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The character of Nora, of Isben's A Doll's House, is particularly difficult to interpret. Her character is constructed by the combination of a number of varying traits. Throughout Act 1 her ambiguity is particularly prominent. Her frivolous, playful moments are readily followed by moments of practicality and astuteness. It is not surprising that Nora is such a changeable character for she is constantly interchanging between three main roles: a supporting wife, fundamental mother and sexual being.
Ibsen uses the metaphor of a doll inside a doll house to portray Nora's attempt to become an individual while confined inside a male dominated world. Her wish to become self motivated is obstructed by Torvald's power over her. Nora's home is the realization of domestic bliss, preserved and presented like "A Doll's House." Lacking experience of life in the real world and oblivious to the outdoor hardships, Nora is vulnerable. She enters muffled in protection from the outside, portrayed symbolically through her coat, scarf etc.
Immediately, Nora appears childlike and coquettish. She orders Helene in an excitable tone to hide the Christmas tree as the children "mustn't see it till tonight." Nora's secretiveness in wanting to hide the tree, extends further, and is a constant theme. Following Torvald's light- hearted interrogation with regard to whether she has had any macaroons, she becomes nervous and lies, "No Torvald, I promise...No No...Torvald I swear." Of course, this is particularly important as the entire play rotates around Nora's "big secret." With the entrance of Krogstad, Nora's sense of fun abandons her. Her attempt to enforce her social superiority over him is genuinely intimidated. In her ambitious attempt to be superior she states "one isn't without influence". However, within moments she is forced into pleading "Mr. Krogstad, I don't have any influence."
Nora's stereotyped roll as a doll confined to a doll's house constantly being fathered by Torvald encourages her childlike manner. However an entirely different contradicting side to Nora's character is revealed when Nora explains exactly what she did "for Helmer". Although Nora is a woman who shirks or is probably unaware of her responsibilities (particularly with regard to her children who are under permanent care of Ann- Marie) here she has, apparently, fulfilled something of her duty as a wife. Her personal attitude to her action, which in her mind saved "Torvald's life" is very childlike.
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Nora is trapped in debt. She seems, at times, unaware of the value of money. Her feckless, careless use of money is subtly hinted by her "keep the change" to the porter. The problem of her debt to Krogstad is later revealed and hardly surprising. Although we are supposed to see Nora as childlike and immature she has been carefully constructed so that her independence and native wisdom (which remain behind the veneer caused by her father and Helmer) have always shown through. Her character at this stage is one enforced on her by society and those around her. However it is inevitable that her true self is destined to shine through.
Nora is a dependent woman, confined to a "play" world, striving to become independent and to enter reality despite the obstruction of her husband Torvald. Nora has yet to discover herself.
Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll's House. Introduction to Literature: Reading, Analyzing, and Writing.2nd ed. Ed. Dorothy U. Seyler and Richard A. Wilan. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice, 1990.