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A Doll's House by H. Ibsen

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A Doll's House by H. Ibsen
A Doll's House, a play by Henrik Ibsen, tells the story of Nora, the wife of Torvald Helmer, who is an adult living as a child, kept as a doll by her husband. She is expected to be content and happy living in the world Torvald has created for her. By studying the play and comparing and contrasting the versions presented in the video and the live performance, one can analyze the different aspects of it. Ibsen's purpose for writing this piece is to entertain while pointing out an injustice. Through the events of the play, Nora becomes increasingly aware of the confines in which Torvald has placed her. He has made her a doll in her own house, one that is expected to keep happy and busy as a songbird, who acts and does as he deems proper. As a result of this, she is often pointed out to be very simple by the other characters. Her friend Christina calls her "a mere child," showing how naïve she appears to be to the hardships in life. To prove to her friend that she really has achieved something on her own to be proud of, Nora tells Christina of her secret borrowing of money for the trip to Italy that saved Torvald's life. Everyone believed that Nora had gotten the money from her father, while actually she found someone to borrow the money from and had been paying her debt back. She did so by spending frugally and always saving some of the money Torvald had given her and by doing odd jobs. She explained to Christine,
When Torvald gave me money for clothes and so on, I never spent more than half of it; I always bought the simplest things…and besides that, I made money in other ways. Last winter…I got a heap of copying to do. I shut myself up every evening and wrote far into the night…[I]t was splendid to work in that way and earn money. I almost felt as if I was a man.
Later, while discussing his illness with her, Dr. Rank actually comments that Nora is "deeper than…[he] thought." He too looked at her as like a child. The climax of the story comes when Torvald learns of Nora's forgery and yells angrily at her. He then finds the promissory note, returned by Krogstad, and realizes that no one has anything over his head any longer. During this episode, Nora realizes what has been going on: that she has become Torvald's "doll" which plays around his "doll" house. She points out to him:
You have never understood me. I have had great injustice done me, Torvald; first by father, and then by you…He used to tell me all his opinions, and I held the same opinions…He used to call me his doll-child, and played with me as I played with my dolls…Then…I passed from father's hands into yours. You settled everything according to your taste; and I got the same tastes as you…I lived by performing tricks for you, Torvald. But you would have it so. You and father have done me a great wrong. It's your fault that my life has been wasted…[O]ur house has been nothing but a play-room. Here I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I used to be papa's doll-child…I thought it fun when you played with me…
Here, Nora pulls together the tragic circumstances. She sees that she was never truly happy in the house, just content. Her father kept her as a child would a doll, and Torvald continued this when they were married. They formed her opinions for her, set expectations to which she was supposed to adhere, and wrote a vague script of how she was supposed to act. She was like a puppet, with no thoughts or actions of her own. When she finally realizes the injustice being done to her, she decides to free herself. The different versions of A Doll's House studied offer different points of view. The stage version presents a third person-limited point of view. The audience knows everything going on the scene being played out before them, but cannot see beyond the set. They see the movements and hear the dialogue between all the characters within the limitations of the stage. The video offers a different point of view. We see only what the camera wants us to see. It shows us close-up shots of the actors and actresses while they are talking and many different rooms instead of just the one seen in the live production. This can both an advantage and a disadvantage. While it allows for more focus to be put on the person speaking, it does not allow the audience to see how the other characters are reacting to this, as in the case of a live performance. The genre of A Doll's House is modern tragedy. Nora seeks to secure a sense of personal dignity when she decides to leave Torvald and accepts responsibility for her actions. Her husband had been treating her like a child and she wanted to break free. She reveals the tragic circumstances of the situation in the aforementioned passage at the end of the play where she explains to Torvald how both he and her father have kept her as a doll. There are also many examples of tragic irretrievability within the plot as well. These include the letter locked in the box, to which Nora cannot get; Nora's secret loan to pay for the trip to Italy; the forged signature on the promissory note; and Torvald's explosive scene in which he calls her a "wretched woman." A final characteristic of modern tragedy displayed in the play is the use of everyday language instead of poetic verse or prose. The style of the play is the way in which it is presented. A Doll's House takes the form of realism. The story is a "slice of life" that seems to be taken out of reality and placed on stage before us. It consists of real time and real places, and puts real people at the center of our attention. It appears to be true to life: the actors and actresses use everyday language, dress in everyday dress for the time period, and are found in everyday common rooms. The characters encountered could very possibly be real people existing during its particular time period. This realism is used to express the purpose by setting up a real life situation in which to illustrate the injustice done to Nora. It allows the audience to relate more easily and get the full meaning of the playwright's message. Nora's motivation is her want for personal freedom. She realizes how she has been unfairly kept by her father and her husband and decides she needs to be free. Initially, she tries to fulfill this need by doing things on her own, such as taking the loan from Krogstad to take her husband away on a life-saving trip. Her final stand is leaving Torvald in the final scene. She tells him, "I must try to educate myself. You are not the man to help me in that. I must set about it alone. And that's why I am now leaving you!" With this, Nora is stating her need to go out and encounter the world on her own. She feels that being with Torvald hinders her, and she must leave him to enjoy true personal freedom. A Doll's House is an example of climactic structure. The plot begins later than in those in episodic structure, such as MacBeth. The beginning of the play merely sets the stage for the actions to come. It shows how Nora is content being Torvald's little "lark." She spends her days shopping and playing with the children. Also, the characters, locales, and scenes are limited. The characters in this play number only eleven: Nora, Torvald, the three Helmer children, Dr. Rank, Christina, Anna, Krogstad, Ellen, and a porter. The live stage production did not even include the children, as they were not essential to the action of the play. There was but one set in the stage production, and few more in the video, and the play has only three acts. Finally, the construction is tight. There are few, if any, loose ends at the conclusion of the play. Nora reveals her true feelings to Torvald in an exciting scene, Christina deals with unresolved situations with Krogstad, and Dr. Rank tells the Helmers good-bye. These all neatly tie together the previous conflicts. It is interesting to see how these elements---purpose, point of view, genre, style, motivation, and structure---make up the underlying pieces of the play. Without them, the play becomes little more than a pointless story with which the audience cannot identify. Even with these common pieces, different versions show us different twists on the same play.

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