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Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House was published in 1879, and it provoked intense reactions of the public because of its controversial theme based on the idea of gender inequality in the context of the nineteenth century. Ibsen’s approach to discussing social issues and presenting them in the form of plays written as prose became one of the key features of modern drama. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the prominent elements of fiction used in A Doll’s House as the most vivid example of Ibsen’s approach, analyze the applied dramatic techniques, and describe different layers of understanding related to the play.
Elements of Fiction
The key elements of fiction are usually related to the author’s development of a plot, characters, a point of view, a setting, a theme, and a style. In A Doll’s House, Ibsen develops a plot that has a climax near the end of the play based on such techniques as foreshadowing and conflicts. The dramatic tension in the plot is created by foreshadowing observed in dialogues to help the audience predict the future development of actions. The overall plot is built on Nora’s secret, and Torvald’s possible reactions to this concealed information can be predicted. In Act I, he says, “Keep your little Christmas secrets to yourself, my darling. They will all be revealed tonight when the Christmas Tree is lit, no doubt” (Ibsen 22). The plot is also based on conflicts between Nora and Torvald and Nora and Krogstad, which are external, and they develop in all three acts of the play. Nora’s internal conflict regarding her decision to reveal her secret to Torvald can also be observed throughout the whole play.
It is also important to pay attention to the characterization used by Ibsen to present Nora as a dynamic character in contrast to Torvald as a static character. In Act I, Nora is represented as a woman who is cheerful and living in her fantasy world of a happy marriage (Ibsen 12). In this reality, Nora commits a crime to help her husband, but she is viewed as a doll, as a “little squirrel,” and a “little singing-bird,” but not as a woman with her own opinion (Ibsen 14-26). Still, in Act III, Nora’s character is demonstrated as changing in contrast to uncompromising Torvald, and she becomes more decisive.
The author also paid much attention to developing the theme of the play concerning symbols and motifs. Nora’s transformation is represented by the symbol of a doll and the motif of a masquerade in Act II. Changing clothes for the masquerade is used to accentuate Nora’s suppressed identity and the necessity of concealing not only her secret but also her desires. Therefore, while seeing masquerade clothes, Nora wants to “rip them in a million pieces!” not to pretend anymore (Ibsen 84). However, Nora still assumes another identity during the masquerade, and her dance represents her fear, panic, dissatisfaction, and frustration (Ibsen 86). Other important symbols that are used to develop the theme of a woman’s position in a family and society are a dollhouse and a Christmas tree.
In this play, such dramatic techniques as entrances and exits play an important role because they help develop the plot. The entrances of Christine Linde and Krogstad in Act I accentuate Nora’s attitudes to these people and her inner fears and emotions. What is more important is that the exit of Nora in Act III emphasizes her parting with her past. In this context, much attention is paid to using sounds in addition to music and lighting. When Nora decides to leave Torvald, she slams the door putting an end to her marriage (Ibsen 114). In Act II, music is used to support tarantella and accentuate all emotions Nora has and needs to cope with. In addition, Ibsen also uses the soliloquy in Act I of the play to demonstrate all these feelings that cause Nora’s unrest, which will later lead to her performance of tarantella and decision to leave her home.
Layers of Understanding
All the discussed elements can also be analyzed concerning different layers of understanding used by Ibsen for developing his play. At the narrative layer, Ibsen provides the message about a submissive role of a woman in a family in the context of the first feminist ideas spread in Europe. The aesthetic layer in Ibsen’s play is represented by discussing the topic that was not previously described in plays in Norway. Therefore, the play had an enormous effect on the public. At the mechanical layer, A Doll’s House takes a form of a play written in prose that supports the innovativeness of the presented idea by the use of symbols, imagery, and language. From this perspective, at the dynamic layer, Ibsen develops the tension in his play accentuating external and internal conflicts of the characters and provokes the audience’s emotions while proposing the end that was unexpected in the context of the nineteenth century. At the connections layer, Ibsen links the play to his previous works and other authors’ works accentuating its traditional structure that has an unusual development and ending.
Ibsen’s A Doll’s House has become a vivid example of modern drama. The play has drawn the public’s attention to the problem of a woman’s role in society. The unique effect on the audience became a result of using certain elements of fiction and applying efficient dramatic techniques. As a result, this play can be analyzed concerning five layers of understanding that contribute to its interpretation.
Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll’s House. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015.