Animal Imagery in A Doll’s House
Animal imagery in Henrick Ibsen’s play, A Doll’s House is a critical part of the character development of Nora, the protagonist.
Ibsen uses creative, but effective, animal imagery to develop Nora’s character throughout the play. He has Torvald call his wife “his little lark”(Isben) or “sulky squirrel”(Isben) or other animal names throughout the play. He uses a lot of ‘bird’ imagery-calling her many different bird names. The name Torvald uses directly relates to how he feels about her at the time. The animals Ibsen chooses to use are related to how Nora is acting, or how she needs to be portrayed.
For instance: Not even a dozen lines into Act I, Torvald asks (referring to Nora), “Is that my little lark twittering out there”(Isben) and “Is that my squirrel rummaging around?”(Isben) A lark is a songbird; a happy, carefree bird. It is can also be used as a verb that means to engage in spirited fun or merry pranks. A squirrel is quite the opposite: it is a small, furry rodent. If you are to squirrel away something, you were hiding or storing it, kind of like what Nora was doing with her bag of macaroons. Torvald calls her these names to fit the situation.
Nora was definitely a care free woman, just like a lark, and Torvald refers to her as such: “my little lark”(Isben). When he says that, Nora is moving around the room and humming with a carefree spirit that would characterize a lark. Whenever she has this spirit, Torvald refers to her as his “little lark.”(Isben)
On the other hand, Nora must be some sort of scrounge, because Torvald also refers to her as his “little squirrel.”(Isben) He asks if “that is my squirrel rummaging around”(Isben). It seems that maybe Ibsen was usi…
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…al in the character development for both characters, showing really how both sides perceive the other.
Works Cited and Consulted:
Baruch, Elaine Hoffman. “Ibsen’s Doll House: A Myth for Our Time.” The Yale Review 69 (1980): 374-387.
Durbach, Errol. A Doll’s House: Ibsen’s Myth of Transformation. Boston: Twayne, 1991.
Ibsen, Henrick. A Doll House. The Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Thinking, Writing. 5th ed. Ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999. 1564-1612.
Northram, John. “Ibsen’s Search for the Hero.” Ibsen: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Rolf Fjelde. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1965. 107-113.
Salomé, Lou. Ibsen’s Heroines. Ed. and trans. Siegfried Mandel. Redding Ridge: Black Swan, 1985.
Templeton, Joan. “The Doll House Backlash: Criticism, Feminism, and Ibsen. PMLA 104.1(1989): 28-40.