A Doll House drama essay
I argue that there is a connection between irony as a main theme and manipulation in A Doll House by Henrik Ibsen, and this is why my argument is valid… In Ibsen’s play irony is a visual element that is extremely present. A type of irony seen in playwrights such as A Doll House creates a lack of similarity between two or more facts. “Between what characters think is the case and what actually is the case”.(DiYanni,933) This “type of irony is irony of circumstances (sometimes called irony of situation)’.( DiYanni,933) In Act I we first see a playful conversation that shows a discrepancy between the two main characters Nora and Helmer, these two main characters are husband and wife. The discrepancy is about spending money, where Nora is careless and just spends and spends all of the couple’s money, and Helmer does not like all of her spending but gives in to his wives wants. We can see from the start that this marriage is not based on love but with financial stability. In this play we see this financial stability with many of the characters. It’s ironic that in Act I Helmer says to Nora “you know, we can't spend money recklessly”, although near the end of their conversation Helmer says “Nora, what do you think I have got here?”. Her reply is “Money” and then gives her the money he had in his wallet. This shows a lot of irony because someone like Helmer who complains about too much spending would expect to hold their tight budget but can be seen as a hypocrite by handing Nora more money. This also makes my argument of manipulation valid, by having Helmer give in to his wife when she starts to look a little sad. That’s why Helmer gives her more money. When Ibsen wrote A Doll’s House, the institution of marriage was sacrosanct; women did not leave their husbands, and marital roles were sharply defined. This play questions these traditional attitudes. The character of Nora Helmer has a role of strength and complexity. She is the one who gains the audiences empathy. We can see Nora as a prime example of the new woman, who is seeking independence and self-definition, and the play is passionate on behalf of advocating women’s rights. To understand this concept we must look at Ibsen at this time. Brian Johnston states that “Ibsen had strong opinions on the subject of women’s rights. In February 1879, when his proposal to the Scandinavian Club in Rome that its female members be granted equal voting rights was defeated, he made a blistering attack on the male majority, daring them to assert that women were in any way inferior to men in culture, intelligence and artistic talent.” (475) I argue that this has a strong connection with the theme of irony in the play, because throughout the play Nora is going through all this trouble to keep Krogstad from telling her husband about a forged letter to borrow money. Throughout the play she is being manipulated and blackmailed by Krogstad. Then once Helmer finds out towards the end of the play, Nora does not like that way her husband reacted and says near the end of Act III “The way I am now, I’m no wife for you”.(DiYanni,1152) The ending conversation of the play turns everything around to give Nora empowerment over her husband. By saying she is leaving Helmer that validates my argument to show the irony of a wife who does all these things like try and convince her husband to not fire Krogstad just to hide a letter from her husband. Then Nora ends up leaving him for not reacting the right way towards the situation. This play is concerned with the social dynamics in human significance, “Ibsen moved beyond isolated abuses to an anatomy of complex character relationships surrounded by acute social tensions”.(Block&Shedd,12) Thus A Doll’s House can be viewed thematically not only as ironic but also as depiction of an innocent nineteenth century woman struggling to achieve self-definition. It also shows a routine marriage between two ordinary people who lack awareness of themselves and who have differing views of right and wrong. Helmer unquestioningly accepts society’s role of the husband as the main source of income and moral authority, but Nora’s attempt to conform as the submissive wife forces her into lies and deception. Both care about what people think; neither knowingly considers opposing society’s values. Nora was seen as an object through her husband’s eyes, which at this time women were made to look inferior. Then Nora has an epiphany of self-actualization when she says “I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was papa's doll-child; and here the children have been my dolls. I thought it great fun when you played with me, just as they thought it great fun when I played with them. That is what our marriage has been, Torvald.”(DiYanni,1150) After being manipulated throughout the play by different male characters she is tired of being a doll and wants to live her own life. This shows a lot of irony to being once manipulated to then changing to a strong independent woman to say “I have to try and educate myself. You can’t help me with that. I’ve got to do it alone. And that is why I am leaving you now.” In the complex pattern Ibsen has created, lack of self-knowledge, inability to communicate, Irony, manipulation and unthinking conformity to affect the institution of marriage.
Shedd, Robert, and Block Haskell. Masters of Modern Drama. New York: Random House. 1962. Print. Di Yanni, Robert. Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, Drama. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw, 2004-2008. Print. Johnston, Brian. Ibsen’s Selected Play’s. New York & London: W.W. Norton & Company. 2004. Print.