A Dolls House World Literature Essay Questions

  • 11-25-2007, 03:21 PM#1

    Student

    Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House"

    Hi, Im currently working on an essay for my IB coursework:

    "How does Ibsen use the play to explore free will and determinism?"

    And i dont have many ideas for paragraphs. So if anyone could offer any quotes or ideas, that would be greatly appreciated.


    Alexxx

  • 08-12-2009, 11:46 AM#2

    Registered User

    Help!

    Hey Alex,

    My name is Helen and I am doing my IB World Literature on a similar topic to yours. Mine is on Free Will and Determinism in A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen and L'etranger by Albert Camus. Did you manage to write your essay on it? Is there any advice/quotes you can help me with with regards to A Dolls House! I really am stuck!

    I would be soo greatful!!

    Let me know,

    Helen xx

  • 08-12-2009, 05:43 PM#3

    the beloved:
    Both Nora and Mersault act courageously, if recklessly, with a conscious and sustained disregard for social norms and conventions. Both decide for themselves based on the present, the here and now. Both act outrageously from the viewpoint of their communities. Mersault is driven by rational despair; Nora by a search for what is true and authentic. Mersault sees no point in living a lie; Nora rejects living as a doll for father and, later, husband.

    Both existentially choose, and fashion their lives accordingly, rejecting the spineless self-deception of the world around them.
    Originally Posted by Helly

    Mine is on Free Will and Determinism in A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen and L'etranger by Albert Camus.


  • 08-13-2009, 07:03 AM#4

    Registered User

    Thanks.

    But, how does that link to free will and determinism?

    In A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen it is Nora's free will that enables her to depart from the House. It is however deterministic that Helmer finds out about the debt because Krogstad had decided to tell him therefore there was nothing Nora could od about it, correct? What do you think of these two ideas?

    In L'etranger by Albert Camus however I have no ideas about how free will and determinism are demonstrated. Any idea?

    Thanks for this help,

    Helen xx


  • 08-13-2009, 11:42 PM#5

    the beloved:
    Let's agree that by determinism we mean that human choices and actions can be determined from external causes; and by free will that human choices and actions are determined by internal causes within an individual's control.

    The radical choices of Nora and Mersault determine arise unexpectedly and with little or no input from external causes. A more deterministic Nora would have remained, at least to some extent, in society's ethical straight-jacket, but she left home, husband and children! A more deterministic Mersault would have considered the medium or long term impacts of his action, but he takes 'no thought for the morrow'. Such choices can hardly be explained by external cause.

    'That Helmer finds out about the debt' does not determine his reaction to it. He, himself, does. While external constraints are always with us, the characters of Ibsen and Camus are free to act in more ways than one. And these characters are able to postpone acting long enough to consider the consequences of a choice.
    Originally Posted by Helly

    In A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen it is Nora's free will that enables her to depart from the House. It is however deterministic that Helmer finds out about the debt because Krogstad had decided to tell him therefore there was nothing Nora could do about it, correct? What do you think of these two ideas?


  • 08-14-2009, 10:10 AM#6

    Registered User

    Ok, I think I understand what you mean.

    So in L'etranger by Albert Camus it was Mersaults free will to shoot the Arab. However it is deterministic that the court case etc happens as that is beyond Mersaults control?

    And in A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen it was free will of Nora to leave but pre determined by Krogstad that Helmer would find out about the borrowing, and therefore that is determinisitc as it is beyond Noras control?

    Ahh I am so not getting this.

    Could you put it in simple language?

    Thanks,

    Helen


  • 08-14-2009, 12:01 PM#7

    Haribol Acharya


    “Those who seek to satisfy the mind of man by hampering it with ceremonies and music and affecting charity and devotion have lost their original nature””

    “If water derives lucidity from stillness, how much more the faculties of the mind! The mind of the sage, being in repose, becomes the mirror of the universe, the speculum of all creation.

    I read this book several times and find it very inspiring.


  • 08-14-2009, 08:30 PM#8

    the beloved:
    If you look up free will and determinism on Wikipedia, Helen, you will see that the concepts are murky and problematic. It's far from simple.

    Wiki states, 'The question of free will is whether, and in what sense, rational agents exercise control over their actions and decisions'. Whether free will or determinism, depends on the writer's philosophical perspective rather than, as you suggests, the circumstances or external forces that impact on characters. As Hamlet says to Rosencrantz, "O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space..."

    Both Ibsen and Camus seem to embrace a free will view of human decision making. Both have endowed all their characters with free will. I suspect there is little or nothing of a determinist philosophy in either book.

    Nevertheless, philosophical debate on free will or determinism can be complex. Thomas Hobbes, for instance, claims that 'a person acts freely only when the person willed the act and the person could have done otherwise, if the person had decided to'.
    Originally Posted by Helly

    Ahh I am so not getting this.


  • 08-15-2009, 05:34 AM#9

    Registered User

    Ok, cool thanks.

    Just kind of wish I hadn't picked that title now!

    Helen xx


  • 08-15-2009, 06:53 PM#10

    the beloved:
    Don't despair. In the witching hours, I realised that the Thomas Hobbes definition of 'free will' has interesting application to both the Ibsen and the Camus.

    Nora and Torvald Helmer are locked in a determinist mindset, living society's image of them until the impact of Mrs Linde's 'No, Nils, you must not recall your letter'. With eyes opening, Nora learns the stark truth about Torvald's sham morality, and can act freely for the first time in her life! So the doll escapes the straight-jacket of her upbringing and her 'marriage'.

    Mersault acts with existential freedom unlike Raymond, for instance, who is locked into cultural habit. Mersault is unencumbered by his past or society's hypocritical values; he lives in the moment. Raymond thrives on pride, shame and guilt; driven by the past (for Mersault, a bygone fantasy) the predictable Raymond cannot act freely in his world.
    Originally Posted by Helly

    Just kind of wish I hadn't picked that title now!


  • 04-16-2010, 02:28 AM#11

    Registered User

    class discussion for 4/16

    Well I want to mention some of important stuff on Act 3.
    Definitely, Act 3 was really interesting... I am doing my discussion thread now. Because I don't want you to think that I am copying others thoughts after I participate the discussion tomorrow in class.

    Throughout the book, There are alot of scenes that shows Torvald treating Nora as a doll. I guess that's why it relates to the title. When Nora and Torvald finished their dance and came downstairs, Mrs. Linde was waiting for them. And she said she wanted to wait to see Nora in costume. And Torvald was removing Nora's shawl and said, "Take a good look." I mean seriously this is ridiculous. Torvald doesn't treat her as a wife, but as a doll. He undressed her clothes without asking her permission and told someone to take a look? This guy just makes me really mad. Also, since the dance of tarantella represents Nora's psychological mind, she seems to be more calm and relax later. She just gave up on the letter from Krostad. Because Torvald said "the performance may have been a bit too naturalistic... she made a success, an overwhelming success." So by looking at this quote, I realized that she is more clam than she used to be. Because her dance movement used to be really violent, which symbolized that she had a confusion in her mind. Also, this thing relates to the [I]Yellow Wallpaper[I]. Because that girl who crawled around the room like crazy later on kinda gave up on it and relax after she believed she acheived something. So I guess it's kind like a same thing. It's really cool how this book relates to a lot of different books that we've learned. Also, I thought Torvald's hand position is pretty significant. Because throughout the book, his hand position is someway pressing Nora's body. For example, putting his arm around her waist was mentioned pretty much every where. So he is basically limiting her capacity and position.
    And the candles were mentioned again. I guess it has a same role as the lamp from Act 2. Because Torvald said, "Why's it dark here?" and then he lighted candles. So basically candles are foreshadowing what's going to happen next.

    Sorry, I am throwing a lot of stuff at the same time. Because I am writing this thread and reading at the same time. So.. haha

    There is another scene makes me really mad, Torvald said "now my little Lark is talking like a human being." What is that supposed to mean. He considered her as non-human being before? He is really pissing me off.. I think that I should stop reading any of victorian-type of novels. Because this is ridiculous.

    Also, there is another scene that shows Torvald expecting Nora to be a doll. I think he believes that Nora is a doll and she has to be perfect as a doll. And the way he described Nora was pretty creepy. But he said " I place the shawl over those fine young rounded shoulders over that wonderful curving necks." I also noticed that Torvald is obsessed with the costume. It's like the same thing as if you have a doll, you want to dress it up. When Nora and Dr. Rank talked about other party, Torvald said " find a costume for that!" So that was another scene that shows Torvald treating Nora as a doll.

    Also, Dr. Rank's letter and everything about him is relate to Dr. Jeckyll or Mr. Hyde. I mean they are the same person. However, I think he is more likely Dr. Jeckyll at the beginning considering the fact that he has a good reputation in the society. And this is really scary. Because Dr. Jeckyll was so weak for a long time and when a few days before he completely shut him down, he looked so delightful and healthy. And the way Nora described Dr. Rank was so similar to that.

    And also, she is rejecting herself as a doll by showing Torvald off that she is grown up and she can't be his doll anymore. I've seen a lot of scenes that shows Nora is very immature and childish in Act1; however, she is very mature and grown-up metally in Act 3.

    And finally, I really like the ending!

  • 04-16-2010, 05:37 AM#12

    the beloved:

    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

    Great to see someone posting on Ibsen!

    Also, most Ibsen plays focus on the nature of house and home.

    Nora only becomes calm after Torvald reacts angrily to Krogstad's letter.

    Neither yellow nor wallpaper are in the text!

    Nora misjudges both Torvald and Dr. Rank, who is more pathetic than evil and debauched like Mr Hyde.

    Nora's long-standing misjudgement of Torvald is all important. She is not so much grown up as needing to spend the next year or more to grow up, at long last.
    Originally Posted by nickname0811

    There are a lot of scenes that shows Torvald treating Nora as a doll. I guess that's why it relates to the title.

    Originally Posted by nickname0811

    Because Torvald said "the performance may have been a bit too naturalistic... she made a success, an overwhelming success." So by looking at this quote, I realized that she is more calm than she used to be. Because her dance movement used to be really violent, which symbolized that she had a confusion in her mind.

    Originally Posted by nickname0811

    Also, this thing relates to the Yellow Wallpaper.

    Originally Posted by nickname0811

    Also, Dr. Rank's letter and everything about him is relate to Dr. Jeckyll or Mr. Hyde. I mean they are the same person.

    Originally Posted by nickname0811

    And also, she is rejecting herself as a doll by showing Torvald off that she is grown up and she can't be his doll any more.


  • 04-16-2010, 07:27 AM#13

    Dance Magic Dance

    "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia."
    - Margaret Atwood

    Also, Dr. Rank's reputation can't be all that good in the community, Nora knows from the beginning that he has Syphilis. Aside from what we can conclude about Rank's character given he is wasting away from disease, it gives us a clue about Nora being less naive than she really appears.


  • 04-16-2010, 06:38 PM#14

    the beloved:

    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

    Is Rank's syphilis congenital? I seem to recall that his father had led a dissolute life. If so, what are we to make of Dr. Rank's character?
    Originally Posted by OrphanPip

    Also, Dr. Rank's reputation can't be all that good in the community, Nora knows from the beginning that he has Syphilis. Aside from what we can conclude about Rank's character given he is wasting away from disease, it gives us a clue about Nora being less naive than she really appears.


  • 04-16-2010, 11:09 PM#15

    Dance Magic Dance

    "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia."
    - Margaret Atwood

    Even if it were acquired at birth there is still a symbolic significance to his wasting away from disease. In fact, I might even venture that it might be more significant if the disease was inflicted on him with no fault of his own. He is corrupted in a medical sense just as the society Nora lives in is corrupted.

    He's troublesome though, he seems to just be a standard representative of the society, respectable on the outside and corrupt on the inside (and in private given he flirts with a married woman). However, it's hard to be too judgmental of him because he's unfortunately dying and he is, in a way, kind to Nora.
    Originally Posted by Gladys

    Is Rank's syphilis congenital? I seem to recall that his father had led a dissolute life. If so, what are we to make of Dr. Rank's character?


  • 1

    The play is usually considered one of Ibsen's “realist” plays. Consider how far the play might be anti-realist or symbolic.

    Answer: Consider the symbols, metaphors, and imagery of the play, and weigh their importance against the elements that seem realistic. It also should be very helpful to define “realism” over against the uses of symbols and elements that are absurd, grotesque, or fantastic. Note that “realism” and “symbolism” have gained specific connotations within Ibsen criticism.

  • 2

    When Nora says in Act One, “I can't think of anything to wear. It all seems so stupid and meaningless,” Ibsen illustrates the symbolism of clothing in the play. Describe how Ibsen’s use of clothing works in the play.

    Answer: Consider, especially, Nora's tarantella costume and fancy-dress box, as well as her black dress when taking the clothing is a symbol. Explore the metaphor of clothing as something which covers up, something which disguises, or as something which confers identity. Ibsen also uses clothing to make points about agency and gender. Consider who dresses whom and who wears certain clothes for the sake of personal expression or in order to please someone else.

  • 3

    Why is freedom important in the play?

    Answer: Nora sees herself as not free when she is confined in the domestic life of her husband’s home. The direction of the play is to perceive Nora’s awakening as someone who deserves freedom. Consider, too, that Torvald becomes free of his marriage obligations, which also have been oppressive of his own liberties. Finally, consider the ambiguous nature of the freedom Nora wins. She is going from a fairly predictable life into something unknown. Remember that Mrs. Linde would rather be tied to a family rather than alone and on her own. Is that because of human nature or because of her individual choice?

  • 4

    Is Torvald Helmer a deeply abhorrent character?

    Answer: To answer this question, perform a detailed character study of Torvald Helmer. Do not jump to a conclusion based on your initial feelings about his words and actions in the play. Weigh both sides of the argument—what specifically is the problem in the marriage and in his choices? If you decide to abhor the character, how bad is he? Consider the ways in which he genuinely loves his wife, earns money for the household, and pays attention to her against his selfishness, oppression of his wife, and ability to handle stress.

  • 5

    How does the play illustrate inheritance, the passing along of traits from parent to child?

    Answer: Consider Dr. Rank's illness as attributed to his father’s indiscretions. Krogstad's shame for his own alleged errors is inherited by his children by way of reputation. Consider, most of all, Nora's relationships with her father and her nurse as influences on how she treats her own children.

  • 6

    What is the importance of the title of the play?

    Answer: This is a reasonably straightforward question that could be taken in a number of directions. How far is Nora a doll, an object or toy for others? How does her home represent a doll’s house, from which the doll cannot escape on her own? When Nora leaves the house, she is breaking free of the metaphor, though it is unclear what will happen if she is going to return to her earlier family home, where she was something of a doll to her father.

  • 7

    Ibsen once described Mrs Alving in his play Ghosts as a version of Nora in later life. Imagine what Nora’s earlier life might have been like, based on her characterization in the play.

    Answer: If up till the last day, Nora has been living in a fantasy world, she must have been even less self-aware or independent when she was younger. She probably married by being enthralled by her society’s ideas of love and marriage. Under her father and nurse, she seems to have had few opportunities to get anything like a liberal education; instead, she seems to have learned only how to be a traditional girl and a traditional woman.

  • 8

    To what extent is the play a comedy?

    Answer: As well as considering smaller touches, such as individual lines, or jokes that might be funny or comedic, it is worth learning about the theatrical definitions of comedy and tragedy to consider how the structure of the play and the main plot elements might count as part of the tradition of comedy. Consider the roles of marriage, death, friendship, self-awareness, irony, family, holidays and parties, and the various themes of the play in this context.

  • 9

    Is A Doll's House a feminist play?

    Answer: Ibsen claimed that his play was about liberation in a more general, human sense, rather than specifically about female liberation. If feminism focuses on both men and women, it is reasonable to see the mutual liberation of Torvald and Nora as a feminist goal, liberating people of both sexes from social and cultural limitations based on gender. Consider the various women in the play as well. How are we to know whether Ibsen wants us to approve or disapprove of their various choices in relation to men and to their own goals? How do the characters themselves exhibit any goals or points that could be described as feminist?

  • 10

    How does Ibsen provide suspense in the play?

    Answer: The audience wonders when Torvald will read the letter and what will happen when he does. We also do not know if Nora is going to decide to kill herself, leave, or stay home, but we do know that the pressure on her is building and that something in her is going to burst. Foreshadowing contributes to these issues, such as when Nora tells Mrs. Linde that she has plans Mrs. Linde cannot understand.

  • 11

    Compare the relationship between Mrs. Linde and Krogstad with that of Nora and Torvald.

    Answer: Nora and Torvald have lived in something of a fantasy marriage for years, and finally they are separating. Meanwhile, Mrs. Linde and Krogstad have been apart, thinking about one another, and finally they are getting together with a larger degree of self-understanding and maturity.

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