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A Doll's House - Language

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A Doll's House - Language Towards the end of the 19th century, Henrik Ibsen set out to write a play which represented a realistic society, a play without melodramatic language in unbelievable situations, and a play which attempted to show the realities of modern life. The result was unsurprisingly controversial, yet Ibsen sacrificed audience appeal for the naturalistic language he wanted to portray. The effect of this kind of dialogue meant that audiences were able to relate to the characters they were seeing on stage, and the familiarity of the situations was compelling. People were being shown situations that were possible, and realistic, and for many who preferred to see only the traditional Victorian values society, it was shocking. Unlike many other plays of that time, Ibsen used natural speech patterns and mannerisms appropriate to that time period, but didn't take realism too far that the dialogue was incomprehensible and overlapping. Throughout the play, Ibsen uses pauses to create a sense of awkwardness as well as using interruptions in the dialogue, in an attempt to portray more realistic conversations. Nora If you wanted to give me something, could you - could you - Helmer Say it, say it. The most naturalistic feature of the language is its ability to change within the play, and within characters. There is a clear difference between the styles of language Nora uses when speaking to different people, and even within one conversation. ...read more.


Ibsen uses language to create tension, and to show that Nora wants to temporarily withhold information from Kristine, "Nora hums and smiles secretively/ you're dying of curiosity Kristine". When Mrs. Linde talks of her lack of grief from losing her husband, Nora is surprised, and asks "Kristine, can that be possible?" This could suggest that Nora is so sheltered that she cannot comprehend a life without a husband, or it could imply that she is genuinely interested as to whether it is possible. This is also echoed in "Tell me.....tell me" and Nora seems almost desperate to discover what life is like alone. This is the first time we see Nora actually listening to her friend, and actually seeming to want to hear her side. Their roles reverse, and instead of Mrs. Linde, we have Nora only saying short sentences, and asking questions "What happened?" This suggests to the audience that Nora is already thinking about the possibility of ending her marriage with Torvald, and starting a new life. Although the language is not highly complex or easily misunderstood, Ibsen still manages to convey subtle meanings within the text. The play is packed with innuendos and symbols, such as the significance of the New Year. This represents not only the beginning of a new job for Torvald and that Nora will be able to pay off her debt to Krogstad, but towards the end of the play, it symbolises Nora's new life, away from the constraints of a traditional Victorian household. ...read more.


By toying with Nora's emotions in this way, he is treating her like a doll. This relates to the title of the play, and eventually, Nora recognises this, "Our home was just a playroom". Nora's language changes dramatically towards the end of the play, and she leaves her Victorian values way behind "You don't understand me. No, don't interrupt me. Just listen to what I have to say". This is a complete role reversal, and at this point, Helmer is the one taking the submissive role "But, my dear Nora -". This is the aspect that shocked audiences, as it is a far cry from the precise, formal language audiences were used to, and that they witnessed at the beginning of A Doll's House. How it shows context Comparison of status Amount of time speaking Reflects 19th century Brings out themes Formal language, no slang Words complete, vocabulary complex Bourgeois society Sentences precise Hidden in language How is reflects life (class role play) Status of characters "HEL: That is like a woman!" "NORA: It was like being a man." "HEL: Almost everyone who has gone to the bad early in life has had a deceitful mother." "HEL: It seems most commonly to be the mother's influence, though naturally a bad father's would have the same result." "NORA: Because one is a woman it does not necessarily follow that--- When anyone is in a subordinate position, Mr. Krogstad, they should really be careful to avoid offending anyone who-who�" In a way the characters are all dolls doing what someone else expects of them Helen Fletcher ...read more.

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This is a review of the use of language as a form of naturalistic representation of human life in Henrik Ibsen's controversially realistic 'A Doll's House'. The candidate shows an exceptionally well-informed understanding of the social gravity that revolved around ...

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Response to the question

This is a review of the use of language as a form of naturalistic representation of human life in Henrik Ibsen's controversially realistic 'A Doll's House'. The candidate shows an exceptionally well-informed understanding of the social gravity that revolved around such a controversial play, and also retains an excellent focus on how Ibsen's use of language demonstrates an infinitely more realistic presentation of character than the over-played melodrama that was far more popular at the time. The candidate concentrates on the contextual factors that influenced the play, as well as the social and historical cues that lead Ibsen to want to write such naturalist characters. This is an excellently focused answer.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis of the language is very high. The candidate concentrates not only on specific words and how they reveal character traits (such as Nora's use of "sweetly" and the like to play up to Helmer and the contrastingly patronising "do believe me" as she speaks with Kristine), but they also concentrate on how the tone of the lines spoken can vary from typical melodramatic wailing or sighing to reflect how characters' attitude and temperaments can change instantly and because of with whom they are talking. It is this that gains the candidate high marks - that they recognise the feature of talk in life replicated by Ibsen in his language; the repetition, the overlaps, the false starts and the politeness strategies that, particularly, Nora uses to get something she wants, as well as how Helmer's demeaning attitude to her is completely reversed when she announces she is leaving him. This attention to detail is what is expected of A grade and above candidates.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is also very good. There is a sound use of the English language with every inclination the candidate is confident in using complex sentence structures and punctuation points to create a thoroughly engaging answer that presents itself as well as it reads.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 23/03/2012

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