children. It does not matter to him that Nora commits forgery only to get the money to save his own life and then lies to him in order to spare his sense of dignity. Nora is terrified and stupefied to realize that she is now just a hideous criminal and a dishonest unprincipled woman who destroyed his whole happiness and ruined his future (Ibsen 107). Furthermore, Nora is stunned to find out that they must go on living as they have always done; but of course only in the eyes of the world (108). It is unbearable for Nora to become aware that Torvald is not the man she fell in love with someone she thought deeply and wonderfully loves her and would not hesitate a moment to give his very life for her sake (75). Not only Torvald is unwilling to give his very life for Nora’s sake, it never even occurs to him to take the charge of forgery upon himself. In fact, his greatest fear is that people will think that he was at the bottom of it all and even egged her on (108).

A Dolls House Is Torvald Emotionally Abusive

The evening Torvald reads two of Krogstads letters - one blackmailing him and the other where Krogstads apologizes for the first one, - Nora’s eyes open to see not only the real person her husband is but also the truth about her own life and marriage. It becomes evident that Torvalds attitude to women, in general, is somewhat like people perceive furniture or an article of interior design: for instance, he advises Mrs. Linden to pick up embroidery instead of knitting only because it looks prettier: You hold the embroidery in the left hand so, and then work the needle with the right band, in a long, easy curve, don't you? while knitting is always ugly (107). He could as well be talking about fitting a vase of an appropriate color into the room. Torvald is also especially eager to help Nora dress up for parties and then rejoice in watching his wife be the most beautiful woman in the dancing hall. This also reveals Torvalds vanity and sexism. When Nora finally understands that, it becomes unbearable for her to go on living with a man like that under the same roof. She outgrows herself from being dancing and singing lark to a person who wants to educate (130) herself. Nora doubts herself being able to raise her own children and being a role model for them. She does not want to be a fit wife for Torvald anymore, and she wants to settle everything by herself, without Torvalds help.


In conclusion, Henrik Ibsen’s play A Dolls House illustrates the story of Nora’s awakening step-by-step from being a model wife and her master’s dolly. She becomes aware that it just seemed to her that she was happy doing tricks for her husband since no one can be truly happy while constantly hiding who they really are. She understands that her communion with Torvald Helmer cannot be called a marriage understood as a voluntary union of two equal people. Torvald appears to be drastically different from what she imagined him to be whereas Nora suddenly realizes her inner need to educate herself that becomes her primary aim of existence after leaving her husband and children.

Quotes in a Dolls House of How Torvald Treats Her

  • “Why shouldn’t I look at my dearest treasure? – at all the beauty that is mine, all my very own?”

  • "Now you have destroyed all my happiness. You have ruined all my future."

  • “I’d never have believed this. You really have forgotten everything I taught you.”

  • “I must stand on my own two feet if I'm to get to know myself and the world outside. That's why I can't stay here with you any longer.” - Nora

Works Cited

Ibsen, Henrik. A Dolls House. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 26 Paternoster square, 1900. Print.

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