Character Sketch of Nora
Throughout A Doll's House, Nora shifts between a number of different identities, playing roles that she deems appropriate for each social situation. As audience members, we observe her vacillating between these roles with convincing facility and ease. However, gradually it becomes clear that we have not been exposed to an authentic, inner expression of Nora – instead, all she has allowed to be revealed is a series of personas that match the preconceptions and needs of each person she encounters.
The question of constructed, rigid gender roles and their innate deleteriousness is at the center of Ibsen’s A Doll House. Using the devices of money and role-playing, Ibsen delves into the dilemma of the many prescriptions for behavior and comportment that were enacted upon women during his own era. Ibsen employs Nora’s illicit use of money in the text as a means of demonstrating the extent to which basic rights had been stripped from women, as well as the profound psychological and social damage that such inequity exacted upon many women during this time period.
Similarly, Ibsen uses Nora’s adept role-playing to demonstrate the way that the many expectations that were thrust upon women in the 19th century caused moral and emotional deterioration. Unsure of their authentic selves, women in Nora’s social milieu were forced to perform as a means of ensuring their survival. If these women failed somehow in pandering to the insecurities and rigid expectations of their male family members, they could suffer the most devastating consequences. In order to facilitate their own lives, women like Nora were forced to engage in role-playing at the expense of their connection with themselves, rendering them unable to achieve any sort of significant autonomy or independence.