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A Doll's House: Bondage and Freedom

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Topics: Henrik Ibsen, Norway
A Doll's House: Bondage and Freedom Sharon Cook ENGLISH/125 February 6, 2012 Dr. Natasha Whitton A Doll's House: Bondage and Freedom Mention the word “Barbie” ("En.wikipedia.org"), and most women who have played with one as a child, has fond memories of the plastic 11 ½ inches tall, Mattel statuette. In my childhood memory bank, Barbie is perfect, beautiful, and poised. She is the kind of woman I want to be. She lives in a three feet tall, ornately decorated pink doll house sitting next to the peppermint colored Priscilla curtains in my adolescent bedroom. I am completely in control of Barbie’s life. I control how she dresses, wears her hair, and thinks in her plastic world. My ruling adolescent hand is innocent and whimsical; the opposite of the control Torvald Helmer has over his wife Nora, as depicted in Henrik Ibsen’s drama, “A Doll’s House.” Ibsen, through his use of theme, exposition, symbolism, climax, and imagination presents the Helmer’s household as one of bondage and freedom. Through these elements of drama, Ibsen shows Torvald’s unyielding domination over Nora’s life and her obedience to it, until at last, she frees herself. Theme According to Barnet, S., Cain, W. E., & Burto, W. (2010, p. 436), “if we have read or seen a drama thoughtfully, we ought to be able to formulate its theme, its underlying idea.” Henrik Ibsen in his play “A Doll’s House,” defines the theme through the significance of the title selection. It alone, tells the audience what the drama is about. Ibsen’s title suggests the Helmer’s house as a plastic place of bondage for Nora. My mind referred to the title often while reading Ibsen’s play. As a result, I could understand the idea Ibsen was conveying. Ibsen show’s Nora’s bondage and the continual theme of the play, through the words of his characters. Ibsen reflects this in Dr. Rank’s words to Nora. According to Barnet et al (2010, p. 803), Dr. Rank asks “What macaroons? I thought they were forbidden here.” Dr. Rank’s question shows Torvald’s strict rules in his household. Nora is not allowed to enjoy food as delightful as macaroons. She sneaks them in the house, out of Torvald’s eyesight. Dr. Rank’s observation about the macaroons shows Torvald has complete control over Nora’s life, including her diet. Exposition Henrik Ibsen demonstrates Nora’s bondage through exposition. When Christine Linde asks Nora if she will ever tell her husband her secret, according to Barnet et al (2010, p. 801), Nora says she may tell Torvald one day when “Torvald is no longer as devoted to me as he is now; when my dancing and dressing-up and reciting have palled on him.” Nora indicates through this sentence Torvald’s control; his using her like a toy doll. This sentence also tells the audience what it needs to know about Nora’s persona and her future. Barnet et al (2010, p. 437), states exposition can “ give us an understanding of the characters who themselves are talking about other characters, it can evoke a mood, and it can generate tension.” Symbolism Ibsen shows Torvald’s control through symbolism. When Nora becomes uncomfortable about how Torvald is looking at her, according to Barnet et al (2010, p. 801), Torvald responds “why shouldn’t I look at my dearest treasure – at all the beauty that is mine, all my very own?” Torvald is not paying Nora a complement in this scene. He is proclaiming she is his play thing; his toy to use at will. Ibsen through use of symbolism in this scene shows Torvald’s dominant nature toward Nora. He reminds the audience Nora is a prisoner in Torvald’s doll house. Henrik Ibsen also demonstrates Nora’s freedom through symbolism. After dealing with Torvald’s anger from finding Krogstad’s letter, Nora disappears into her room. According to Barnet et al (201, p 801), when Torvald ask what she is doing, Nora responds “taking off my fancy dress.” This is a symbol of Nora shedding her doll-like demeanor. She is removing her doll clothes. She is getting rid of the doll ornaments that Torvald has required her to wear. This statement is a symbol of Nora stepping out of the role of the plastic doll into a human being; a woman with feelings and emotions who has her own voice. Nora is displaying her freedom through this symbolism. She is revealing to Torvald she can think for herself. Removing the dress represents Nora removing Torvald’s dominating hold on her life. Climax According to “The free dictionary.com” (2012), “climax is a moment of great or culminating intensity in a narrative or drama, especially the conclusion of a crisis.” Henrik Ibsen beautifully demonstrates Nora’s freedom in the climax of “A Doll’s House.” According to Barnet et al (2010, p. 839) Nora tells Torvald “it is no use forbidding me anything any longer. I will take with me what belongs to myself. I will take nothing from you, either now or later.” The summation of Nora’s freedom from Torvald is in her words according to Barnet et al (2010, p. 839) “ duties to myself.” In these three words Nora comes to a conclusion about her life. In them she experiences her metamorphosis from plastic doll to human being. Imagination Imagination influenced Henrik Ibsen as he wrote “A Doll’s House.” The last few sentences of the drama indicate Ibsen’s imagination at work. At the end of the drama, according to Barnet et al (2010, p 841), Torvald asks “Nora – can I never be anything more than a stranger to you?” In answering Torvald, Nora states “the most wonderful thing of all would have to happen…that our life together would be a real wedlock. Good-bye.” The play ends with a question. According to Barnet et al (2010, p 841), Torvald asks “the most wonderful thing of all?” Ibsen leaves the ending to the audience’s imagination. He left me wondering if Torvald and Nora reunited; if they found real wedlock. Conclusion In his drama, “A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen’s use of theme, exposition, symbolism, climax, and imagination paints vivid pictures of Nora’s bondage and freedom. Through his elements of drama, the audience could understand the message Ibsen intended to convey. Ibsen, through his literary devices brought me and his audience into the center of his play. As a result, we experienced the full meaning of his dramatic tragedy.

References Barnet, S., Burto, W., & Cain, W. E. (2010). Literature for Composition (9th ed.). New York: Longman, 2010. 436. Print. Barnet, S., Burto, W., & Cain, W. E. (2010). Literature for Composition (9th ed.). New York: Longman, 2010. 437. Print. Barnet, S., Burto, W., & Cain, W. E. (2010). Literature for Composition (9th ed.). New York: Longman, 2010. 803. Print. Barnet, S., Burto, W., & Cain, W. E. (2010). Literature for Composition (9th ed.). New York: Longman, 2010. 839. Print. Barnet, S., Burto, W., & Cain, W. E. (2010). Literature for Composition (9th ed.). New York: Longman, 2010. 841. Print. en.wikipedia.org. (). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbie Ibsen, Henrik, “A Doll’s House.” Literature for Composition. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, William Burto, and William E. Cain. 9th ed. New York: Longman, 2010. 792-842. Print. thefreedictionary.com. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/climax

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