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Analysis of Setting, Character Development, and Symbolism in the Play A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen. Essay


At a glance, Ibsen’s Doll’s House recounts a story about the place of women in society, as well as marriage stereotypes and norms accepted in the 19th century. Further considerations of the text connotations, setting, characters description, and symbolism reveal the contrary beliefs.

Certainly, the story focuses on the relationships between males and females and underlines the role of hierarchy, but these aspects fall into the background, since the central focus is made on the problem of deceitful appearances and concept of humanity.

The main heroine, Nora Helmer is compared to a doll who is manipulated by all other characters, including her husband, dearest friends, and relatives. However, this pressure is not tolerable for human because each person has the right to self-expression and individualism.

In this respect, Ibsen underscores the right of humans to freedom and independence from other decisions irrespective of gender affiliation, social positions, and accepted beliefs. All these aspects are explicitly revealed through describing setting, character development, and symbolism depicted in the play.

In the play, the author creates the unity of setting so as to underscore the feeling that the main heroine Nora is the prisoner of her life. Thus, the setting for action remains the same throughout the play which frames the environment in a simple and conventional fashion.

At the same time, the setting contributes to a sense of limits imposed by society and surrounding people, whereas its conventionality reveals the emphasis placed on respectability and image. While describing the setting, the author applies such words as “comfortably and tastefully” (Ibsen 7).

Most importantly, the description of the Helmers’ apartment provides a standard vision of a 19th century house where all requisites of traditional life are present. Aside from place characteristics embracing stereotypical visions of the house, there are typical time characteristics uncovering the norms and standards of social standards.

Hence, the play represents within a short period of time, which also imposes certain limits on characters’ actions and development. Importantly, while describing the setting Ibsen applies to the parallel situations to highlight the central predicament of the main heroine.

Judging from the description of furnishing and design, it is possible to judge about conventions of furniture layout, which corresponds to the accepted traditions. Once again, the setting provides the frames and restrictions enhancing the established conventions and norms within society.

Just like the standard design of an apartment, the main heroine takes the standard place of a model wife and hostess in the house, as it was required by the societal norms. At the beginning of the play, Nora enjoys her role of bourgeois wife and encourages her husband giving her different pet names.

She seems reluctant to understand the reality and follows the rules established by the surrounding people, including her husband, Torvald, her friend Christina, lawyer’s Krogstag, and Dr. Rank. By taking different roles imposed by others, Nora forgets about herself as a personality with personal wishes, goals, and desires.

Her husband gives her different names that are usually given to animals or inanimate objects, such as “my little skylark”, “my squirrel”, “my little lark” “little Nora” (Ibsen 11, 13). By adding the epithet “little” to names, Torvald as if neglects Nora’s personality and rejects her right to choose and decide.

However, further development of the play reveals Nora’s self-evaluation and apprehension of husband’s real intents and goals. She becomes more aware of the reality and of what is going outside the apartment.

Hence, while reading the final conversation between Nora and her husband, it is possible to trace the changes occurred to the heroine in terms of her attitude to marriage and relations.

She suddenly realizes that the house she lives in “…has never been anything but a playroom” and that she has never “…exchanged a serious word on a serious subject” (Ibsen 99). At the end, the discussion of her position and role reveals an intelligence that has made her understand the uncomfortable reality of restricted moral and ethical codes that are represented by Torvald.

The play contains elements of symbolism proving Nora’s insignificant position with regard to other people manipulating her. The author draws the parallels between the heroine and the Christmas tree, that is a beautiful addition to the overall decoration of the house; at the same, it is considered as useless thing, merely an element of traditional design.

While analyzing author’s descriptions of the tree, one can find similar traits in Nora’s character: “the Christmas is….stripped of its ornaments and with burnt-down candle-ends on its disheveled branches” (Ibsen 49). Once again, the author compares the main heroine with inanimate object serving as an additional elements in the apartment interior.

In conclusion, the author provides criticism of social order in the 19th century, when society imposed social and moral restriction on people and limited their human rights.

Nora, the main heroine, is the victim of the settled stereotypes about marriage norms and relations between a wife and a husband. By following these norms, she loses the sense of identity and forgets about her right to be an independent personality.

Works Cited

Ibsen, Henric. A Doll’s House. US: Arc Manor LLC. 2009. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2019, April 3). Analysis of Setting, Character Development, and Symbolism in the Play A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/analysis-of-setting-character-development-and-symbolism-in-the-play-a-dolls-house-by-henrik-ibsen/

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"Analysis of Setting, Character Development, and Symbolism in the Play A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen." IvyPanda, 3 Apr. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/analysis-of-setting-character-development-and-symbolism-in-the-play-a-dolls-house-by-henrik-ibsen/.

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IvyPanda. "Analysis of Setting, Character Development, and Symbolism in the Play A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen." April 3, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/analysis-of-setting-character-development-and-symbolism-in-the-play-a-dolls-house-by-henrik-ibsen/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Analysis of Setting, Character Development, and Symbolism in the Play A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen." April 3, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/analysis-of-setting-character-development-and-symbolism-in-the-play-a-dolls-house-by-henrik-ibsen/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Analysis of Setting, Character Development, and Symbolism in the Play A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen'. 3 April.

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