A Doll’s House contains many instances of irony. The main characters, Nora and Torvald, are especially involved in this. Many of the examples of irony in this play are types of dramatic irony. Dramatic irony usually refers to a situation in a play wherein a character’s knowledge is limited, and he or she encounters something of greater significance than he or she knows. Throughout the play, most of the dramatic irony displayed is between Nora and Torvald, with Torvald being the character whose knowledge is limited.
Early on in the play, when Mr. Krogstad is threatening to tell Torvald of Nora’s secret, Nora pleads with him and asks him not to. She says to him that “It would be a rotten shame. That secret is all my pride and joy – why should he have to hear about it in this nasty, horrid way…….. hear about it from you” (1431). This is ironic in that her “pride and joy” is something that her husband would completely disapprove of. Torvald tells Nora “No debts! Never borrow! There’s something inhibited, something unpleasant, about a home built on credit and borrowed money” (1415).
But nevertheless, she has borrowed money, and it is her pride and joy. She takes pride in the fact that she was able to borrow money, since women are not supposed to be able to, and that she has been able to save and work for enough money to be able to make the payments on her loan. What makes it even more joyful for her is that she knows this helped save her husband’s life. The most joyful thing in Nora’s life is something her husband disapproves of. What makes this even more ironic is a statement Torvald makes to Nora after discovering her secret.
He says to her “Oh, what a terrible awakening this is. All these eight years… this woman who was my pride and joy… a hypocrite, a liar, worse than that, a criminal! ” (1462). He also uses the words “pride and joy” to describe Nora, just as she describes her secret. Another illustration of irony is the way Nora treats her children as if they were dolls. This is situational irony because Nora is treated like a doll by her husband, and by her father when he was alive. She says “I passed out of Daddy’s hands into yours.
You arranged everything to your tastes, and I acquired the same tastes” (1465). She, in turn, influences her children in the same way. Nora buys clothes for the children, and shows them off to visitors, but she doesn’t actually mother them, Anne Marie does. Nora leaves her home and family in the end because she realizes the way she has been treated, and she wants to be her own person in the future. But ironically, she treats her children like dolls, and leaves them there to be treated like dolls in the future.
Another instance of dramatic irony again involves Torvald. He makes the statement “Oh, my darling wife, I can’t hold you close enough. You know, Nora… many’s the time I wish you were threatened by some terrible danger so I could risk everything, body and soul, for your sake” (1461). He clearly says that he wants Nora to need him, and to need his help. Then, when the time comes where she needs and expects his help, he does not come to her rescue. He tells her “Now you have ruined my entire happiness, jeopardized my whole future” (1462).
After everything is clear, Torvald forgives her, which makes Nora realize that all he cares about is himself and he would have never helped her. A Doll’s House is rich in symbols and imagery, and things such as that. But the irony, more than anything in this play, is very clear. Some examples are more obvious than others, but it is all very clear. It is easy to see the irony in the characters situations. Basically, Torvald Helmer has very limited knowledge throughout the play. And therefore, he gets into situations in which he encounters things of greater significance than he anticipates.