Little Songbird

In Act I of A Doll’s House, we are immediately forced to form an opinion of Miss Nora, and an unfavorable one at that.  Her husband Torvald repeatedly patronizes her using words such as “pretty little,” “spendthrift,” and various comparisons to birds (a trope pertaining to women found often in literature, suggesting that Nora is somehow caged).  Nora does nothing to change our initial impression of her, if not she worsens it in her lie to Mrs. Linde.  In speaking of her trip to Italy, Nora tells Mrs. Linde that she procured all of the funds for said trip by herself.  At first she attempts to tell the truth, she got a loan in secret despite the legal issues it could possibly bring, but in hearing her friend’s response she fabricates a lie.  This lie paints her in a better view in the reader’s eyes (Nora is a strong woman, working to keep her family), yet nevertheless, she is later outed to us by Krogstad.

In the reveal that she owes Krogstad the entire sum of money spent on the Italy trip, we learn why her husband comparing her to birds is not just a term of endearment (at least metaphorically).  Nora is in debt and, putting it bluntly, she is being blackmailed by this man.  There is no clear way for her recover from this, especially with her husband refusing to listen to her forced pleas about allowing Krogstad to keep his position at the Bank.

2 thoughts on “Little Songbird”

  1. I thought it was interesting the way the story plays with the “bird” motif regarding women, especially with Nora. To suggest that someone is a bird I think implies that they are harmless. Or perhaps even something meant to be looked at and appreciated while they float gracefully from place to place. However, it is interesting to think about Nora in this way especially given the damage she has done. Between forging her father’s signature to illegally take out a loan and lying to everybody about it, it would foolish to say Nora is harmless “little songbird.” She is human and the damage she has done is anything but graceful.

  2. Laura, you mentioned in your post that Helmer refers to Nora as a bird because she is caged. I absolutely agree with this statement. However, I am interested in who has done the caging of our “little songbird”. Is Helmer, with his great focus on frugalness and almost oppressive like mannerisms toward his wife, the cager, or has Nora simply ensnared herself in this trap with her questionable financial decisions? It seems that Nora is being pushed further and further into her cage, with pressure from Krogstad and her husband. It seems that no matter where she turns, there is always another entity waiting for her. Much alike a fly caught in a spider’s web, the more Nora struggles, the more she becomes tangled. Your conclusive paragraph from your post makes me see that perhaps each force that traps Nora is equally prevailing. Regardless of who seems to keep our “little songbird” ensnared, Nora’s chances of escaping are fleeting, and I doubt she will be able to escape any time soon.

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