Character Analysis of Nora Helmer (Essay Sample)


Nora Helmer is a character featured in one of Norweigan playwright Henrik Ibsen’s most prominent plays. Depicting the multitudinous social issues faced during the 19th century, “A Doll’s House” is a theatrical piece challenging conflicting ideas of morality and conformity. Despite arousing great controversy following it’s initial release, Ibsen continued to base his plays on realist topics occurring in the Victorian era, and is now considered the “father of realism”. Nora is one of the leading characters in the play, her dynamic personality providing perhaps the main storyline. Her transformation from a naive, insensitive wife, to a woman capable of making her own decisions, is one that is most memorable from this story. In this essay, the character development of Nora throughout the play will be fully explored, looking back at how some key moments were influential to her dynamicity. 

Nora is initially presented as a traditional Victorian housewife, who strives to obey her husband, Torvald Helmer. This is seen countless times throughout Act 1, namely in the first scene when Nora responds attentively to her partner’s question of “Is that my little squirrel frisking about?” The comparison of Nora to a “little squirrel” shows the use of zoomorphism by Torvald to assert his dominance over her. This technique indicates that Torvald views his wife as simply just another one of his possessions, creating an instant sense of power imbalance. Nora replies to his question with a “Yes!”, demonstrating obedience to her husband. The exclamation mark following the response suggests Nora replies with happiness and excitement. The contemporary audience would react to this with a sense of comfort, as female obedience towards the male partner was the standard way of life. During the 19th Century, strict social regulations were enforced in favour of the patriarchal society. Females were institutionalised into compliance with males, who were domestically and financially dominant. The standardised roles amongst society explains Nora’s tolerant response to her husband’s seemingly chauvinistic comment. The playwright’s intentions were to highlight the social issues endured during this era, demonstrating how his use of the character Nora has helped him communicate his message more effectively.  Modern viewers, more aware of the various issues that Torvald’s assertion of power may cause, will be able to better recognise Ibsen’s intention of foreshadowing a marital dilemma. 

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