When writing A Doll’s House, Ibsen had planned it to be a realistic play. To do this, he must portray the fluent speech of everyday life, and unnecessary monologues must be prevented. Hence, Ibsen cleverly employs certain symbols in his play to externalize the characters’ inner thoughts. Throughout the whole play, the characters’ actions and words often carry an implicit meaning, and subtly reflect what they are thinking. This technique is already evident at the start of the play, even with minor or seemingly insignificant situations.
Small actions can tell the audience more about each character. For example, when Torvald was lecturing Nora about wasting and borrowing money, she goes over to the stove, stating, “Very well, Torvald, if you say so”. This obviously shows that Nora is sulking, reflecting her childish character. This action is again used when Krogstad comes to see her husband, though for a different reason. Nora : You? What is it? Why do you want to see my husband? Krogstad: Bank business – in a way.
I have a small post at the Savings Bank, and I hear your husband is to be our new Manager – Nora: So it’s only – Krogstad: Only dull official business, Mrs. Helmer; nothing else whatever. Nora: Well, You’ll find him in his study. In this case, Nora attending to the stove suggests her trying to calm down and sort out her thoughts. Krogstad’s appearance obviously startles her, and her anxiety is revealed when she questions him “tensely and in a low voice”.
She also seems more relieved when she finds that it is “Only dull official business”. Her relieved words “So it’s only” and Krogstad’s excess assurance “nothing else whatever”, arouses suspicion of their relationship, and the possibility of them having some other secret ‘business’ with each other. This is revealed soon after, when Krogstad visits again but this time insists on seeing her. Nora, “with a stifled cry she turns and half rises”, “then, tense and wary”, queried, “You want to see me? ” This again reflects her anxiousness at his presence, and may even suggest that she is frightened of him.
Similarly, during Krogstad’s visit to the Helmer home, “Mrs Linde gives a start, then, collecting herself, turns away to the window”. This suggests Mrs. Linde’s recognition of Krogstad, and that they have had a previous association, which perhaps is a little complicated, seeing that Mrs. Linde turns away to either, avoid him, and or clear her thoughts. Mrs. Linde had also displayed this action previously in the play, when she was discussing her life with Nora, and Nora suggested that Mrs. Linde go on a holiday to relax after having worked for three years.
“Mrs Linde : I haven’t a father to pay my fare, Nora”; this illustrates her jealousy and scorn at Nora, who supposedly had a father to finance her honeymoon trip to Italy. After Krogstad’s threat of exposing her crime of forgery, Nora has since been jittery, often displaying her apprehension in the play. Nora : What nonsense! Trying to frighten me like that! I’m not as silly as all that. But…
No, it isn’t possible… I did it for love! … Nora No! Helena – bring me the tree, please. No! It’s simply not possible! Nora’s agitation is clearly displayed here. At the beginning, the act of tossing her head suggests Nora trying to confidently assure herself that she is not frightened by Krogstad’s threat at all.
Then she tries to distract herself from her thoughts by being busy, first attempting to tidy the children’s clothes, then her needlework, and finally the Christmas tree. Her continual lack of focus and sudden outbursts exhibits her perplexed state of mind. She again tries to reassure herself that everything will be alright, muttering to herself “we shall have a lovely tree – I’ll do all the things you like, Torvald, I’ll sing and dance”. To prevent her forgery from being exposed, Nora attempts to satisfy Krogstad’s demands, to persuade Torvald to allow Krogstad to maintain his position at the bank.
Nora tries to wheedle Torvald into a good mood first, playing the role of a helpless woman and asking for his help in ideas for the costume party, meanwhile coyly “stroking his hair”. After Torvald complies, “Nora: Oh that is nice of you! How pretty these red flowers look… ” This action shows Nora trying to think up of a way to persuade Torvald, and she slyly brings up the subject again, “Tell me about this Krogstad – was it really so bad, what he did?
” On the other hand, this question might also be partly asked on her own behalf, since both her and Krogstad’s crimes were forgery. She again indirectly pleads her own cause, “Mighn’t he have done it from dire necessity? ” hoping that her good motives for the forgery might diminish the significance of her misdeed. When Torvald claimed that the immorality of a parent can poison and corrupt the children, Nora gets even more uneasy, and this is highlighted when she moves “closer behind him” and asks, “Are you certain of that? “