Research Paper on a Doll's House by Enrik Ibsen

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-I choose the first topic which is to analyze Nora's character in three aspects.

-I came with this thesis: Ibsen focuses on this woman attributes. This three aspects of Nora contrast each other greatly and accentuate the fact that she is a determined woman, irresponsible and selfish. This attributes allowed her to exercise her power throughout the entire play. [ you can change if you have another aspects that can be better ]

-I attached the 4 articles you have to cite for the essay

-MLA 8th edition

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The Doll House Backlash: Criticism, Feminism, and Ibsen Templeton, Joan PMLA. Publications of the Modern Language Association of America; Jan 1989; 104, 1; Research Library pg. 28 Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. 54 South Central Review Portal to Forgiveness: A Tribute to Ibsen’s Nora Vicki Mahaffey, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana Any examination of the idea of forgiveness must acknowledge that forgiveness is one possible way of responding—perhaps with time—to a prior transgression. Harm was done to someone or something; a wound was inflicted. What is to be done with the pain and suffering that resulted from that transgression? Unexpectedly, this is a “literary” problem, because both the victim and the perpetrator respond by telling a story about what happened. The question is, what kinds of stories get told? What presuppositions authorize the different possible ways of telling them, and what are the implications of the various narrative configurations? Forgiveness is usually understood as one possible response of a victim to someone who has offended him or her, as a decision to grant absolution rather than to blame. Such a view turns the question of forgiveness into a moral (or even moralistic) issue. I am arguing, on the contrary, that in order to understand the significance of forgiveness, we must take it out of the realm of morality altogether. When we do so, forgiveness emerges not as a response to someone else’s action, but is instead an internal move—a change of attitude within the self—that has no necessary relation to the question of whether or not the victim has decided to absolve the other party. Forgiveness, then, need not be defined as an indulgent or selfless generosity toward the perpetrator: a gift that displaces and annuls the rage of retribution. The offender’s culpability is actually irrelevant to the most immediate problem at hand, the problem of how to move forward after having received a wound. The first step towards a forgiveness associated with healing cannot take place as long as the victim is blaming (or excusing) the person who has done wrong. The reason for this has to do with the similar psychology at work in both blame and defense: power is being attributed to the perpetrator. Where the blame is, that’s where the power is. To blame is to continue to attribute power to the other; it sustains the victim’s feeling of helplessness. It is often to expunge such helplessness that a victim engages in retribution. But forgiveness (defined as a conscious decision to refocus attention from past damage to what remains in the present and possibly even the future, without minimizing the severity of the damage) can be conceptualized as an alternative to both blame and absolution. More specifically, forgiveness is a decision © South Central Review 27.3 (Fall 2010): 54–73. A Tribute to Ibsen’s Nora / Mahaffey 55 to avoid conflict, whether emotional or physical, in order to create a calm space in which fuller self-realization may become possible. The kind of story that victims typically tell in reaction against having been wronged is a grievance story, a story of blame. The main character of a grievance story is the perpetrator: the person who caused the harm. Fred Luskin, who defines grievances as painful episodes that the narrator has endured but not healed from, summarizes research findings that offenders and victims give significantly different accounts about who was responsible for the hurt; both offenders and victims blame the other, whether directly or indirectly, for the offense: “subjects who responded from the point of view of the offended minimized their responsibility for what happened and put blame on the offender. . . . they themselves were relatively blameless.” On the other hand, “Subjects writing from the point of view of the offender . . . placed more responsibility for what happened with the offended and minimized the damage done by their actions. In their stories the hurt was more accidental.”1 The idea of accidental injury is worth pausing over, because the offender’s insistence that he or she did not intend to hurt the victim, that the victim provoked the offender in such a way that in reacting, the offender accidentally did harm, highlights the asymmetry between the accounts of the offender and the victim. The victim accuses; the offender disavows and deflects the charge by making a counter-accusation that is indirect, but nonetheless antagonistic. The unwillingness or inability to forgive—either one’s victim or one’s abuser—amounts to a sustained refusal to permit healing, often for what seem to be very good reasons. Neither party will let the wrong or the conflict with the perpetrator go, whether that wrong was perceived or actual. Why hold on to a grievance that continues to cause suffering? The answer is complicated, because it needs to take into account something that is going on beneath the surface. Both “blamers” often cling to their reciprocally accusatory positions because they presume that they know or understand what was happening in the mind of the other. This presumption offers the solace of certainty, and uncertainty can seem more threatening than (justifiable) suffering. To blame is to hold on to an offence, whereas to forgive is to “lose” it, to give it away; the word “give” is nestled in “forgive.” Often, when someone feels he or she has lost something already, it becomes difficult to “lose” anything else, even if what one is losing is a grievance and the “loss” results from a deliberate choice, a kind of gift to oneself and (perhaps secondarily) to another. Forgiveness is the result of learning how to retell the story of hurt so as to interweave one’s objections to having been harmed, having one’s 56 South Central Review legitimate boundaries violated, with acceptance of the fact that unless the wound was traumatic (incapable of being healed), the pain that was inflicted need not be permanent. Perhaps what makes forgiveness more difficult, though, is that in order to do it the victim must let the offender go, along with the agon that keeps victim and offender intimately connected through “passion” (here understood with its secondary erotic meaning heard through its original, etymological one: suffering). In order to forgive, one must be willing to stand alone to do the slow and exploratory work of healing. The psychology behind accusation and (self) defense is oddly similar: both parties (blamer and blamed) strive to preserve an illusion of innocence, of having been in the right when they performed (or endured) a given action. Each side can only sustain the illusion of innocence if the other side is exposed as culpable. The two sides compete for the prize of seeming justified in their hostility. This competition simultaneously sustains and denies any intimacy in the connection between victim and perpetrator, the consummation of which is likely to be destructive. Sigmund Freud offered insight into the dangers of agon when he asked H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), who was one of his patients and adherents, never to defend him or his works when she heard him being attacked. H.D., in Tribute to Freud, her account of having undergone psychoanalytic treatment with Freud that she recorded retrospectively during the blitz in London, recounts Freud’s reasons for making this strange request. He explained that at the moment when she began to mount a defense of her doctor and teacher, she would only drive the attacker’s anger and prejudice deeper; she could do no good for Freud by defending him: “antagonism cannot be rooted out from above the surface, and it thrives, in a way, on heated argument.” Moreover, Freud asserted that her effort to defend him would not benefit her, either; she would simply expose her feelings. Instead, he recommended that she simply ignore whatever she happens to hear: “If the matter is ignored, the attacker may forgo his anger – or in time, even, his unconscious mind may find another object on which to fix its tentacles.”2 Freud isn’t telling H.D. to give up her values, convictions, or principles, nor is he saying that argument itself is always useless. His advice concerns the best response to emotional (rather than rational) objections: when someone is angry, the best response is not to engage but to move on, to bypass what we might call the “intimacy of agon.” He is reminding her of her limits as a conscious agent as well as underscoring her autonomy of mind, which may well be affected by an antagonistically charged “bonding” with one of Freud’s detractors. To ignore a hate-filled challenge is a kind of “forgiveness”: you don’t A Tribute to Ibsen’s Nora / Mahaffey 57 condone or confirm the other’s opinions or feelings, but you give him or her permission to express them freely, without bonding with that hate. When accusations are rooted in emotion rather than reason, and when they are motivated by a hunger for conflict, it is destructive, not constructive, for a listener to enter into partnership with the accuser by arguing against him or her. Henrik Ibsen’s famous (or infamous) nineteenth-century play, A Doll’s House (1879), provides readers or viewers with a particularly complex and powerful set of stories about transgression and forgiveness, and about the emotional need to assert and defend one’s own heroic “rightness” that often subtends accusation.3 Torvald Helmer and his wife Nora “play” at marriage and parenting, but Nora discovers at the end of the play that they were playing by very different rules. Nora thought that each of them would do anything to promote the well-being of the other, that each would sacrifice the self for the other. She saw herself and her husband as sharing a secret, reciprocal bond, and it was the underlying security provided by this bond that allowed them to enjoy themselves in superficial but nonetheless delightful ways the rest of the time. She had privately sacrificed herself to save her husband’s life when he was ill, and she was certain that he would do the same for her if her well-being was ever threatened. Torvald, in contrast, was playing a hierarchical game in which the thing that mattered most was his honor and reputation. Nora was his “doll wife” (as she had been her Daddy’s “doll child” before she left home), a delightful toy that he cared for and that gave him much entertainment and pleasure in return. As she explains, “the children in turn have been my dolls. I thought it was fun when you came and played with me, just as they thought it was fun when I went and played with them.”4 The heroism Torvald prided himself on was predicated, not on a willingness to sacrifice himself for those he loved, but on his ability to protect them (and himself), which he does by creating an artificial domestic world in which they are “safe” from harm, but also from reality. In Torvald’s world, neither his wife nor children have the power of autonomous movement, which makes it impossible not only for them to take risks, but also to change or grow. Ibsen’s play is relevant to my discussion here because it stages a conflict between two different models of forgiveness: Torvald’s understanding of what it means to forgive (and transgress) is pitted against the new (and radically amoral) conception of forgiveness that Nora forms as a result of what has happened in the course of the play. Torvald’s understanding of transgression is the normative one: one must avoid doing or being wronged because both states threaten the preservation of 58 South Central Review one’s integrity. One can “forgive” and “forget” only if there is no longer any threat to the status quo. In that case, nothing will have changed, and everything can go on as it did before the threat occurred. Nora’s view of forgiveness has less to do with transgression, because she had always been operating by a different code of ethics that was not predicated on right or wrong. Instead of protecting her self-interest, she valued something almost diametrically opposed to such self-protection: the willingness to sacrifice the self out of love. She and Torvald had been able to play house so pleasurably because although neither had a clear view of what was really happening, her self-sacrifice worked to promote his stability of being, and they felt “happy.” When she finally apprehends the two different codes under which she and her husband had been living, her “forgiveness,” unlike his, is not a forgiveness of the other person; the “gift” is not a gift to the spouse or offender, but to the self. What she gives herself is temporary freedom from bondage, if we understand bondage neutrally, not just as slavery, but as engagement in any bond with another person, whether of intimacy or conflict. Nora gives herself space, and specifically the space to achieve a new self-realization.5 Torvald’s model of forgiveness is apparent at two different points in the play, in Act Two and again in Act Three. Both instances emphasize his readiness to blame Nora for violating his rules and precepts, a reaction shockingly at variance from what Nora expects: that he will want to sacrifice himself to save her (as she sacrificed herself for him: by forging her father’s signature to borrow money to take him to Italy, thereby restoring his health). In Act II, Nora tries to dissuade Torvald from terminating Krogstad’s employment, the man who has power over her because he lent her money without her husband’s knowledge. She cajoles, “If a little squirrel were to ask ever so nicely . . . Would you do something for it.” She then implores Torvald to let Krogstad keep his job at the bank. Torvald replies, “The more you plead for him, the more impossible you make it for me to keep him on,”6 and he dismisses Krogstad immediately. Torvald’s response to her anxiety is to “forgive” her for it, while refusing to do what she asks: My dear Nora, I forgive you this anxiety of yours, although it is actually a bit of an insult. Oh, but it is, I tell you! It’s hardly flattering to suppose that anything this miserable pen-pusher wrote could frighten me! But I forgive you all the same, because it is rather a sweet way of showing how much you love me. [He takes her in his arms] This is how things must be, my own darling Nora. When it comes to the point, I’ve enough strength A Tribute to Ibsen’s Nora / Mahaffey 59 and enough courage, believe me, for whatever happens. You’ll find I’m man enough to take everything on myself.7 Nora’s response is terror and an assertion that she will never allow him to do that, at which point Torvald compromises, saying, “All right, then we’ll share it, Nora—as man and wife.” In the light of what eventually happens—Torvald’s unwillingness, despite his earlier assurance to the contrary, to take any imputation of wrongdoing at all upon himself—his reassurance here, while probably sincere, is revealed as more of a placation than a commitment. When his integrity feels threatened, he will not be able to demonstrate the loving willingness to assume responsibility he calls “manliness,” although by this definition Nora, his female doll-wife, had been “man” enough to take the responsibility for her husband’s illness and cure upon herself. The first point to notice about Torvald’s forgiveness of Nora here is that she hasn’t done anything wrong, except perhaps to interfere in matters of business by asking him to reconsider a decision he has made. He calms his wife by telling her a story, one that is true only under certain circumstances: that he is committed to protecting Nora and their children at any cost to himself. What he doesn’t specify is that he can only do this if it doesn’t compromise his public reputation, what he calls his honor. Moreover, his claim that he will assume responsibility for whatever happens rests on the presupposition that Nora is helpless and innocent; in other words, that she is a helpless victim and Krogstad a ruthless offender. In Act I, Torvald had already condemned Krogstad for the same act of wrongdoing that Nora also committed: forgery.8 A forgery, to him, is a particularly pernicious form of lie, and he prides himself on an abhorrence of lies. Although he begins by deploring the forgery of Krogstad, he goes on to denounce the danger of other lies, especially those of a woman and mother. He describes liars as contaminating the whole domestic space: Just think how a man with a thing like that on his conscience will always be having to lie and cheat and dissemble; he can never drop the mask, not even with his own wife and children. And the children—that’s the most terrible part of it, Nora. . . . A fog of lies like that in a household, and it spreads disease and infection to every part of it. Every breath the children take in that kind of house is reeking with evil germs.9 At this point he jumps from Krogstad to women, claiming, “Practically all juvenile delinquents come from homes where the mother is dishonest.” Nora questions this, since he began with the example of a dishonest father 60 South Central Review (Krogstad). Torvald brushes her question aside, conceding that although fathers can have the same poisonous effect, “it’s generally traceable to the mothers.”10 The act ends with Nora imagining herself as poisoning her home, and then rejecting such a thing as even possible. In this scene, Torvald dramatizes the psychology that makes forgiveness possible only in a moral sense: he has blamed a man for deception and asserted his own inviolable honesty (and that of his family) in contrast to it. Torvald is strongly defended against the notion that he or anyone he loved could ever do anything wrong, borrow money, or keep secrets. As Nora tells her friend Kristine in Act I, “he refuses to take on anything that’s the least bit shady.”11 Of course his high ethical standard is not the problem; the problem is his oversimplification of the difference between right and wrong, his conviction—perhaps his determination—that there can never be an overlap between them. That is what makes Torvald judgmental: he can never contemplate the possibility that a person could run foul of the law through love, or compassion, or consideration, or even innocence, which are the qualities that motivated Nora’s two deceptions: her forgery of her father’s name, and her act of borrowing money (and ...
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A Doll's House by Enrik Ibsen
Nora Helmer, the hero in the play "A Doll's House" by Henrik Isben, is basically a doll
carrying on with the life of luxury. She is at first spoiled by her dad as a tyke, and later, spoiled
by her significant other, Torvald Helmer. Ibsen centers his writing around this lady's attributes.
These three characteristics of Nora Helmer are extraordinarily different from each other and
complement the fact that she is a determined wife and mother who is caring, selfish, and
childish. These character traits can be seen all through since the beginning of the drama where
she exploits the entire register of womanliness as the female has generally been seen and in the
last segment of the dramatization develops as exceedingly articulate and additionally ready to
abandon her significant other and three youngsters. (Rekdal, Anne & Kjetil, pp. 150)

Nora Helmer's determination to save her significant other's life and reestablish his wellbeing, paying little heed to what it would eventually cost her, give her a feeling of joy and pride.
(Mahaffey, pp.62) Her determined attitude even leads a few critics to presume that she has taken
a position that is generally meant for men in the society by acquiring cash and forging her
father's signature and that the child-lady role is a veil she uses to cover these certainties. (Rekdal,
Anne & Kjetil, pp. 150) Her level of determination sees her experience a change which a few
critics and observers rushed to criticize.

Critics reprimand Nora as a frivolous and irrational narcissist who leaves her family in a
paroxysm of selfishness. She is alluded to by some as a cold self-seeker who is both hysteric and

Surname 2
abnormal. These attacks were launched against Nora on moral grounds. (Templeton, pp. 29)
Despite seeming sly and even to some degree manipulative, Nora is still immensely reliant on
her significant other, or if nothing else his endorsement. Critics and outraged reviewers claimed
that Nora could without much of a stretch be dismissed as an attention seeking lady and spouse
thanks to her door slamming theatrics and psychologically unconvincing and wholly
unsympathetic ways of analyzing the flaws in her marriage. (Templeton, pp. 29)

Some critics even go as far as marking her "unprincipled" and rush to take note of the fact
that when Nora forges her dad's signature with a specific end goal to get cash, she breaks the
social restrictions placed on women during that period. (Rekdal, Anne & Kjetil, pp. 160) Her
choices can, hence, be viewed as both wrongdoings and indifference to the laws of society and as
an insubordination.

Her self-absorbed and irresponsible nature can be seen when she forges her dad's details
so as to get some cash to spare his life. In spite of the fact that she slowly uncovers this secret to
Mrs. Linde, she kept the truth covered up for a long time. (Rekdal, Anne & Kjetil, pp. 154)
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Anonymous
Tutor went the extra mile to help me with this essay. Citations were a bit shaky but I appreciated how well he handled APA styles and how ok he was to change them even though I didnt specify. Got a B+ which is believable and acceptable.

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