Doll’s House By Ibsen In many pieces of literary work, there are elements that are used to help develop the audiences understanding of characters and events. In the play A Dolls House * by Henrik Ibsen, animal imagery is used in the development of the main character, Nora. It is also later found that the animal imagery is a critical part in understanding who Nora is, and how other characters perceive her. Ibsen uses creative, but effective, animal imagery to develop Noras character throughout the play. The animal imagery is carried out through the dialect between Nora and her husband Torvald.
He uses a lot of bird imagery, seeming that Torvald thought of Nora as some kind of bird. It is also evident that the animal names he calls Nora, directly relates to how Nora is acting or how Torvald wants her to be portrayed. In Act I, Torvald asks, “Is that my skylark twittering out there?” referring to Nora. A lark is a happy and carefree songbird. A lark can also be used as a verb that means to engage in spirited fun or merry pranks. Right from the beginning of the play it is evident that Nora is a lively spirited and carefree woman, just as a lark might be.
Torvald again referrers to Nora early in the play as “my little lark” when she is moving around the room and humming with a carefree spirit that might characterize a lark. From this we might assume that whenever Nora has spirit or is supposed to be happy, Torvald thinks of her as a bird, specifically a lark. In contrast to Torvald calling Nora a lark, immediately after he refers to her as a squirrel in asking, “Is that my squirrel rustling?” This is interesting in the development of both Nora and Torvalds characters because a squirrel is quite different than a lark. A squirrel is a small furry rodent that tends to have negative and sneaky connotations. If someone is to squirrel away something, they are hiding or storing it. This is directly related to what Nora is doing, she is hiding or “squirreling” away the bag of macaroons.
Through the animal imagery of the squirrel, Ibsen is also foreshadowing that Nora is hiding more than just macaroons form Torvald. She is hiding that she borrowed money from Krogstad, however we dont learn that until later in the play. Looking deeper into the meaning behind Ibsens animal imagery, we find that Torvald possibly wants Nora to be a bird. The birds that Torvald calls her, such as “lark” and “songbird” are stereotypically carefree, peaceful animals. This is the case on the surface however. On the inside birds may have many struggles, such as just finding food to survive.
But these birds do not show their struggles, and despite what they may be going through they are still a symbol of peace and perfect happiness. This is how Torvald wants Nora to be, perfect and happy all the time no matter what she really may want or be feeling. It is possible that because he wants her to be this way, Torvald actually thinks she is this way, always happy and that she shows no emotion to what is going on in her life. In Act II, Nora begs Torvald to let Krogstad keep his position at the bank. When Torvald says that it must be done, Nora gets quite worked up about it. When Torvald calms her down, he notices her “frightened Doves eyes.” A dove is the unmistakable symbol of peace, or peace keeping, which is in essence what Nora it trying to do.
If Torvald fires Krogstad then she will have to give him the money she borrowed and things will be anything but peaceful after that. However, Torvald does notice that Nora is trying very hard to convince him to keep Krogstad at his bank, but be disregards it as her trying to keep things right and refers to her as a peaceful dove. Later in Act II, Nora tries a different tactic in keeping things peaceful and from Keeping Torvald from finding out about the money she borrowed. She even goes as far as calling herself all the names that Torvald calls her and she says that, “Id turn myself into a little fairy and dance for you in the moonlight Torvald.” She does this because she wants Torvald to be happy with her at this point, for she knows he is going to eventually find out about the money she owes. In parallel to what she is trying to do, a fairy is a small creature with magical powers, which at this point Nora would love to be so she could prevent Torvlad for finding out about what she has done.
In ACT III, Torvald discovers the note, but also quickly dismissed it because of a second note form Krogstad. Nora tries to calm down after Torvalds outburst at her for her betrayal. He attempts to comfort her by saying that he will keep her despite the incident. He also says that he is has, “broad wings to shield [Nora],” and that he “shall watch over [her] like a hunted dove which [he] snatched unharmed from the claws of the falcon.” This is Torvalds way of saying how he wished to watch over and protect Nora. On the surface this sounds like a good offer, considering that Nora did deceive him and hide the fact that she borrowed money form Krogstad.
But Torvald says that he will watch over her, implying that he does not trust her or want to trust her. He is in a sense treating her like a child or like a doll, instead of as his wife. Torvald thinks he needs to be there to watch out for her, and that she would be nothing without him to play with her or tell her how she should be. This is a big part of the reason why Nora left. She no longer needed, or maybe she never did need his “broad wings” to shelter her.
And just as the bird that Torvald always wanted Nora to act like, she flew away, just as a dove or a lark would do when they were afraid or no longer wanted to stay somewhere. In many pieces of literary work, there are elements that are used to help develop the audiences understanding of characters and events. In the play A Dolls House, Ibsen uses animal imagery as a way of helping his audience come to a better understanding of the events and characters. Animal imagery is critical in the character development for both of the main characters, Torvald and Nora, in showing how both of them perceive the other. *A Dolls House appears in Sylvan Barnet, et al.
, Introduction to Literature, 11th ed. (New York: Longman, 1997), 1061-1112. Bibliography Ibsen, Henrik. “A Dolls House.” An Introduction to Literature. Ed.
Sylvan Barnet et al. 11th ed. New York: Longman, 1997. 1061-1112.