In many pieces of literary work, there are elements that are used to help
develop the audiences understanding of characters and events. In the play A
Dolls House * by Henrik Ibsen, animal imagery is used in the development of
the main character, Nora. It is also later found that the animal imagery is a
critical part in understanding who Nora is, and how other characters perceive
her. Ibsen uses creative, but effective, animal imagery to develop Noras
character throughout the play. The animal imagery is carried out through the
dialect between Nora and her husband Torvald. He uses a lot of bird imagery,
seeming that Torvald thought of Nora as some kind of bird. It is also evident
that the animal names he calls Nora, directly relates to how Nora is acting or
how Torvald wants her to be portrayed. In Act I, Torvald asks, “Is that my
skylark twittering out there?” referring to Nora. A lark is a happy and
carefree songbird. A lark can also be used as a verb that means to engage in
spirited fun or merry pranks. Right from the beginning of the play it is evident
that Nora is a lively spirited and carefree woman, just as a lark might be.

Torvald again referrers to Nora early in the play as “my little lark” when
she is moving around the room and humming with a carefree spirit that might
characterize a lark. From this we might assume that whenever Nora has spirit or
is supposed to be happy, Torvald thinks of her as a bird, specifically a lark.

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In contrast to Torvald calling Nora a lark, immediately after he refers to her
as a squirrel in asking, “Is that my squirrel rustling?” This is interesting
in the development of both Nora and Torvalds characters because a squirrel is
quite different than a lark. A squirrel is a small furry rodent that tends to
have negative and sneaky connotations. If someone is to squirrel away something,
they are hiding or storing it. This is directly related to what Nora is doing,
she is hiding or “squirreling” away the bag of macaroons. Through the animal
imagery of the squirrel, Ibsen is also foreshadowing that Nora is hiding more
than just macaroons form Torvald. She is hiding that she borrowed money from
Krogstad, however we dont learn that until later in the play. Looking deeper
into the meaning behind Ibsens animal imagery, we find that Torvald possibly
wants Nora to be a bird. The birds that Torvald calls her, such as “lark”
and “songbird” are stereotypically carefree, peaceful animals. This is the
case on the surface however. On the inside birds may have many struggles, such
as just finding food to survive. But these birds do not show their struggles,
and despite what they may be going through they are still a symbol of peace and
perfect happiness. This is how Torvald wants Nora to be, perfect and happy all
the time no matter what she really may want or be feeling. It is possible that
because he wants her to be this way, Torvald actually thinks she is this way,
always happy and that she shows no emotion to what is going on in her life. In
Act II, Nora begs Torvald to let Krogstad keep his position at the bank. When
Torvald says that it must be done, Nora gets quite worked up about it. When
Torvald calms her down, he notices her “frightened Doves eyes.” A dove is
the unmistakable symbol of peace, or peace keeping, which is in essence what
Nora it trying to do. If Torvald fires Krogstad then she will have to give him
the money she borrowed and things will be anything but peaceful after that.

However, Torvald does notice that Nora is trying very hard to convince him to
keep Krogstad at his bank, but be disregards it as her trying to keep things
right and refers to her as a peaceful dove. Later in Act II, Nora tries a
different tactic in keeping things peaceful and from Keeping Torvald from
finding out about the money she borrowed. She even goes as far as calling
herself all the names that Torvald calls her and she says that, “Id turn
myself into a little fairy and dance for you in the moonlight Torvald.” She
does this because she wants Torvald to be happy with her at this point, for she
knows he is going to eventually find out about the money she owes. In parallel
to what she is trying to do, a fairy is a small creature with magical powers,
which at this point Nora would love to be so she could prevent Torvlad for
finding out about what she has done. In ACT III, Torvald discovers the note, but
also quickly dismissed it because of a second note form Krogstad. Nora tries to
calm down after Torvalds outburst at her for her betrayal. He attempts to
comfort her by saying that he will keep her despite the incident. He also says
that he is has, “broad wings to shield Nora,” and that he “shall watch
over her like a hunted dove which he snatched unharmed from the claws of the
falcon.” This is Torvalds way of saying how he wished to watch over and
protect Nora. On the surface this sounds like a good offer, considering that
Nora did deceive him and hide the fact that she borrowed money form Krogstad.

But Torvald says that he will watch over her, implying that he does not trust
her or want to trust her. He is in a sense treating her like a child or like a
doll, instead of as his wife. Torvald thinks he needs to be there to watch out
for her, and that she would be nothing without him to play with her or tell her
how she should be. This is a big part of the reason why Nora left. She no longer
needed, or maybe she never did need his “broad wings” to shelter her. And
just as the bird that Torvald always wanted Nora to act like, she flew away,
just as a dove or a lark would do when they were afraid or no longer wanted to
stay somewhere. In many pieces of literary work, there are elements that are
used to help develop the audiences understanding of characters and events. In
the play A Dolls House, Ibsen uses animal imagery as a way of helping his
audience come to a better understanding of the events and characters. Animal
imagery is critical in the character development for both of the main
characters, Torvald and Nora, in showing how both of them perceive the other. *A
Dolls House appears in Sylvan Barnet, et al. , Introduction to Literature,
11th ed. (New York: Longman, 1997), 1061-1112.

Ibsen, Henrik. “A Dolls House.” An Introduction to Literature. Ed.

Sylvan Barnet et al. 11th ed. New York: Longman, 1997. 1061-1112