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Heroic Nora Helmer in Henrik Ibsen's “A Doll's House”

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Nora Helmer is the central character in “A Doll's House” by Henrik Ibsen. She is a mother of three children and the wife of Torvald Helmer. An ideal wife in the 19th century was expected to completely abide by the husband’s directions. Throughout the play, Nora hides her real character and personality; as an ideal wife of her time, she appears to abide by the husband. In the beginning, Ibsen depicts her as a playful, absent-minded, silly, and childish. However, at the end of the play, we learn that Nora was an intelligent lady who did not waste any minute to save her family (Siddall, 2008). This essay explores the character of Nora as a heroin who diverges from the societal norms of oppression against women to become a successful wife who struggles to see that her family remains intact. Nora braves the drawbacks she has received from her father and her husband and becomes an individual who can make her own decision. She stands out as a hero in the play.

In the beginning, Ibsen let us draw a conclusion that Nora is a spendthrift and a childish woman who plays a role of a typical housewife when Torvald goes working. However, by making a decision to obtain freedom from social as well as traditional commitments and becoming independent, Nora stands out as a classical hero. Nora lived in a time when social as well as societal constraints were predetermined, and this deprived her of happiness and freedom. The society required both men and women to abide by the rigidly fixed societal norms and standards. Each and every individual was supposed to play the role assigned to him or her by the society. The society expected Nora to live a life that was fully dominated by Torvald, her husband. This is further reflected on how Torvald masters Nora’s life. She is not allowed to eat macaroons. While she speaks to her friends, she refers to this as “hell and damnation”. This could symbolize the plight of women whose rights were robed from them by the society (Snodgrass, 2006).

Despite this, Nora proved to be a supporting wife as well as a good mother; indeed, she is a classic hero. When her husband was in dire need of help, Nora proved worthwhile. She forged her father’s signature and obtained a huge loan to help the husband. Even though Nora understood the consequences of the offence she committed, this meant little to her as compared to the life of a loved one she was yet to save. However, just as she kept her character a secret, she kept this debt from Torvald a secret as well. As opposed to the belief that she was a spendthrift, it appears that Nora has been spending their money thoughtfully, skimping and using part of her wages to pay off the debt (Siddall, 2008).

Nora is a romantic hero as she appears to be introspective and examines her own thoughts. When Nora realizes she cannot prevail against Krogstad’s wish to reveal the truth concerning the ill gotten loan, she begins to regret her actions. She realizes that her actions could have tainted the good image of Torvald. This pushes her to question her moral standing. She questions whether the action was proper at that time and wonders whether she will be convicted for this action. In addition, Nora questions herself if really she has been an improper wife and whether she has been a terrible mother. As a romantic hero, she regrets her actions. However, such regrets stop romantic heroes from ending romantically (Siddall, 2008).

In a dramatic change of events, when Nora’s husband learnt of this, he yelled at her rather than showed gratefulness. Being an intelligent woman who went beyond the mark of excellence to save the husband, she did not deserve such a cruel and sexist treatment from her husband. Nora realizes that her perception of Torvald’s love was an illusion rather than reality. She thought he would sacrifice for her rather than allow her to be convicted (Bradford, 2013). This inhuman treatment makes the audience connect to her emotionally even if it appears she was only paying for her own mistakes, a point that proves that Nora is a romantic hero.

Nora also stands out as an existential hero since she contemplates suicide as the final push to save the family from the dishonor she had brought upon them. She finally decides to leave Torvald. She does this in order to save her children from being raised by a mother who, as she perceived, was not capable of undertaking the task (Bradford, 2013). Nora is a true heroine who decides to leave her husband to save him from living a life of illusion; also, she saves herself from living the false life and begins pursuing her real identity as an independent individual. Nora expressed her total dissatisfaction with the life full of oppression. She reached a point of no return, she will never again to surrender to the societal constraints.


In conclusion, a hero is an individual who exhibits great strength and is admired by many for nobility. In addition, a hero employs the strength and nobility in order to save others from their agony, and this is true for Nora. Although Nora’s husband perceives her as a gullible woman who direly needs protection and cover from a cruel world, it turns out to be false. At the end of the play, Nora appears to be a very smart woman whose intentions were good right from the beginning. She is a heroin who stood against populists’ views to make a mark in the society.  

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