A character analysis of Ibsen’s, “A Doll House”, reveals one main challenge
facing Nora and women of today: men tend to misjudge women. Men assume that
women are innocent and weak, merely because they are female. Nora Helmer, whom
is considered childlike, is an example of women that live in a metaphorical “doll house”.
On the other hand, towards the end of the story, Nora exhibits the independence and
drive to be a real woman; this is another characteristic that many women display. Nora’s
metamorphosis is a clear-cut representation of how modern-day women gained the
freedom and rights they have today. In order to successfully dissect the character of
Nora Helmer, we must talk about the struggles of women during her time. According to
Elaine Fortin, the role of a wife in the 19th century was to “complement her husband,
reflecting credit on himself and herself” (Fortin). The author clearly captures this
concept by creating a character such as Nora. Her introduction, personality, motivation,
struggles, and ultimate lesson learned will be thoroughly examined.
Nora Helmer is introduced to the audience as the wife of banker, Torvald Helmer.
The play begins with her being concerned with hiding the Christmas tree from the
children, as indicated in this dialogue: “Hide the Christmas tree carefully, Helene. Make
sure the children don’t see it till it’s decorated this evening”(Ibsen 892). There is also a
slight indication of her financial status by her telling the Porter, “Here’s a krone. No,
keep the change” (Ibsen 892). She displays normal interactions that a well-to-do woman
of the 19th century. However, her vulnerability is evident in her interaction with Torvald in
reference to spending more money: “Pooh, we can borrow until then”(Ibsen, 892).
Emma Goldman describes Nora as “light-hearted and gay, apparently without depth.
Who, indeed, would expect depth of a doll, a squirrel, a song-bird” (Goldman). As we
examine Goldman’s comments, it is clear that the perception of Nora, differs from what
she really is. Perhaps this is the author’s method of making her a believable character.
Nora’s personality can be initially labeled as childlike or immature. Wade Bradford
describes her as “behaving[s] playfully, yet obediently in his presence, always
coaxing favors from him instead of communicating as equals”(Bradford). It is a
possibility that she might be using this as a coping mechanism to forget her past
transgressions. Another critic has the same opinion as Bradford and Goldman, by