When attending a masquerade, a person is expected to wear a mask. In fact, it’s looked down upon if a mask isn’t worn. But, what if for some people that mask never came off? In A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, each character has constructed their own metaphorical mask that they set firmly in place every morning when exiting their bed. Each character: Nora, Torvald, Kristine and Krogstad all have masks that they put in place when speaking to each other. Throughout most of the play, it is clear that all of the aforementioned characters have multiple facades that they use when speaking to one another; often switching quickly as they begin speaking to someone else. Henrik Ibsen’s use of the masquerade serves as an extended metaphor to show the masks that the characters use in their everyday lives.
At the beginning of A Doll’s House, Nora Helmer seems stable in her marriage and the way that her life has panned out. She doesn’t seem to mind the her husband, Torvald, speaks to her, even if the audience can blatantly see that he is degrading her with the names he chooses to call her. “Hm, if only you knew what expenses we larks and squirrels have, Torvald” (Ibsen, 1192). Nora is notorious throughout Act I to play into the nicknames that Torvald calls her. She portrays that she is this doll-like creature that needs to be taken care of. Furthermore, we see that Nora is excited for her husband’s new job that will increase their income substantially. This is the first mask that the audience is presented with. As the play continues, Nora reveals yet another mask, this is a mask of a woman who so desperately wants to be taken seriously. The audience learns that Nora had previously taken out a loan to save her husband’s life. She proves that …
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…d children. The final mask of Krogstad that is seen is that of love and caring. In the end Kristine goes back to Krogstad stating that she always loved him and only left him because “I had a helpless mother and two small brothers. We couldn’t wait for you” (Ibsen, 1225). In the end it is Krogstad who has changed for the better, not Nora or Helmer. It is the very man that Torvald so easily condemned for his past mistakes.
Henrik Ibsen uses the masquerade party as a way to demonstrate the masks that the characters so often wear and change depending on who they are speaking to in that moment. The metaphor being that throughout the entire play the characters are preparing for a masquerade party.
Mays, Kelly. “Poems for Further Study.” Norton Introduction to Literature. Eleventh Edition. New York: W.W. Norton and Company Inc., 2013. 771-772. Print.