All great literary writers are very critical about their word choices. They try to select the words and the sentences to maximize the effects on developing the themes of their works. As a famous modern playwright, Henrik Ibsen also chooses his words and sentences very deliberately. In one of his best-known plays, A Doll’s House, Ibsen makes many changes and additions to his earlier drafts in order to achieve the most [appropriate and sufficient] dramatic effects on the themes and on the audience and readers in his final version of the play.
The deliberate situation, word, and sentence choices are evidenced in three passages in ACT III, which is known as the discussion act and falling action of the play.
From the very end of page 570 to the middle of page 580, Torvald describes how, at parties, he pretends not to know her so that he may seduce her all over again, and he is very lame with Norall until Dr. Rank interrupts. However, in the earlier draft, Mr. Helmer has not drunk too much champagne and is not so amorous with Nora.
Ibsen emphasized the mental condition of Mr. Helmer and his acts as a result of that condition. As I know, people’s drunken words often reveal their real thoughts. Since Torvald is not sober, he reveals to Nora that their marriage is just a result of his seducing her, which further demonstrates that Torvald’s affection for Nora is only for his own enjoyment.
Then, at the end of page 63, Mr. Helmer cries, I am saved, Nora, I am saved! instead of being saved in the original draft. The deliberate word exchange from “you” to “I” is used to emphasize that Torvald is much more concerned about himself and his own appearance than his wife Nora.
The addition of those two lines illustrates that Torvald puts his honor above anything else, even his wife, who loves him and makes sacrifices for him. Those two lines also reveal the theme of the inequality between husband and wife in a marriage. Although all women are willing to make sacrifices for their loved ones, men are not.
The phrase “hundreds of thousands is a contrast with the word “nol to emphasize the huge difference in roles between a husband and a wife. The contrast also affects the mood of the audience and reader, resulting in their sympathy towards women in that society.
Overall, Ibsen makes changes and additions to situations, words, and sentences to produce completely different dramatic effects than those of the drafts. His deliberate word choices set the tone of his play and thus revealed and strengthened the themes. The passages in the final version affect the mood of the audience and readers. The changes and additions also produce the dramatic effect of symbolism. On the first level of symbolism, the three passages work together to contribute to the characterization of the antagonist, Torvald, and vividly reveal that he is in love with himself instead of Nora, which is also evidenced in the movie we watch when Torvald looks at himself in the mirror. On the second level of symbolism, the three passages reveal the theme of the play, which is the inequality in a marriage relationship.
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