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Diction in A Doll's House

Diction Examples in A Doll's House:

Act I

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"nice little dolly children..."   (Act I)

Dolls are toys, meant to be played with. They do not have any agency or will of their own. In many cases, they are purely decorative. By calling her kids “dolly children,” Nora is indicating that they are fun to play with but also subject to the whims of their parents, the people “playing” with them. All Nora has to do is hand them off to the nurse and they are no longer her problem. Torvald’s behavior reinforces this, showing no desire to play with his kids and describing their entrance as the start of a scene only “bearable” by a mother.

"scurrilous newspapers..."   (Act II)

The modern equivalent of a “scurrilous newspaper” is a tabloid magazine. Such publications spread scandalous stories designed to damage reputations. Nora uses the fear of Krogstad publishing unflattering articles about the Helmers as a cover story to win Torvald’s support. Ironically, it is the closest to the truth that she has gotten in her persuasions. If news of her forgery were published in the newspaper, the Helmers would face severe social consequences.

"obstinacy! ..."   (Act II)

The adjective “obstinate” refers to a stubborn person. In act I, Torvald calls Nora his “obstinate little woman” in an affectionate manner and seems pleased by the idea that she needs his help despite her stubbornness. By contrast, this outburst is indicative of genuine frustration, since Torvald is likely not accustomed to having Nora speak to him so directly.

"must..."   (Act II)

Seeing that her begging isn’t working, Nora shifts tactics and instead commands Torvald, framing her request as an obligation by using the word “must.” Her desperation to avoid Krogstad’s revelations force her to abandon her usual persona and instead speak to Torvald as a rational adult, though she remains unwilling to explain her reasoning.

"all sorts of excesses..."   (Act II)

Nora insinuates that Dr. Rank’s father’s tendency to “commit all sorts of excesses,” or in other words, to have many lovers, was the cause of Dr. Rank’s tuberculosis. As Tuberculosis is spread through the air via a person with the infection, Nora is suggesting that Dr. Rank’s father contracted the disease from one of his mistresses and infected his son.

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