Literature & Language

Examine the significance of the title a doll's house?

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03/31/2009

The title "A Doll's House," most simply, signifies the way the characters in the play all have certain roles to play, and maintain them, like a doll without free will.

This is especially true of Nora. She is introduced as a helpless creature, as Torvald's "squirrel" and "skylark," completely under his control. She does not do or have anything without his permission, and does as she is told. She describes a similar relationship with her father as well, and so it is gradually understood that Nora is the "doll." To the men in her life, she has been nothing but a delicate showpiece, a thing of beauty to be admired but with no real purpose, with no thoughts or opinions of her own.

Towards the end of the play she realizes this, telling Torvald about her father: "He used to call me his doll-child, and he played with me the way I played with my dolls," and "he told me all his opinions, so I had the same ones too." She then says that with Torvald it has been no different, and the title of the play becomes a metaphor for Nora, the house in which she has been a doll, a puppet, a plaything for the controlling men in her world, and her finally taking ownership and possession, and breaking out of her constraints to take hold of her own life.