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A discussion on the character Nora in the play "A Doll's Hou

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Dominic Lam

on 11 December 2013

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Transcript of A discussion on the character Nora in the play "A Doll's Hou

NORA'S AWAKENING: HOW SHE COMES TO REALIZE THE POWER SHE HOLDS IN HER RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE MEN IN HER LIFE AND HOW THE TARANTELLA DANCE MARKS A TURNING POINT FOR HER AS A WOMAN

DOMINIC LAM

SUMMARY

Nora is a character that evolves in a positive way throughout the play. Her development takes the form of self-awareness, as she slowly comes to the realisation that she is more than just a toy of her husband and that she has the power to break free of the doll's house-like captivity in which Torvald thinks he holds her.
FOCUS POINTS
Nora the possession
Nora uses knowledge as power
Nora's controls through seduction
Nora's discovery of her power of exression
Nora the possession
CONVENTIONAL
Abides by her husbands rules
Helmer: "My little spendthrift hasn't been breaking any rules around town today has she?"

The household rules are made by Helmer as someone exercising control and followed, superficially at least, by Nora as someone who is powerless
The personal pronoun "my" is possessive, showing how Nora is regarded by Helmer as a possession
Nora is financially dependent on her husband
Helmer: "No debts, never borrow"

Helmer has complete control over finances and expresses his position in language that is at best commanding and at worst dictatorial
He has decided not to borrow any money and is dismissive of his wife when she broaches the subject
Nora is in favour of borrowing when necessary and gently suggests taking out a loan but stops short of telling Helmer that this is what he needs to do
She is his woman, not her own
Helmer: "It is incredible how expensive it is for a man to keep such a pet"

Nora is treated like a possession, expensive and tolerated but perhaps not loved
The language Helmer uses to label his wife as well as the pet names by which he addresses her, dehumanize her
By describing Nora as a pet, Ibsen creates the image of a dog on a tight leash, obedient, submissive and at the mercy of its master
Nora Uses Knowledge as Power

It is established at the beginning of Act 1 that Nora is secretive and deceitful. We know this through her speech and her actions
By knowing things that others do not and by wielding her secrets like a weapon she exercises considerable control, while maintaining the outward appearance of a submissive wife
Nora's financial dealings give her such a sense of responsibility that she begins to feel almost like a man as she takes on the mantel convention assigns to her husband and denies her
In conversations with Mrs Linde Nora reveals, with a measure of pride, that she understands her "great secret" may be used to her advantage in the future
Nora: "my great secret"

The adjective "great" illustrates how proud she is of the secret that she has kept from Helmer and it also demonstrates that she is aware that this secret is powerful, not merely for the position in which it puts her, but for the impact it might have on the lives' of people close to her
Ibsen creates for Nora a child-like image of a mischievous little girl, taunting others with a secret she desperately wants to share with people she trusts but dares not to divulge to those most affected by it, lest by doing so she hands over the very power that the secret holds
Nora: "It might be a good thing to have in reserve"

Nora boasts to Mrs Linde that her secret will hold her in good stead in future years
She states that she'll use this secret to regain Helmer's attention when she becomes less attractive with age
This statement conveys the manipulative side of her character and shows how she uses knowledge as power and as a means to securing her advantage
Nora: "I was the one responsible for it"
Describing her illegal loan from Krogstad, Nora expresses a sense of pride at having taken charge of a financial situation in defiance of social conventions and her husband's authority
The awareness of the fact she has dared assume a man's responsibility for finances gives her a feeling of empowerment
Nora equates a man's responsibility with power
Nora: "It was a tremendous pleasure to sit there working and earning money. It was like being a man"

Pretending to prepare for Christmas, Nora secretly works to pay off her loan and in so doing, retains control of her financial situation, without having to seek help from Helmer
By comparing her actions to those traditionally associated with men in the phrase, "It was like being a man," shows the level of empowerment she now enjoys
Nora controls through seduction
"Nora: [playing with his coat buttons, and without raising her eyes to his]... give me money?"

Through the words and actions in this extract, Nora demonstrates that she knows how to manipulate Helmer, flattering and flirting and complying with his image of her as a child-like dependent
Her ploy is almost successful, creating the impression that she has used it more than once. In this instance it is foiled only by the entrance of the maid
Nora manages Torvald
Nora toys with Dr Rank
Nora: "Oh you may have leave to look at the legs too."
Nora uses a controlling tone when talking to Dr. Rank, speaking down to him from a position of superiority
As this example shows, Nora uses her body as well as her guile to elevate herself to a position of power
Maintaining the lead in the conversation, Nora exerts complete control over Rank, who is clearly infatuated with her, utterly in her thrall and willing to do anything she asks

Nora: "That's to punish you... Not a thing more for being so naughty"

Nora speaks to the doctor as an authoritarian parent addresses an impish child, in the same way as Helmer treats her
The phrase, "Not a thing more," illustrates how Nora slowly dispenses favours as she quickly reels Rank in. This shows a high degree of self-awareness
Rank relinquishes all vestiges of authority, traditionally associated with his gender and profession as he naiively falls for Nora's pretense at seduction

Nora: "And if I asked you now... for a tremendously big favour?"

Having reeled Rank in, Nora finally gets to the point and asks him for money. She has him in her power and knows it
The language she uses in the noun phrase, "tremendously big favour," implies that she wants Rank to think that she regards him as her superior and as the dispenser of favours when in actual fact she is commanding them
Nora Discovers the Power of Expression Through the Tarantella Dance
Acquiring the power of expression is the final stage of Nora's development. For a nineteenth century woman to be able to express herself as freely as Nora does is significant as it defies all social conventions. Women's thoughts and feelings were suppressed in such a patriarchal society, yet Nora finds the strength to assert herself as well as her desire for freedom.
Significance of the Tarantella Dance
The Tarantella dance originated from Italy as a method to cure the imaginary disease Tarantism which was believed to cause victims to go into a type of frenzy following a tarantula bite. The dance was supposed to rid the body of its poisons and the soul of its corruptions.

The scene with Nora wildly spinning out of sync with the piano is ironic, demonstrating how she has taken the lead, oblivious to the attempts by her husband and his doctor to use the piano to set the pace.
Nora cannot be controlled by either Dr Rank or Helmer as she has now gained total power over herself and through her dance is asserting as an independent woman
The dance marks a turning point in the play, with Nora metamorphasising in the face of her men as she drops all pretense at being the conventional pliant and submissive dependent girl they believe her to be
The final image of Nora, changed out of the outfit determined by her husband, is reminiscent of a butterfly having emerged from the restraints of its cocoon -- with no hope of return
"Helmer: Changed so that?
Nora: So that our life together would be a real wedlock"

By the end of the play, Nora gathers the confidence and courage to leave Helmer. She quite literally finds her voice, paying neither regard nor respect for her husband or his world.
The language Nora uses at the close of the final act shows that she is now aware and accepts that her marriage is an unequal union with no real possibility of redemption.
Their roles are by now reversed, with Helmer dependent on Nora. He pleads with her to stay and, even after she leaves, he looks around the empty room with "a glimmer of hope"
Nora's power of expression is total and she uses it to take full control of not just a situation but her entire life as she openly tells Helmer that she is leaving him
Choosing her life as an independent woman over her life as either a wife or a mother, Nora is now her own person and has just as much power as any man in the play. She is anyone's equal
Conclusion
There are three stages in Nora's development:
She appears at the outset to be a conventional 19th century wife
It is soon apparent however, that this is merely a facade. Behind this is superficial exteror is a complex and multifaceted character who may not initially have the courage to express herself but certainly has the power of her own mind
By the end of the play she reaches the realisation that she is a strong, independently-minded woman with multiple skills and assests and, bringing these together, she finds the courage to finally assert herself and break free of convention
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