A Critique of Tone and Diction “A Doll’s House”
The tone and diction in a play, novel, or any other piece of writing is extremely important in portraying a certain theme or idea that the author would like to get across. In A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen used a great amount of diction to get certain tones across in many different scenes throughout the play. We can see how Nora gets treated like a doll or a child throughout the play by Torvald and pretty much accepts it throughout the first two acts. Finally, at the end of Act III we see Nora’s tone change as Henrik Ibsen changes the diction that Nora speaks in to Torvald. This change of diction displaying Nora’s voice to Torvald in the scene where she finally sticks up for herself in Act III. This changed the tone of the play in a way that we have not really seen Nora act towards Torvald before and shows that she does have the ability to have an aggressive tone. Torvald also has a change of tone which we can see through diction in which he has a concerned tone to try to get Nora to stay.
Even in this scene we can still see Torvald treat Nora like a child but also switches to a concerned tone, but not in the right ways. Torvald is not concerned with the way Nora actually feels, but is actually concerned about destroying his self-image. This brings about a human vs. self conflict for Torvald. This is why he has a concerned tone to try to get Nora to stay, but just because he doesn’t want people to know of the separation and losing Nora. We can see this this through diction in the play. While talking to Nora in this scene, Torvald says, “”My poor little Nora, I quite understand; you don’t feel as if you could believe that I have forgiven you. But that is true, Nora, I swear it; I have forgiven you for everything. I know that what you did you did out of love for me”” (Ibsen 64). In this quote we can see both points made earlier on about the diction Torvald uses to portray Nora as a child as well as the diction used to show a concerning tone to get Nora to stay even though we know from reading that he is not concerned for the right reasons.
In the same scene, we can also see the mature tone that Nora displays throughout the diction here. Nora was talking to Torvald about how he never takes her serious and hasn’t in the entirety of their eight years of marriage. Nora says to Torvald, “”I am not speaking about business matters. I say that we have never sat down in earnest together to try and get at the bottom of anything”” (Ibsen 66). Torvald then replied, “”But dearest Nora, would it have been any good to you?”” (Ibsen 66). This response from Torvald just goes to show how his tone towards Nora, treating her like a child, has not changed a bit even in a serious time and conversation like this. We can see the maturity of Nora as she understands the matter and confronts Torvald about it. This shows us how she is not as child-like as Torvald displays her to be.
All in all, this scene where Torvald receives the letter shows us the true colors of both of these characters. The tone and diction in this scene help to portray this conflict. The mature and aggressive tone of Nora shows us how she is able to stand up for herself against Torvald and has realized she has been treated like a toy throughout her marriage. The response of Torvald to Nora’s defense doesn’t come with much surprise as we still see him treating Nora the same as he always has. The diction including the name-calling by Torvald to Nora further adds to this explanation. Henrik Ibsen uses tone and diction in a great way of portraying each of the characters in A Doll’s House.
Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll’s House. Mineola, Dover Publications Inc., 1992.