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Humor in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s Hose
article [ Art ]

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by [znr ]

2003-12-18  |     | 

Humor can be a device or technique used by authors to smooth a belief into a less obvious idea, therefore creating a subliminal message which are often transmitted through scenarios in which most of the readers can relate to. In A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen sets his play in what is supposed to be a typical 18th century middle class Danish environment and depicts in his first act what could be considered as a normal household of this time and setting.

In the first act of A Doll’s House we find that Ibsen opens his play with a series of events in which he introduces to the reader the character of Nora Helmer in a Christmas rush in her home. At the beginning of the play we perceive her as a child and the reader can get the sense that she her behavior is childish and immature. Around the house Nora is eavesdropping on her husband, and running around eating her macaroons, she seems as if she were one of the kids. Not only does she act this way but also Torvald, her husband treats her as a child and reprimands her because of eating the macaroons.
Torvald also calls Nora many animal names and adjectives that can be considered as funny and what may seem as a sign of affection or love, can be interpreted as a message from the author, recognizing the demeaning position women found themselves at time he decided to locate the play. He calls her a “Skylark” among other things and not only does he use animal adjectives, but he talks about her spending money, and her way of living as if she was a kid and did not know anything about responsibilities in life and raising a family. Torvald believes that the only thing she knows how to do is spend money, and decorate and buy all sorts of things and he tells this to Nora but in a very discreet fashion in which, at some level, we can even think he is joking. Ibsen presents his ideas in a very subtle fashion; and he presents this scene as if they were playing around and she was behaving as an obedient child, like when children want something and behave this way to get whatever they want. This scene is mixed with sweet gestures, and “lovely” adjectives and it gives the play a light introductory tone in which you laugh along, but imagining and trying to figure out what is bound to happen in the next scenes, and what is wrong with this marriage.

The play evolves and its tone gets more serious overtime in an escalating fashion all until the end. But this does not mean we cannot find humorous scenes along the play, a scene in which we can say you feel a more humorous environment than the rest of the play is when they are running around the house after the dance. Probably Ibsen used this humor technique as a way of getting the reader a way to identify and get more into the play on a certain level, as a step to take us into more serious grounds and get his message through.

This is a play that gradually develops from what seems to be a light and trivial play, into a more serious and a play with a very important message. Ibsen pulls this altogether by connecting it to something everyone can associate to; for example the fact that he opens the play with Christmas is very interesting since Christmas is a time of the year that most of the readers can associate to. This way allowing the play to become more personal in order to deepen through the development of the plot. Even though humor is not always present through the entire play, the parts in which Ibsen use it carries a much serious meaning and is used to present one of the most important themes of this play which humanism, as Ibsen describes, not feminism.

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