In Ibsen’s A Doll’s Home, the path to self-realization and transformation is portrayed by the main character, Nora Helmer. She is a female constrained by both her other half’s domineering ways along with her own. From a Jungian perspective, Nora’s lack of an industrialized contrasexual force, or animus, is the stumbling block to her accomplishing individual freedom. The author accomplishes this by developing in Nora the “archetype of improvement,” which permits her to alter from a child-like things coming from her husband Torvald Helmer, into a separately believing, self-realized woman.
The outset of the story characterizes Nora as a childish toy who is controlled by her husband. From a Jungian point of view, her persona points to the absence of balance of her animus. One indicator of this is the method Nora attempts to encourage Torvald to do something she wants. “NORA: Your squirrel would scuttle about and do techniques, if you ‘d just be sweet and give up” (Ibsen 196). Nora doesn’t feel she can be in advance with Torvald, so she counts on ridiculous and flirtatious approaches of persuasion. This habits prevails throughout the majority of the play. In fairness though, Torvald refers to his spouse in childlike methods. Nora is simply reacting to his views of her as a pretty little object. HELMER: “Now, now, the little lark’s wings mustn’t sag. Begin, don’t be a sulky squirrel …” (Ibsen 172). It is this circle of belittlement and control that is fostering within Nora the inhibition of her animus. According to Jung, “the animus is the matching agent of the masculine contrasexual elements in the psychology of women” (Edinger 4 of 9). That is to say, it is the animus that represents the masculinity in a woman. For Nora to be able to retreat from her husband, or her family, she would initially require to focus her contrasexual energies. However, this would be tough for Nora to attain due to various factors, among which involves the past. As author Cheryl Jarvis explains, “Historically, our culture has reduced what we when called ‘male’ attributes (power and independence) in women …” (Jarvis 4 of 6). Simply put, the historic restrictions placed on male/female characteristics helps add to the scarcity of contrasexual energies. It is with this in mind that a person can comprehend a few of the reasons for Nora’s personality. The personality is “… the partly determined public face a private assumes towards others. The personality is made up of different aspects, some based upon the person’s individual tendencies and others stemmed from the society’s expectations and the early training of moms and dads and teachers” (Edinger 3 of 9). That is, the personality of an individual is the face they display in public. Given that it’s established by lots of ways, one including the early training of moms and dads, it is clear that Nora, from an early age, would be at a disadvantage in the development of her animus. A clear example of this remains in the method she speaks about her dad’s approach of raising her. NORA: “When I lived at home with Papa, he told me all his viewpoints, so I had the very same ones too; or if they were different I concealed them, given that he would not have actually looked after that. He utilized to call me his doll-child, and he played with me the method I had fun with my dolls” (Ibsen 220). Her antics and undeveloped sense of power and self-reliance stem from her dad’s treatment of her as an unthinking kid. Nora’s life is a continuation of the circle of belittlement and manage her dad began implementing at an early age, except this time it is with Torvald. However, as Ibsen shows with the character of Mrs. Linde, Nora’s chance for improvement and self-realization is not at all difficult.
Mrs. Linde can be viewed as an ideally changed and contrasexually established female. Ibsen offers in her a glimpse into the possible future of Nora’s personal maturity. A good example of this is when Mrs. Linde speaks to Nora about relationships and Nora’s childish behavior. MRS. LINDE: “Now listen, Nora; in many methods you’re still like a kid. I’m a good deal older than you, with a little more experience” (Ibsen 194). Ibsen gives Mrs. Linde a sense of maturity and experience by having her state that she is older and suggesting that she is better. As Jarvis states regarding the requirement for contrasexual development, “The task of the second half of life, said Jung, is to claim our contrasexual energies – in other words, to discover our missing out on selves” (Jarvis 4 of 6). The second half of life involves one’s search for his/her contrasexual force. The growing and balance of an individual’s animus hence turns into one of the focal points of midlife. Ibsen even more highlights Jarvis’ point when Mrs. Linde speaks with Krogstad about her individual modification. MRS. LINDE: “I have actually learned to be practical. Life and hard, bitter necessity have actually taught me that” (Ibsen 210). It appears that she has had a difficult life, from which she has learned to be an independent thinker and has attained self-realization. With her wisdom, she sees the need for Nora to be truthful about her dilemma. Being fully grown, skilled, and observant permits her to see precisely the issues the couple has. This is made clear when she is once again speaking with Krogstad regarding the letter he has dropped into Torvald’s mail box. MRS. LINDE: “Yes, because first panic. However it’s been an entire day and night since then, and in that time I’ve seen such things in this house. Helmer’s got to find out everything; this terrible secret has to be aired; those 2 have to come to complete understanding; all these lies and evasions can’t go on” (Ibsen 211). Mrs. Linde observes the requirement for Nora to be honest with Torvald, even if the marriage might suffer irreparable damage. She sees that the Helmer household is “… a nursery for hypocrisy and repression, possessiveness and lies” (Thompson 2 of 5). Besides the noticeable aspects of Nora’s marriage, she is warned of Thompson’s viewpoint by the things Nora reveals about her relationship to Torvald. NORA: “You see, Torvald loves me beyond words, and, as he puts it, he wants to keep me all to himself” (Ibsen 194). Nora, unconsciously, makes apparent to Mrs. Linde such things as the possessive nature of Torvald. Through her obtained self-realization and contrasexual advancement, she offers Nora with an example of what can become of a woman who changes her persona and attempts to discover her “missing out on self.” This is accomplished through the advice she provides to Nora as well as the examples of monetary independence she supplies. Case in point, MRS. LINDE: “Yes, so I needed to scrape up a living with a little store and a little teaching and whatever else I might find. The last 3 years have been like one endless workday without rest for me” (Ibsen 177). Mrs. Linde’s description of self-support and independence provides Nora a living example of attained self-realization, one that is worthy of emulation.
The last act of the play portrays Nora’s change. From a Jungian point of view, the breaking away from Torvald shows that she has actually begun to establish her masculine side. Ibsen, from the start, developed in Nora the archetype of transformation, which “… relate to a psychic procedure of growth, modification, and transition. It can express itself in several images with the same underlying core of significance … The theme of death and renewal as well …” (Edinger 6 of 9). This archetype applies to people who change, or fully grown, mentally. In A Doll’s Home, Ibsen reveals the image of modification and transition with Nora. Throughout most of the play, she knows her limitations in her role as “other half” and she knowingly enacts Torvald’s animal. However, this modifications in the last act. Nora lastly faces her other half and enables herself to expose her innermost sensations concerning her function as his wife. NORA: “I don’t believe in that any more. I believe that, before all else, I’m a human, no less than you – or anyhow, I ought to attempt to become one. I know the majority thinks you’re right, Torvald, and lots of books agree with you too. But I can’t go on believing what the bulk states, or what’s written in books. I have to think over these things myself and attempt to comprehend them” (Ibsen 222). Nora, for the first time in her life, has revealed honestly and with confidence a personal need. She tells Torvald that she no longer believes in the conventional views society holds of marital relationship. Crucial though, is her newfound requirement to believe things through for herself. Nora further portrays this when she reacts to Torvald’s claim of her being childlike and naive. NORA: “… Today I’ll start to learn for myself. I’ll try to discover who’s right, the world or I” (Ibsen 222). Confessing that she is indeed inexperienced with the methods of the world, she is nonetheless ready to start being an independent woman. The requirement to end up being self-realized has concerned fruition. “To end up being whole … women who require to develop their ‘masculine’ characteristics are pulled outward, far from house and domesticity” (Jarvis 4 of 6). As Nora starts to understand the suppressing nature of her marital relationship and her spouse’s lack of self-sacrifice, she sees the requirement to retreat from him. NORA: “Great. Well, now it’s all over. I’m putting the secrets here. The maids understand everything about maintaining your home – much better than I do. Tomorrow, after I’ve left town, Kristine will drop in to evacuate everything that’s mine from home. I ‘d like those things delivered as much as me” (Ibsen 224). Nora’s decisiveness relating to the option to leave Torvald is made clear and her contrasexual energy is starting to show. From a Jungian perspective, Nora’s path to self-realization and improvement begins to take shape with her final willpower to different herself from Torvald. Considering that the style of death and rebirth are expressions of the “archetype of change,” the death of Nora’s marriage allows her change to begin taking shape. She is starting to establish her masculine side by organizing her life and believing for herself. No longer is she a mere “doll.”
In the end, a Jungian analysis of “A Doll’s Home” provides insight into Nora’s character and shares Ibsen’s view of the significance of individual development and acquired independence. The primary character starts as a childish woman who catches her spouse’s needs and acts as if not able to think for herself. However, Ibsen shows that below Nora’s surface is a woman shrieking to be totally free. Although ignorant, she is not completely ridiculous, but rather uses that personality to fill a role she feels is demanded of her. This would not be the case if her sense of contrasexual expertise, coming from her animus, had been efficiently developed. However, as Jung specified with the archetype of change and Ibsen showed with Nora’s beginnings of self-realization, the psychic procedure of modification takes time, effort, and often a revelatory experience.
Edinger, Edward F. “An Outline of Analytical Psychology.” Quadrant. New york city: 1968.