Analyze The Use Of The Different Types Of Irony In The Story “A Doll House” Research Papers Example
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The story of “A Doll House” maintains a number of ironic situations that Ibsen use throughout his story. In fact Ibsen uses these types of irony to accentuate the events in the story and add to the conflict, creativity and originality of the piece. Irony in its broadest sense is “saying one thing and meaning the other,” (Literary Terms and Definitions: I, n.p). Verbal irony is also referred to as sarcasm and reflects a different meaning from what is expressed. Dramatic irony includes a situation where the reader is aware of present or future events that the characters are do not know. On the other hand, situational irony reflects the accidental event that appears oddly appropriate in the story, (Literary Terms and Definitions: I, n.p). The use of dramatic irony is the most popular of the forms of irony in the story as Ibsen uses this irony to foreshadow the events. While irony has different forms, Ibsen makes use of verbal, situational and dramatic irony in “A Doll’s House” to emphasize the assertion of truth as he criticizes and influences the sanctity of marriage in the Victorian era.
The two main characters, Torvald and Nora create most of the instances of irony in the play. Torvald, in particular, is the least knowledgeable about the events in the story and he encounters the events of greatest significance. The reader sees one of the earliest displays of dramatic irony through the scene between Mr. Krogstad and Nora. Krogstad threatens to tell Torvald the secret that Nora carries, but she begs him not to repeat this secret. She says: "It would be a rotten shame. That secret is all my pride and joy - why should he have to hear about it in this nasty, horrid way, “(ADH, 1204). Clearly, the irony of the situation lies in the fact that her husband does not approve of her “pride and joy.” To Nora, the money she borrowed went against the societal traditions as women were not allowed to borrow money, but she defied the conventions of the society and sees her ability to save and work enough money to repay the loan as her pride and joy. The fact that she could help her husband despite Torvald’s convictions that there is something unpleasant about building a life on borrowed money. But, the final irony lies in the statement that Torvald makes when he discovers Nora secret. He tells her: "Oh, what a terrible awakening this is. All these eight yearsthis woman who was my pride and joya hypocrite, a liar, worse than that, a criminal" (ADH, 1232). It is ironic that Torvald’s uses the expression "pride and joy" to describe Nora, even as Nora uses the expression to describe her secret that her husband does not appreciate.
In a similar fashion, dramatic irony comes out in Torvald statement: "Oh, my darling wife, I can't hold you close enough. You know, Noramany's the time I wish you were threatened by some terrible danger so I could risk everything, body and soul, for your sake" (ADH, 1233). Clearly, he reaches out to Nora as she does not appear to need the comfort and protection that he can offer as her husband. Arguably, Nora is a confident woman who tries to assert her individuality, but she feels trapped by the reality that Torvold wants a trophy wife that he can put on display as a wife. Nora just wants to be free to find and display her inner self. Torvold cannot understand this need that builds in Nora and he sees her attempt at becoming an independent woman as one that has “ruined my entire happiness, jeopardized my whole future," (ADH, 1232).
In the end, Torvold realizes that Nora was only trying to help him and he forgives her actions. But, Torvold’s forgiveness comes late as Nora realizes that Torvold only cares about his personal image and that he would not have helped her to realize her independent self. In the final scenes of the play, Torvald and Nora separates as he does not respond to Nora’s secret in the way that she would have expected him to respond. In Nora’s mind, Torvald would automatically assume the debt she incurred with the loan, but the reality is that becomes enraged by her actions. Nora’s previous conversation with Mrs. Linde becomes clearer as the Irony comes through in Nora explanation of her debt to Mrs. Linde. She suggests that she has not confided in her husband about her debt because she believes that it would be “painfully humiliating for him if he ever found out he was in debt to me. That would just ruin our relationship. Our beautiful happy home would never be the same,” (ADH, 1198). Here, Nora implies that Torvald “would feel terrible about the debt and that she is sparing him some embarrassment by keeping it a secret,” (The Irony in ‘A Doll House’). The irony of the situation lies in the fact that Torvald is not humiliated by Nora’s actions, but instead is angry and ashamed of Nora’s actions. Even with numerous readings of the play, “A Doll House” displays the ironic tool that is necessary in many stories for a dramatic effect, (The Irony in a Doll House, par. 8) as “it supplies the reader with interest and tools for predicting events in the story,” (The Irony in a Doll House, par. 8).
Situational irony is clear in the play with the way that Nora treats her children. During her life Nora is treated as a doll by Torvald and her father when he was alive. She notes: "I passed out of Daddy's hands into yours. You arranged everything to your tastes, and I acquired the same tastes" (ADH, 1232). As a result, Nora influences her children in a similar way as it is the only way that she knows how to treat her children. Not only does she try to subjugate herself to her children’s needs and freedom, but also she treats them exactly the way it happened to herself,” (Hooti, p. 1106). She buys clothes for the children and puts them on display for others, but she does not allow herself to be a mother to her children. The reader sees that the task of motherhood falls on Anne Marie. In the end, Nora learns to accept the reality that she does not know any other way to rear her children as she has never known how to develop her individuality. Nonetheless, she does not change the pattern her children even as she accepts that they too will lose their identity. Ironically, she continues the cycle as she leaves her children so that they too will be treated like dolls in the future.
Situational Irony is indicative of the discrepancy as it develops and forms a situation that the readers expect to be revealed in a logical or appropriate manner. The situational irony is that the readers and Nora expects that the fragile Victorian marriage between Torvald and Nora would strengthen when he realizes that she loves him enough to place herself in debt to make him happy. Instead, the reader sees that Nora leaves Torvald. Ibsen’s criticism of the society’s views on marriage strengthens in this scene as the readers. The lies that exist in the Helmer’s marriage stem from Nora’s defiance of the Victorian Age’s conventions of marriage. Marriage is a bond that should withstand the bonds of lies and deceit, but Ibsen shows that a marriage is a weak as it partners when he uses irony to suggest that a “doll like” marriage is fragile and breaks easily. Nora leaves her submissive role as a woman as Torvald insists that the idea of borrowing money is bad. Still, he owes his life to the money that Nora borrows.
The fact is that in Ibsen’s era, the idea of “wife borrowing money without her husband’s consent was unheard of,” (Pierce’s 10th Grade Honors and 10th Grade IB Prep, par, 4). As a result, the lies are inevitable because Nora needs to repay the loans. But, one lie leads to numerous lies and Ibsen deviates from the traditional belief that a marriage strengthens on the foundations of truth. The dramatic irony in the play resurrects as Nora desperately tries to escape the boundaries of marriage. Additionally, the lies reveal the contradictions to the “Victorian woman’s everlasting devotion to her husband and children,” (Pierce’s 10th Grade Honors and 10th Grade IB Prep, par, 4). In the end, the reader realizes that not all marriages are as pure as the fairy tale depiction of a child and a doll. The irony of the events unfolds as women were clearly the partner who support the family and serve as the conscience of the society in a selfless way. But, Nora presents the ironic and thought – provoking idea that she has other duties that does not allow her to confine herself to honoring her husband, (Hooti, p. 1106). Nonetheless, Nora shows the irony that characterizes Ibsen’s views that a woman is simply “an individual who takes actions to benefit herself, and not solely for the benefit of others,” (Pierce’s 10th Grade Honors and 10th Grade IB Prep, par, 6).
Ibsen uses the character, Rank to bring out the irony in the play. Rank speaks to Nora and Mrs. Linde about the conniving character, Krogstad. He says that: Krogstad’s represents “a type of person who scuttles about breathlessly, sniffing out hints of moral corruption, and then maneuvers his victim into some sort of key position where he can keep an eye on him,” (ADH, 2000). Rank’s comments are ironic as Krogstad reveals that he is a manipulator who steers Nora into a situation that she cannot escape. He forces her to convince Torvald to have Krogstad remain in his job or he would cause disruption in her marriage by telling Torvald of her loan. The irony is even more pronounced as the reader realizes that the secret really destroys her marriage.
Ibsen uses his minor characters in the play to bring out the irony that characterizes the theme of deception. Nora speaks with the maid, Anne Marie about what would happen when the children ask for their mother. The reader realizes that there is a strong bond of trust and loyalty between these two characters as she entrusts her children’s future to someone who is not a relative. Arguably, Nora’s actions are selfish, but Nora makes it clear that she could not be the type of mother that she should be as she has lost her self-identity. Nora believes that the children will adjust to any situation if she leaves permanently. The conversation is ironic as Nora later reveals that if she should leave her husband, then she must leave her children too.
Still, the most ironic event in the play is the situational irony of the title “A Doll House.” A doll is fragile and children often handle their dolls with extreme care. Nora tells Torvald about her childhood and the fact her father referred to her as his doll-child. She adds that her father played with her in the way that she played with her dolls. She compares her marriage to her childhood days with her father as she tells Torvold that she is his doll-wife in her marriage and the children are her dolls. The use of irony in the title is self-explanatory. It represents the notion that the relationship between Torvald and Nora’ relationship has a number of flaws.
There many instances of verbal irony in the play, but the most obvious verbal irony appear when Torvald refers to Nora as his twittering skylark in Act I. He is not directly asking if Nora is a bird, but he is really asking if she is saying something. Additionally, he refers to her as his squirrel, but does not mean that she is an animal. Nora also makes clear indications to verbal irony in the play when she is speaking to Mrs. Linde and suggests that the place is hot. Instead she refers to the figurative heat if the place and not the literal fired that one associates with burns.
In concluding, from the onset of the play Ibsen shows the conflicting role of women in the Victorian Age. In Act one, the readers see that Nora is inferior to her husband in many respects. Ibsen brings this message across through situational and verbal irony. Nora epitomizes the perfect wife who does no wrong and the marriage can be compared to the modern day perfect marriage of Ken and Barbie. But, Nora deceives her husband as she hides and has the Macaroons. Her husband forbids her to have the Macaroons, but she does this to assert her identity. These events reveal the situational irony in the play as the readers see that Nora is not the perfect wife that the title alludes to. The verbal irony arises when Torvald inquires about the Macaroons because he knows that Nora has eaten some. She pretends that Torvald believes that she did not have any of the Macaroons.
Clearly, Ibsen shows that women should be treated as individuals and that men should accept a women’s act of individuality. Additionally, Ibsen uses dramatic irony to show Torvald’s ignorance of his wife’s secret debt. Unlike the events surrounding the Macaroons, Nora’s actions of taking a loan without Torvald’s knowledge is beneficial and proves that men should trust women more. One can say that the novel places more emphasis o the use of dramatic irony between the readers and Nora as the readers learn quite early that Nora only wants to achieve individuality while Nora realizes this at the end of the play.
Ibsen, Henry, “A Doll House,” Kelly Mays (Ed.) The Norton Introduction to Literature, Shorter
Eleventh Edition, W.W. Norton Company, New York, Copyright 2013, Print. ISBN: 978-
Literary Terms and Definitions: I (n.a) (2015) Viewed at https://web.cn.edu Accessed March 5,
Hooti, Noorbakhshm (2011) Henrik Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House: A Post – Modernist Study, Theory
and Practice in Language Studies, Vol. 1 No. 9., 1103 – 1110, September 2011, DOI:
10.4304/tpls1.9.1103-1110. ISSN 1799-2591
Pierce’s 10th Grade Honors and 10th Grade IB Prep (n.a) Viewed at
http://boston.redsox.tripod.com Accessed March 6, 2015
The irony in “A Doll House” (Based on the short story by Henrik Ibsen) (n.a) Viewed at
http://www.rummolife.com Accessed March 6, 2015
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