A Doll’s House Henrik Ibsen
Ibsen • Norwegian Playwright 1829-1906 • Modernist – “father of realism” • Free inquiry into social morality - not strictly feminist! • Influences – Shaw, Miller, Wilde, O’Neill, and Joyce “a profound poetic dramatist – the best since Shakespeare”
Characters • Nora Helmer Main character Never lived alone, going immediately from her father’s house to her husband’s house. Depicted as inexperienced, sheltered, impulsive, and materialistic. • Are these mere masks? • Is Nora forced to present a façade due to the patriarchal oppression she faces? • How does she dynamically change due to events?
Torvald Helmer Eight years Nora’s husband. Barrister who won’t take unsavory cases. Promoted to bank manager – middle-class Avoids relationships in general • What proof can you note of this propensity? Concerned with morality • What proof can you note of this attitude? • What words first come to mind in describing his character? • How do his pet names for Nora denigrate her?
Dr. Rank Friend and a physician. Embodies and subverts the theatrical role of the male moral force traditionally presented in plays of the era. Rather than a paternal, moral force presents as a corrupt force both physically and morally. What are his personal attributes of corruption as depicted by Ibsen?
Mrs. Christine Linde Old schoolmate of Nora’s Ten years have passed since their last meeting. Three years a widow. Pressed for money following her husband and mother’s deaths. • How does she impose on Nora? • What is divulged concerning her past? • How does she represent a foil for Nora?
Nils Krogstad Blackmails Nora • How does his past parallel Nora’s current situation? • What forces push him to blackmail Nora? • Is his character dynamic? Why or why not?
Minor Characters • Ivar, Bob, and Emmy Nora and Torvald’s children What part do they play? • Anne Family Nurse • What is her background? • Is it part of the social commentary? Why or why not?
The play’s action centers on the development and the alterations of the relationships among Nora, Helmer, Krogstad, and Mrs. Linde. • How do their relationships illuminate their personalities and dictate their actions? • How do they emphasize the themes and social comments of the play?
Nora is a woman who places moral principles above legal values. • What consequence does this viewpoint have on her in terms of the play’s plot? • What reactions must she deal with from the other characters? • How does she view herself compared to how other characters view her?
Discuss the play’s unraveling and philosophical ending. • What makes it successful? • What final effect remains with the audience? • What lines from the last Act have literal and symbolic meaning?
Analyze the following quote: • “You should have let it alone; you must prevent nothing. After all, it is splendid to be waiting for a wonderful thing to happen” (54; sc. 2).
“Two on the same piece of wreckage would stand a better chance than each on their own” (56; sc. 3).
“I have been performing tricks for you, Torvald. That’s how I’ve survived. You wanted it like that. You and Papa have done me a great wrong. It’s because of you I’ve made nothing of my life” (68; sc. 3).
“I would gladly work night and day for you, Nora – bear sorrow and want for your sake. But no man would sacrifice his honour for the one he loves” (71; sc. 3).