In ‘A Doll’s House’ Ibsen’s use of language reflects on the dramatic change we see in Nora’s character. Ibsen uses issues that arose during the 19th century to construct themes and most importantly build up characters, all with their own distinctive language. Nora’s character changes from the beginning of the play to the end and Ibsen does this with the use of her change in language. At the beginning of the play, Nora is still a child in many ways, listening at doors and guiltily eating forbidden sweets behind her husband’s back.
She has gone straight from her father’s house to her husband’s, bringing along her nursemaid to emphasize the fact that she’s never grown up. She’s also never developed a sense of self. She’s always accepted her father’s and her husband’s opinions. And she’s aware that Torvald would have no use for a wife who was his equal. But like many children, Nora knows how to manipulate Torvald by pouting or by performing for him. In the end, it is the truth about her marriage that awakens Nora.
Although she may suspect that Torvald is a weak, petty man, she clings to the illusion that he’s strong, that he’ll protect her from the consequences of her act. But at the moment of truth, he abandons her completely. She is shocked into reality and sees what a sham their relationship has been. She becomes aware that her father and her husband have seen her as a doll to be played with, a figure without opinion or will of her own; first a doll-child, then a doll-wife.
She also realizes that she is treating her children the same way. Her whole life has been based on illusion rather than reality. When we first see Nora and Helmer together in the beginning of Act One she is Extravagant and we notice that she is financially reckless; “Oh yes, Torvald, we can be a little extravagant now can’t we? Just a tiny bit? You’re getting a big salary now, and you’re going to make lots of money”. She uses short phrases within a series of questions and exclamations: this shows her child-like behaviour.
She is influenced by money, having no independence and always relying on Helmer, she doesn’t understand the value of it. He gives her status. Nora has a Fast tempo whilst speaking; this shows her excitement and childlike behaviour, “pooh”. When talking to Helmer Nora is manipulative, she uses his nicknames on herself in order to please Helmer, “squanderbird”. She is scared of Helmer (as a father figure he may punish her), therefore accepting anything he says; “Very well, Torvald. As you say”. She is Flirtatious and ‘plays with his coat buttons’ in order to get what she wants.
Nora’s domination in the conversation with Mrs Linde and her use of repetition of the word ‘I’ shows that she is in a sense showing off and trying to be superior in front of Miss Linde. We see this in Act One when she meets with Mrs Linde; “I too have done something to be happy and proud about. It was I who saved Torvald’s life”. Nora is trying to gain respect from her friend by revealing a secret that she thinks will illustrate her practical side, showing that she is a supportive wife and has also had to face troubles.
“Years from now, when I am no longer pretty”, Nora keeps the secret from her husband to maintain status quo. She will tell him in the future when she is no longer pretty and she will need to gain his respect through other means than playing games and dressing up. Ibsen uses Prosodic features: fast tempo, emotional; in order for us to know that that here Nora is erratic. In Nora’s two long speeches, on pages thirty six and thirty seven we learn more about her character through her use of language.