What I mean by that phrase is that at the heart of great characters is a mystery, an ambiguity, something that finally eludes rational interpretation. We do what we can to make reasonable sense of their motives, but we can never be entirely successful and remain true to the character as presented to us, because, as one critic puts it in relation to Shakespeare, the greatest dramatic characters have the "freedom of incongruity" (Bayley 47), and hence the power to evade the neat compartments we want to place them in. Part of my objection to what I have called in the common interpretation is that it denies this mystery. It over establishes Nora, seeing in her a character whose actions are fully and entirely comprehensible in the light of a modern ideology, making her, in effect, typical rather than extraordinary or unique.
For that reason, there is no complete rational explanation for Nora’s behavior. After all, in a sense I am contending that Nora is a great dramatic character because she eludes final definition, any neat compartmentalization. We should treat her as we do, say, Shakespeare's Cleopatra or Falstaff, someone eternally fascinating about whom we can make some useful observations, but not with any ambition finally to define her fully and completely. So I propose to make some observations and suggestions about Nora, elements which occur from the text and which we have to take into account.
An obvious place to start is the title of the play, A Doll House. This is an invitation to apply a metaphor to the play, to see what is going on in the Helmer household as somehow parallel to a child's game featuring an artificial life of dolls manipulated by... [continues]
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