Nora's Monologue from "A Doll's House"

Feminist Themes in Henrik Ibsen's Play

"A Doll's House" is a play by renowned Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen. Challenging marital norms and featuring strong feminist themes, the play was widely celebrated as well as criticized when it was first performed in 1879. Here is a breakdown of Nora's revealing monologue near the end of the play.

For the complete script, there are many translations of "A Doll's House." The edition by Oxford University is recommended; it comes complete with "A Doll's House" and three other plays by Henrik Ibsen.

Setting the Scene

In this definitive scene, the naïve yet often contriving Nora has a startling epiphany. She once believed that her husband, Torvald, was a proverbial knight in shining armor and that she was an equally devoted wife.

Through a series of emotionally draining events, she realizes that their relationship and their feelings were more make-believe than real.

In her monologue from Henrik Ibsen’s play, she opens up to her husband with stunning frankness as she realizes that she has been living in "A Doll’s House."

Doll as Metaphor

Throughout the monologue, Nora compares herself to a doll. Like how a little girl plays with lifeless dolls that move in whichever way the girl wishes, Nora likens herself to a doll in the hands of the men in her life.

Referring to her father, Nora recalls:

"He called me his doll-child, and he played with me just as I used to play with my dolls." 

In using the doll as a metaphor, she realizes her role as a woman in a man's society is ornamental, something cute to look at like a doll-child.

Further, a doll is meant to be used by the user. Thus this comparison also refers to how women are expected to be molded by the men in their lives in terms of tastes, interests, and what they do with their lives.

Nora continues in her monologue. In thinking of her life with her husband, she realizes in retrospect:

"I was your little skylark, your doll, which you would in future treat with doubly gentle care, because it was so brittle and fragile."

In describing a doll as "brittle and fragile," Nora means that these are the character traits of women through the male gaze. From that perspective, because women are so dainty, it necessitates that men like Torvald need to protect and take care of women like Nora.

Role of Women

By describing how she has been treated, Nora reveals the way women are treated in society at that time (and perhaps still resonates with women today).

Again referring to her father, Nora mentions: 

"When I was at home with papa, he told me his opinion about everything, and so I had the same opinions; and if I differed from him I concealed the fact, because he would not have liked it."

Similarly, she addresses Torvald by saying: 

"You arranged everything according to your own taste, and so I got the same tastes as you--or else I pretended to."

Both of these short anecdotes shows that Nora feels that her opinions have been disregarded or suppressed in order to please her father or to mold her tastes according to those of her husband's. 

Self-Realization

In the monologue, Nora reaches self-realization in a fit of existential fervor as she exclaims:

"When I look back on it, it seems to me as if I had been living here like a poor woman--just from hand to mouth. I have existed merely to perform tricks for you...You and papa have committed a great sin against me. It is your fault that I have made nothing of my life...Oh! I can't bear to think of it! I could tear myself into little bits!"