Dramatic Devices in A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

The play A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen premiered at the end of the nineteenth century and evoked a heated debate. Although it seemed a feminist play, the author stressed that he did not intend to explore the associated themes. Nonetheless, his renowned work unveils diverse issues females have faced throughout the centuries. Modern women still encounter similar problems and challenges, which makes the play up-to-date even a century later. Numerous productions have been delivered since the time of the play’s creation. The production by Carrie Cracknell deserves specific attention as it best illustrates the dim world a married woman has to live in (Cracknell, 2021). Carrie Cracknell manages to present Ibsen’s story that speaks to modern females’ hearts who find Nora in themselves.

The central theme of the play is the values and issues of the 19-century society, where materialism is gaining momentum and females start making more discreet attempts to stand for their position. The director places the major focus on such materialistic aspects as presents and money. Torvald and Nora discuss money matters during a considerable portion of the play. Notably, Torvald is the master of the house and bread-winner, who does not even imagine that his wife can manage her own funds and make money. Such views dominated the patriarchal society of the nineteenth century, and Torvald was only a common man with typical perspectives regarding gender roles and power distribution. The husband was appalled by the fact that a woman, who could hardly be regarded as a subject in financial affairs, could arrange any business deals. The associated legal issues only proved to Torvald, and all men alike, that a woman could not be allowed to decide anything but purely household dilemmas.

Nora’s desire to save her husband and make major decisions in the family led to quite negative outcomes. She had to keep her actions and her financial insecurity secret because she, like any other female, understood that society disapproves of such actions. This secret and associated obscurity are revealed in the production with the help of such dramatic devices as foreshadowing. The most remarkable thing about the use of this device is the fact that the director uses light or rather the lack of light to warn the viewers about the upcoming (and hidden) tragedy. During the entire performance, the stage is poorly lit, which can hardly be explained by the time of the day (the majority of episodes take place in the evening or at night). Only several sources of light are available, and in many cases, the cast performs at the dusk. The use of light contributes to the creation of the atmosphere of enigma and cruel fate.

The use of light is also instrumental in conveying the major theme of the play. Females live in the obscurity of the household chores and can hardly win their place in the light, which is an equal or at least more pronounced, position in society. Nora lives in the darkness of her home life which is cozy and comfortable as she loves her children and husband. However, the existing social norms make Nora and all the women unseen in the social domain. A woman cannot make financial decisions, which is seen as inappropriate and makes Nora break the rules to save her family. The scene where Nora’s secret is revealed is one of the most emotional parts of the play. It is noteworthy that the obscurity of Nora’s position vanishes, and the stage is more lit with light when the woman announces her decision to leave. She comes to light and is committed to making major decisions for herself. Although the future of the woman is dimmed, she clearly sees that her marriage is a cage she needs to escape from.

Another interesting peculiarity of the product is that helps viewers understand the conveyed meaning related to gender roles better in motion. In simple words, the way the cast moves is a story within a story. Of course, the focus is on the married couple who reveal the complexity of a typical marriage. Torvald is always in control of the situation and his wife. He is always trying to keep her as close as possible when they interact. The director makes the audience see that Torvald treats Nora as if she actually is his doll. He grabs her whenever he needs it and expects her to be nice and pleasing. The fact that the woman may need money (instead of a thing bought by her master) makes the man puzzled and somewhat annoyed.

The production is also notable in terms of the use of diverse dramatic devices in a very effective way. For example, a soliloquy is used in a powerful manner as it reveals the despair of the main character. Nora is at a complete loss as she can hardly see a way out and almost loses her mind. When she is left alone with the dress, Nora hardly explains what exactly she is thinking about. There are no conventional speeches with detailed reasoning in this production. However, the words she exclaims or her counting makes the audience understand that the woman is trying to decide and gain power in any available way.

Of course, it is important to mention the use of such a dramatic device as the nemesis in this production. Carrie Cracknell makes everything absolutely clear with no controversy about the reward and punishment. In Ibsen’s story, this device is somewhat marginal, although it is central to the story of the wife. Cracknell makes the audience see the reward Nora receives for being bold enough to stand for her freedom. Nora makes the decision to make things clear between them, although she could keep the secret untold. She could easily find a way to manage the letter as Torvald was too drunk to remember anything the next morning. In that case, Nora would continue living her life as a decent married woman with her household chores, which was seen as the purest female happiness in the patriarchal society of that time.

Nevertheless, she did a brave thing and revealed her secret, which helped her gain a reward, her freedom. She gains complete control of her life and leaves the place she finds oppressive. At the same time, Torvald is punished for his being selfish and so patriarchal. Their final argument shows how pathetic the man is and how ruined his life will be without the little doll he thought he used to have.

To sum up, it is possible to note that Carrie Cracknell managed to tell Ibsen’s story making it understandable to modern women. The use of dramatic devices is stunning as the director makes the major conflicts unveiled in a very emotional manner. The way of a wife from complete bondage to freedom is traumatic, but it brings peace to the female soul. Carrie Cracknell makes the viewer go through this path and feel what the life of a typical wife was in the nineteenth century and what it is at the beginning of the twenty-first century.


Cracknell, C. (Director). (2021). A doll’s house. Young Vic. Web.

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