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Nora As A Child

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There are various ways in which literature and art may be analyzed. There are also various perspectives that may be taken in order to analyze the literature at hand. In the case of Henrik Ibsen’s play, “A Doll House,” there are countless aspects of culture and late nineteenth century societal standards that have been used to analyze the play. One specific critique of the play is unique. Elizabeth Jones, a contributing member of, suggests that Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development can be easily applied to the relationship between Nora and Torvald, and the growth that Nora experiences as a wife and mother. Jones makes several interesting points and validates her position by using key quotes and critical analysis of the context of Nora and her actions and Torvald’s behavior toward Nora (Jones). Because of the immense amount of evidence that Jones presents and the fact that Nora is such a radical character that changes drastically over the course of the play, it is logical to agree with Jones’ theory. The fact of the matter, however, is that Ms. Jones only uses the first four steps of Erikson’s eight steps of psychosocial development. The ending of the play, when Nora walks out, strongly suggests that Nora has developed far beyond the fourth stage of Erikson’s theory, which is the industry versus inferiority stage. In actuality the last four stages of Erikson’s theory may relate to Nora’s situation and individual status more than the first four stages.

The fifth stage of Erikson’s theory on psychosocial development is identity versus role confusion. In this stage, Erikson proposes that children have developed into an individual, with a sense of how they are related to the people around them and the role that they play in each relationship (Huitt). These relates directly to Nora and the way in which she left Torvald and decided to leave behind her role as a spoiled wife and begin a life of independence and self sufficiency. It is also clear that Nora is uncertain about leaving, but is somehow certain that it is the right thing to do and she must leave in order to establish herself as an individual woman. This inner conflict experienced by Nora also a part of Erikson’s fifth stage. Known as role conflict, Erikson’s theory suggests that children understand their relationship with the people around them but often find it hard to prioritize or choose between the many roles that each relationship entail. In Nora’s case she must decide whether it is more important to stay with Torvald for the good of her children or abandon the household completely in order to save herself and find her rightful place in society. In the end she decides that she must savage what is left of her inner self and move on past he spoiled years, which she considers wasted as a spoiled partner to Torvald.

In Erikson’s sixth stage of psychosocial development children are supposed to balance intimacy and isolation and ultimately be able to come to the conclusion that intimacy is healthier and more times than not leads to better relationships in life (Huitt). In “A Doll House,” Nora experiences an overwhelming amount of artificial love, which ultimately leads to her leaving Torvald and her children. To reasoning for Nora’s negative decision making, negative in the context of Erikson’s theory, is simple. Because the love between Torvald and Nora was fake and she was more spoiled for her sex appeal, than embraced for her character and devotion to him, Nora became disgusted with her role once she discovered it.

At this point in the play it is also reasonable to apply Bingham and Stryker’s theory on the socioemotional development of girl and women. In Bingham and Stryker’s theory Nora is between two stages; forming an identity as an achiever and skill building for self esteem (Huitt). By walking away from the life she had began as Torvald’s “wife,” Nora takes the initiative to begin a new chapter in her life by becoming independent for the first time. By deciding that she is ready to begin being an independent person for what she considers to be the first time in her life, Nora has also convinced herself that she has the skills needed to succeed as a woman in society. This is key because Bingham and Stryker’s theory is specifically directed towards females. Nora’s decision that she is eligible to become a member of the working class and will gain the respect needed to earn a decent salary is significant giving the fact that they play was written and performed in the last eighteen hundreds. The relationship with Bingham and Stryker’s theory may also explain why viewers of the original performance were outraged at the flamboyancy of Nora’s outward character and the play’s end.

Erikson’s seventh stage of psychosocial development is known as generativity versus stagnation. This stage primarily deals with middle adulthood and the individual’s role, specifically as a parent. According to Erikson, in this stage the individual begins to shift their attention away from their own identity and starts to concentrate on attempting to influence the next generation, in most cases biological or adopted children (Huitt). Although this stage cannot be directly applied to Nora’s character and her role in the play, there is a direct relationship between Nora as a character and her placement in history. Despite continual denial by the writer of “A Doll



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