The Dramatic Changes of Nora Helmer in “A Doll’s House”

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Nora Helmer is one of the most interesting characters in Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House. She is the mother of three and the wife of Torvald Helmer. Helmer, just like any man in his time period, is basically the owner of his wife. He shows love and affection for her but, at the same time, belittles her. Throughout the play, Nora grows to be a powerful woman and stands up for herself and what she believes in.

At the beginning of A Doll's House, Nora allows herself to follow social conformity and yield to every wish or whim of Helmer. For example, she is eating macaroons, and as soon as Helmer walks into the room, she hides them, so he doesn't know (2). At times, she can be a giddy and submissive girl. When Nora finds out that Christine is a widow, she says, Poor thing, how you must have suffered. And he left you nothing? She is referring to the fact that Christine has nothing without a husband. No money and no children. It seems as though she feels that that is the only thing one can get out of marriage (6). Also, within Act I, we get to see Nora's freedom with her children as she hides under a table to play with them (18). Krogstad comes to visit her, and she fears that he will talk about her debt to him (19). Even though he doesn't even come to speak with her about the money, she fears him. It is amazing how, just after seeing her freedom, she can suddenly shift to these new feelings. A little later in this act, we experience yet another side of Nora. She realizes that she needs to be scared of her husband because he might find out about this debt she illegally has. She fears that it will ruin her family (28).

Act II opens by showing Nora to be absolutely paranoid. She is pacing around her living room and showing nervousness that Krogstad might come over and ruin her. On pages 30 and 31, Nora hides these feelings from Christine because she cannot know her fear of Krogstad. As soon as Helmer walks into the room, she completely covers her feelings and becomes happy and giddy because that is what Helmer wants her to be (33). Then, after he leaves, she becomes very anxious in fear that he may know some of her secrets. She continues to be paranoid and is constantly trying to cover her lies until she comes to a realization. She says, Five o'clock." Seven hours until midnight, and then four and twenty hours until the next midnight. Then the tarantella will be over. Twenty-four and seven? Thirty-one hours to live (50). When she says she has 31 hours to live, she really means to live as a family member, to be a mother, and to be a wife. This is the first big change in Nora. She has come to be so much stronger to realize what is actually coming her way.

The third act begins with Nora attempting to be manipulative. She tries to get Helmer to do as she wishes, which involves doing nothing but checking the mail. On page 61, Nora is finally able to make a solid, conscious decision about the letter. She actually tells Helmer to read the letter, and he refuses. He does read it and begins to yell at her for ruining him. This is where Nora makes a stand for what she really believes in. She puts on a cold face and allows him to yell as she has already decided to leave. Then, when Helmer gets news of Krogstad's apology, he turns around to forgive her for everything because he has been saved (63). Nora stands firm in her decision. She knows that she must leave for her own sake. As much as Helmer has changed since knowing that his reputation is saved, Nora knows that this is not the time or place to be with Helmer. She knows that this is her time to go out and get an education and find out what she wants in this world.

Throughout this storyline, Nora changes dramatically from a doll in a doll house to a strong and powerful woman. She has changed her life to become a better person for herself instead of holding back Helmer.

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The Dramatic Changes of Nora Helmer in "A Doll's House". (2023, Mar 07). Retrieved May 21, 2024 , from

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