Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, a play originally written in Norwegian during the nineteenth century, provides an excerpt of the life of Nora and Torvald Helmer. Throughout the play, the characters experience struggle with situations such as emotional conflicts, keeping secrets, conversational exploitation, and physical distractions. Ibsen manipulates clothing to signal infiltration and withdrawal with the characters. The expressions of infiltration and withdrawal illustrates a spectrum from internally to externally. The internal expressions apply to the emotions the character either feels or does not feel and the secrets they withhold from each other. The external aspect denotes interactive events such as the conversations and entrances.
Ibsen removes characters’ emotions by having them adjust clothing. From the first act, Nora speaks to Torvald about wanting more money. In doing so, Nora begins, “[playing with his coat buttons and without raising her eyes to his]” (Doll act I). In this conversation with Torvald, Nora shows emotional withdrawal from Torvald through her refusal to look at him, in order to receive more money. Nora feigns innocence when she wants something from her husband; however, she does not have any emotional attachment when she manipulates Torvald. Moreover, Torvald, like Nora, demonstrates emotional detachment. When Torvald prepares to leave in act one, he concerns himself more with work than his feelings, “[Helmer comes out of his room with his coat over his arm and his hat in his hand]” (Doll act I). Although Torvald has a conversation with Nora before he leaves, he strictly talks about business. The conversation demonstrates how much emotionally detached Nora and Torvald really appear. Since Nora mention…
…ns and retractions. The emotional withdrawal in which the characters succumb and the secrets they reveal to other characters indicate the internal components of the spectrum. Contrarily to the emotions and secrets, the conversations and the physical entrance of other characters depict the external elements of the range from internal to external. Ibsen shapes the events surrounding Nora and Torvald, and the way he employs the clothing permits a subtle signal for each situation. The fact that clothing communicates the signs of withdrawal and infiltration allows for a better understanding of how the characters operate in their daily communications and events. Moreover, it consents the character’s unspoken wants of the other characters and the actions they want to take place.
Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll’s House. Trans. Michael Meyer. Mineola (NY): Dover, 1992.