In Act III of “A Doll’s House” with the aid of Henrik Ibsen, Torvald learns about a forgery that his wife Nora made to secure money. Torvald lashes out at Nora for bringing him shame and inserting him in the position of debt. However, after a second letter comes in and Torvald realizes that all the harsh words he had informed Nora were not suitable, he decides to use rhetorical devices now not only to change the situation at that second but also to make up for the ill-treatment he had given Nora in the eight years of marriage. This paper, therefore, looks at some of the literary strategies employed by Trovald to perform in one night what he should have done in years of their marriage.
After Torvald open’s the second letter and realizes that he is safe from the shame he thought Nora’s actions had brought him, he uses amplification to express his happiness and also as a way of getting back to his wife considering that he had just doubted her trustworthiness. Torvald shouts, “I am saved!, I am Saved! ” (3: 109). Once Torvald gets to celebrate news about his safety, he again responds to Nora’s question about her safety using amplification. Here Torvald intends to show affection to his wife and expresses a rare kind of unity that has not existed in their marriage for a long time. Moreover, Torvald’s use of an epithet, “My poor Nora” (3:109), is aimed at showing empathy and concern for his wife who he had lied all his marriage life scolding and mocking for doing things he did not approve.
In most of the conversation with Nora, Torvald’s words are aimed at emphasizing to Nora of his ability to protect and care for her as his wife. Torvald uses epizeuxis in the statement “No, no, only lean on me”(3:110), to convince his wife that he is now ready to take care of her and protect her like he has never done before. Torvald fools Norah into thinking that despite his treatment of her as a child and more so as a play object, he was the pillar of her safety. That is ironical in a way from the reader’s point of view considering that before the second letter from Dr, Rank arrived, Torvald had sought to distance himself from a wife he felt was a fraud and a liar.
In continuing his efforts to justify his past behaviors and making them look as if they were part of his protectiveness over Nora, Torvald uses parallelism. Torvald tells Nora that he would be “true man” if Nora’s “womanly helpless” could not make her “doubly dear” to him. Torvald immediately follows the sentence with parallelism by using amplifying words in the statement on forgiveness as a way of convincing his wife to feel comfortable to stay and preventing her from considering to take any other action but to remain his wife.
Throughout the eight years of marriage, Torvald and Nora had never had a serious talk. Torvald in one night acts like an all-knowing super provider who can make a wife comfortable and happy in marriage. Torvald revisits his missed actions in the eight years by using an appositive, “my scared little song-bird” (3:111), to describe how needy the wife is of his protection. He follows that with a reassurance in the form of a simile that he would protect her “like a hunted dove” (3:111). These comparison that Trovald makes between a hunted dove and Nora is his way of telling Nora that though he had not guarded their love and more so her love for him so jealously, he is willing to do so in the future. In all these conversations, Trovald knows that it will take him much of the sweet talking to convince Nora to stay and probably to trust that in the coming days, he will be a loving and caring husband. That explains why after the much assurance of protection, Trovald makes an understatement regarding his ill-treatment of Nora in the past to make it look like it never happened. Torvald asks himself a question aloud on how could he have thought of driving Nora away or even blaming her. While Trovald is struggling to present himself differently before his eyes, the manner of his speech reveals that he still looks at Nora as an object whose mind and body he can manipulate at will.
In the play “A Doll’s House” Ibsen cleverly makes use of several rhetorical devices through the character Trovald to reflect what goes on in the society. It is even more important to note that during the Victorian era when the play was written the traditional gender roles required men to take care of their wives as though they were children. Ibsen shows how when reality struck Trovald with the realization that he had misunderstood his wife all along, he tries to use words to convince her to change her opinion of him.
Ibsen, Henrik, and Wiliam Archer. A Doll’s House. London, 1889, https://www2.hf.uio.no/polyglotta/public/media/libraries/file/10/A%20Dolls%20House-%20Henrik%20Ibsen.pdf.