A Doll’s House Practice Exam Question
Question: Compare and contrast the characters of Nora and Ms Linde. What do we learn of the Norwegian society through their inter-actions?
Throughout the piece “A Doll’s House”, the writer Henrik Ibsen challenges the hypocrisy of the 19th century Norwegian society. At the time, Norway was a patriotically society meaning male are the dominate race. Women on the other hand were expected to play by the society’s expectations and men had the right to treat them as “little song birds” or “little children”. In this play, there is a strong contrast between the actions Mrs. Linde and Nora, at the end of the play, the two women basically swoop position or roles as Mrs. Linde goes back with Krogstad and enjoys a romantic relationship with him whilst Nora leaves Torvald for her own ambitions and goals. Both of their actions were for “freedom”, and that is the thing that connected the two to “needing each other”. From the two women’s interactions we learn that women had to stand up to the system and make sacrifices if they wanted an improvement in life, throughout this essay, I will explain and explore how and why it is done in the case of the frictional characters in A Doll’s House.
In the beginning of the play Nora is presented as a beautiful young wife of a banker and a mother of the bourgeois family. She takes pride in dressing up elegantly and enjoys taking care of her children. Ibsen presents her almost as a “model” of how a typical woman would act at that time. Nora also plays by the role of a woman the society expects her to play. At home, she is often referred to as a “little songbird” by his husband, notice the use of the possessive pronoun “my” here which is as if Nora was an object which Torvald owned. Torvald often mocks Nora’s intelligence, often adding the word “little” in front of names Torvald would call her to suggest how little she knows. At one point, Torvald even tells Nora that “in lots of things, you’re still a child” and that he is “older” than her “in many ways” and just “had a little more experience”. Even with the aid of stage directions Nora is presented as a child-like character, examples would be as she “runs to open the door”.
This is a preview of the whole essay
However, following the arrival of Mrs. Linde the readers are revealed to the deep secrete Nora holds which if exposed can damage her and Torvald’s face and reputation. A few years ago, Torvald was seriously ill at that time and was told by the doctor that he had to go to Italy to rest. However, the family did not have the money to do so and Nora was forced to complete a forgery in order to borrow money to pay for her husband’s trip to Italy. Knowing the kind of “pride” men held at that time, Nora knew the devastation such matter will cause and the results of the public finding out Torvald, a men, was saved by a women were horrifyingly unimaginable. Nora herself understands this very well as she speaks of how “terribly hurt and humiliated” Torvald would be if he found out about this.
Soon, Nora is blackmailed by a morally corrupted man named Krogstad. At the end Krogstad does decided to forget about the whole matter due to his romantic relationship with Mrs. Linde, however, the throughout the process we learn a lot about Nora through her actions. For example, we learn that Nora is capable in communicating in both child-like and serious language. When Nora challenges again the justice system “Hasn’t a daughter the right to protect her dying father from worry and anxiety? Hasn’t a wife the right to save her husband’s life” it is shown that there is an intellectual side of the character Nora too.
As Nora wakes to awareness that she has her own goals and ambitions which her current lifestyle would not be able to support, and that she has been living in a doll’s house with a “strange men” for her entire life, even the bonding forces between Torvald and Nora – their three children does not prevent Nora from leaving.
On the other hand, Mrs. Linde, a school-friend of Nora is as a widow of a loveless marriage and a working woman. On stage, her character is presented as a mature and experienced one. She seems to act as Nora’s older sister and confidante whilst Nora attempts to resolve the problems.
Arguably, Mrs. Linde was the reason of which Nora decided to leave. At the start of the play, she tells Nora what “tremendous fun” it was “sitting there working and earning money” and how it was “almost like being a man.” Later, it is her decision to ask Krogstad to not ask for the letter back as she believes Nora must be truthful with her husband and develop a sense of independence just as she herself has done.
However, Nora’s decision to leave wasn’t solely inspired by Mrs. Linde’s actions and words. First of all, Nora was physically fed up with being trapped in one room which provokes that there is a sense of “limit” for Nora as she cannot suppress the perimeters outside the four brick walls. Nora did state to herself that “if only I dared go out” and that the room is “hot”. However, it was the conversation she had with Torvald and his actions before and after receiving the letters that sparkled Nora’s exit. Ibsen uses irony here to dramatize the situation. A few minutes prior to receiving the first letter (Krogstad’s note to Torvald), Torvald was telling Nora how he “often wished that you could be threatened by some imminent danger” so he can “risk his own life” to “save” her. However, after reading the letter about the forgery, Torvald’s attitude changed completely. “What a terrible awakening!” he expresses, then he talks how he has been living with a “liar, hypocrite – even worse – a criminal”. He tells Nora to “take off the shawl” which symbolizes the fantasy is over and now Nora is in “trouble”. Soon, upon the reading of the second letter alongside with the original IOU, Torvald’s attitude changes again “It’s all over – it’s all over!” however, Nora just simply could not take anymore of this. She has come to realization that she has been nothing but a “doll” for Torvald, she is loved when Torvald is happy and hated when Torvald is unhappy. To Torvald Nora was more like a doll then an actual person.
Nora ultimately decides she has to leave, and that she can’t even “bear to think of” the eight years she spent living with this “strange men”. Nora’s departure means that she has to give up the warmth of the home and the finical and social security of being the wife of a reasonably wealthy man. Nora also has to leave her loving children. She knew that she cannot go for her ambitions and goals if she remains in the “Doll house”.
As for Mrs. Linde, she perhaps made her biggest sacrifice a few years before Nora, as she gave up her true romantic lover – Krogstad for a rich man for his money. This shows us how materialism and the importance of money were to Norwegians at the time. At current time of the play, Nora is giving up her physical freedom for a relationship with Krogstad, however, having seen the failed relationship between Nora and Torvald Nora should understand that her new relationship might end up the same.
Throughout the interactions of the two women in A Doll’s House, the ultimate actions of the two women was to step up and challenge themselves for an improvement in their lifestyles, both of them had to sacrifices comforts and safety however they believe that it is necessary for the “freedom” they want. Ibsen tells us that you have to fight for yourself in the cruel and realistic Norwegian Society, and that what ever you do sacrifice has to be made. To an extent, Ibsen conveys his feminist ideologies in the play and encourages the women to step up and challenge the system for change and reform.