A Dolls House - The Transformation of Nora Helmer


Going from Child to Woman: The Transformation of Nora Helmer
In Henrik Ibsen?s, A Dolls House, the character of Nora Helmer goes through the dramatic transformation of a kind and loving house wife, to a desperate and bewildered woman, whom will ultimately leave her husband and everything she has known. Ibsen uses both the characters of Torvald and Nora to represent the tones and beliefs of 19th century society. By doing this Ibsen effectively creates a dramatic argument that continues to this day; that of feminism.
We are introduced in Act I with Nora returning from Christmas shopping. Ibsen utilizes this time for dramatic purposes of the Christian holidays and to show the struggle between a middle class marriage. Nora plans on having a big holiday bash, while Torvald would rather refrain since there is a rather limited cash flow. "Nora: Oh yes, Torvald, we can squander a little now?piles of money" (1506). Torvald follows up with, "But then it is three full months till the raise comes through" (, 1506).
Nora at this point in the play is nothing more than a child, careless in her action and not thinking ahead of possible consequences. Nora sees nothing wrong in spending big on Christmas. Granted this is a righteous cause, since the holidays are about giving to others, but still a parent should know the limit of happiness they should bring.
At this point Torvald begins to act as "society" and unknowingly begins to use condescending terms towards Nora. "Are you scatterbrains off again?" (1506), "?my dear little Nora." (1507), (You?re an odd little one" (1507). Torvald sees nothing wrong in these little pet names he gives Nora. He is absolutely right there is nothing wrong with pet names. Unfortunately when the pet names are also a part of the larger scheme that woman are inferior, only then do they become evil and no longer childish. "Yes, very-that is if you actually hung onto money I give you, and you actually used it to buy yourself something." (1507).
Later in Act I, her friend Mrs. Linde visits Nora. Even in their conversation Mrs. Linde comments on Nora?s childish behavior. "Well my heavens - a little needlework and such ? Nora, you?re just a child." (1511). Nora quickly defends herself, in some sense to regain her standing within her own ranks. "I?ve also got something to be proud and happy for. I?m the one who saved Torvald?s life." (1511). By doing this Nora is secretly undermining society and providing for her husband. In contrast to society beliefs at the time, shouldn?t a wife provide for her husband in his sickness? Thus creating an interesting paradox passed upon wedding vows. Apparently not or Nora would have confided in Torvald sooner. "Mrs. Linde: And you?ve never confided?" (1512).
Towards the end of Act I, Krogstad enters. Krogstad is the man whom Nora borrowed the 4,000 crowns to finance the trip to southern Italy. Nora continues to act as a child. "Shall we play? What shall we play? Hide and seek??" (1577). Krogstad asks a favor of Nora. "Would you please make sure that I keep my subordinate position in the bank?" (1518) By doing this Krogstad tries to utilize the famine influence that women who are married to men of power often have, yet another role society demands of women. Krogstad, as a typical male of the time assumes she has no head for business. ?Listen Mrs. Helmer ? you?ve either got a very bad memory, or else no head for business." (1519)
Once Krogstad leaves we notice a definite change in Nora. Nora?s children ask her to play with them and she replies; "No not now." (1521) Nora begins to talk to herself. "?I?ll do anything to please you, Torvald. I?ll sing for you, dance for you-" (1521) this is the beginning of the unraveling of Nora. Her world as she knows it no longer exists.
At the very end of Act I, Torvald and Nora are talking. Torvald comments about Krogstad's criminal act. "Helmer: Forgery. Do you have any? Helmer: Plenty of men have redeemed?" (1522) Torvald talks about forgery the crime, with which his wife is quilty of, since she forged her fathers signature on the agreement between herself and Krogstad. Torvald continues on to say, "I?m not so heartless that I?d condemn