Animal Imagery in Henrick Ibsen's
A Doll House
Animal imagery in Henrick Ibsen's play, The Doll House is a critical analyzing tool for the character development of Nora and Torvald Helmer the main characters in this play.
The play is a three-act play that takes place in the Helmer residence, in "A room furnished comfortably and tastefully, but not extravagantly." (pg.3) It's the Christmas season at the residence as it's told early in the play. Torvald asks Nora what she would like for Christmas. Nora wishes for money, because, unknown to Torvald, she owes a large sum to Nils Krogstad for a promissory note loan he had given to her. The story goes on, and Torvald finds out about the note. The anger he directs at Nora goes away when he opens another letter from Krogstad with the note in it, saying that the note did not have to be paid back. Even after this, Nora decides to leave Torvald, saying that he "never understood [her]" and that he "never loved [her]." That, in my opinion was the truth.
Nora Helmer was a sensitive character. She had been babied all of her life, by her father, and by Torvald. She really didn't have too many concerns or responsibilities. She didn't even have to care for the children; the maid would usually take care of them. Speaking stereotypically she was your everyday housewife. She never left the house, mostly because her husband was afraid of the way people "would talk." In my opinion not too many people knew of their marriage, and that was they way Torvald wanted it to be. It really wasn't her fault she was the way she was. It was mostly Torvald's for spoiling her.
Ibsen uses creative, but effective, animal imagery to develop Nora's character throughout the play. He has Torvald call his wife "his little lark" or "sulky squirrel" or other animal names throughout the play. He uses a lot of 'bird' imagery-calling her many different bird names. It seems to me that the name he uses directly relates to how Torvald feels about her at the time. He has something about him that observes the mood of the people that he is around, like later in the story when he says to Nora "Did you notice what good spirits Rank was in this evening?"(pg. 55) The animals Ibsen chooses to use are related to how Nora is acting, or how she needs to be portrayed to the reader.
For example not even a dozen lines into Act I, Torvald asks (referring to Nora), "Is that my little lark twittering out there" and "Is that my squirrel bustling about?" ...