Tone in A Doll's House

Ibsen uses stage directions in order to set the tone of the play and to allow the audience to gain a deeper understanding of the characters’ inner sentiments and struggles.

Dialogue: Pauses are incorporated after dialogue in order to indicate complex or unspoken thoughts that manipulate the tone. For example, Nora naturally pauses longer when she attempts to deceive Torvald and does the same when she is not immediately sure of how to respond to Krogstad’s threats. The tone of the scene becomes secretive and slightly ominous.

Movement: Characters’ movements are often used to help highlight the contrast between what they are thinking or feeling, and what they portray to the outside world. For instance, Nora’s movements are at odds with her speech during the beginning of the play, but they become more consistent with her emotions towards the end as she gains confidence and independence. The tone thus echoes this conflict of constraint, seemingly happy from the outside, but with an undercurrent of doubt and inauthenticity.

Juxtaposition: Distance between speakers is also manipulated to produce changes in overall tone, as when Nora distances herself from Torvald when she deceives him or when Torvald comes closer to Nora, towering over her whilst he reprimands her for various actions.

Tone Examples in A Doll's House:

Act II 1

"Silk stockings..."   (Act II)

Note that, as Rank suggests, showing someone’s stockings was quite an intimate thing to do during this time. Consider how the flirtatious comments that Nora made previously, such as telling Rank to imagine that she is dancing for him, contribute to the flirtatious tone of this scene. The tone of conversation between Nora and Rank is drastically different from the tone of Nora and Torvald’s conversation just before. This change in tone encourages us to compare Nora’s relationship with Rank to her relationship with Torvald. Nora’s movements are less confined around Rank; she is playful, even “humming to herself.”