Naturalism and Doll’s House

Due March 26

In class, we discussed Naturalism and how the first scene of Ibsen’s Doll’s House demonstrates naturalistic elements in theatre. From the homework, read the section on “Theory” in Sierz, Naturalism in Digital Theatre+ [Library>Research Guides>Theatre> Audiovisual> Digital Theatre + >  search for “Sierz Naturalism”]. The reading contains two quotes by Emile Zola. Choose one. Make sure you read the entire section so you fully understand the quote.

Then, watch Doll’s House in Digital Theatre + [Library>Research Guides>Theatre>Audiovisual> Digital Theatre + > search for “Doll’s House Production”]. Choose one scene from the production of the play that demonstrates Zola’s theory of Naturalism (not the first scene we viewed in class). In a comment box below, discuss how these three elements from the scene are “naturalistic”: 1) events in the scene (the plot), 2) a physical element from the Young Vic production (set, prop, costume), and 3) the acting (how one of the actors in the Young Vic production fulfill’s Zola’s description of naturalism).  

5 sentences, minimum. Cite the entire Zola quote in your response. Be very specific about elements from the scene and how these elements connect to an idea from the Zola quote. You need to demonstrate that you watched the Young Vic production of Doll’s House and that you thought carefully about Zola’s definition of Naturalism. Include the hour/minute mark of the scene you are referring to from the Young Vic production from Digital Theatre +, not the scene or act number.

13 thoughts on “Naturalism and Doll’s House

  1. Alexis Cisneros

    The Zola quote “The future is with Naturalism.” is a quote that I believe shows the importance of Naturalism. Zola is saying that Naturalism is going to play a major part in the future of theater. It is the future because it allows for theater to be more relatable. These elements are shown in Doll’s House through the use of lighting, props, furniture, the way characters act, and the way characters describe and act like any normal person would in real life, all this and more was shown to make the scene and characters more relatable to our lives. The symbols used are symbols we see every day and it makes it more engaging.

  2. wenhui Jin

    Naturalism only pursues absolute objectivity, advocates a simple description of nature, focuses on recording the superficial phenomena of real life, and attempts to explain people and human society based on natural laws, especially biological laws. As Emile Zola said, “I don’t care much about beauty or perfection. I don’t care about great centuries. All I care about is life, struggle, and intensity.” At 46:16 of “A Doll’s House”, Laura’s husband asks her if she is hiding something from him. After Laura apologized, Laura’s husband told Laura, “My little bird will never do that again.” At 1:59:08, Laura’s husband learned that Laura had borrowed money and forged the guarantor’s signature to delay repayment. Although the loan was to treat his illness, Laura’s husband was still angry and accused Laura of ruining his reputation and future. Judging from the class status and social environment of life at that time, this was indeed a very realistic thing, because Laura’s husband only regarded Laura as his pet, so he only allowed his pet’s behavior to be allowed by him. And can’t harm his interests or do things he doesn’t allow, otherwise, he will be very angry. Because in the social environment at that time, the wife’s role in the family was like a puppet or pet. Both of these clips are very much in line with what Zola calls the naturalistic aspect of life.

  3. obeek

    The quote I chose was “The Future is with Naturalism & I think Zola means the Naturalism style will be relevant well into the future of theater. I agree with this take because many of todays plays seem very grounded in reality, with sets that usually mirror real life & dont dive too deeply into the realm of fantasy. Doll House shows naturalism with scenes like 1:04-1:09 when Nora and Christine are talking about the doctor loaning Nora money. This back and forth felt like something that would happen in real life. Other things like subtle decorations such as the candles that make the space seem more lived in and the way the characters gesture and talk with their hands also add to the naturalistic aesthetic.

  4. Winson Chen

    The production, A Doll’s House, is a play that utilizes naturalism a lot in many of its scenes. To define naturalism, let’s take a quote by Emile Zola, a pioneer in writing naturalism: “The physiological man in our modern works is asking more and more compellingly to be determined by his setting, by the environment that produced him”. In other words, the setting and circumstances around a character is what determines a character. Now let’s take a look at the scene in 35:20 – 43:25. This takes place after the main character, Nora Helmer, reveals her secret to her friend about borrowing money to save her husband and most recently the friend and husband has met and went outside discussing job opportunities for the friend. Mr. Krogstad, overhears their discussion and figures that his own job is at risk. Being the one that Nora borrowed money from, he meets with her and threatens Nora if she doesn’t save his job. This scene takes place in the Helmers’ home, specifically in the dining room while the kids are in other rooms. The prop that was mainly used was the paper in which the contract was signed for borrowing and Mr. Krogstad points out something on it that could be used to accuse Nora of fraud. The acting here is very well done. Mr. Krogstad was aggressive and leaned in a little when he talked. He clearly wanted to keep his job so that his sons would continue to respect him. Nora Helmer, on the other hand, was being deflective with the accusations, but once there was no denying it, she sat on the dining room chair looking defeated. From the scene, we can tell that the circumstances have led to this moment. Mr. Krogstad being the type of person who needs his job and coupled with the fact his job is at risk and being the one Nora borrowed money from, had all the reason to confront Nora about the situation. Nora being the secretive one would reasonably deny the claims made against her. At the end of the scene, she is now left wondering what she must do next.

  5. Yufei Lin

    Yufei Lin D273

    It is mentioned in the article, “Naturalism has a theory, which was developed by novelist Émile Zola (1840-1902)”, and another passage containing Émile Zola is, “One of the most important was Émile Zola’s ThĂ©rèse Raquin in 1887, as well as Ibsen’s Ghosts, whose story about marital infidelity and hereditary syphilis resulted in it being banned in most of Europe.” This passage is about Émile Zola’s 1887 work “Special” ThĂ©rèse Raquin was one of the few controversial short plays that other theaters were afraid to stage for fear of censorship or moral backlash. And Antoine aimed to create realistic sets with great attention to detail.

    Elements depicting naturalism can be seen in the Young Vic production of Doll’s House. In [1:27:46 – 1:30:35], you can see the physical elements in the production of Young Vic, including sets, props, costumes, etc, such as sofas, candles next to the windows, sconces on the walls, tree decorated with lights, chairs by the door and other details, you can feel that Young Vic is trying to make/imitate the scene more realistically and full of details. Then regarding the events in the scene, this scene mainly describes the conversation between Kristine and Nora, about the letter from Krogstad. And then, regarding acting, I think how actors achieve Zola’s naturalistic description is mainly reflected in the dialogue and surrounding scenes. During the dialogue, the only light source comes from the wall lamp, which makes the overall light darker, but also allows the viewer to better focus on the actor’s dialogue and match the actor’s vivid expression. The second is the surrounding scenery. The naturalistic description of the scenery is mainly reflected in the details. The scenery tries to restore reality as much as possible, trying to make the scene look like real life, and the actors can cooperate with the details of the scene to make it The performance becomes more real.

  6. Deondre Marcelle

    Zola believes that naturalism in theater should reflect life. It should be a recreation of what happens in life. In the play this is reflected in multiple aspects. The first aspect is the scene. At 34 minutes in “A Doll’s House” the mother was playing with her kids. This is something natural because a parent plays with there kids in many different ways. But compares to fathers who play rough with their kids mothers often play softer which was portrayed. The mother was playing with her kids by chasing the around the house into multiple areas and “missing” them when they run by her. The other element is the sets on the stage. In a house there is many objects such as beds, walls, pictures, chairs and various other objects. These can all be seen between 34 min and 35 min. The set also has objects that aren’t used. Similar to a house everything isn’t used but they are still there the scene also displays this with objects such as candles, the things on the shelfs, and the throw pillows on the extra chairs. Finally the acting is natural in the sense that its how a mother would act with her kids. During the entire scene you never felt as if the kids she’s playing with aren’t hers or if the she isn’t their mother. They are having fun and you can clearly see that its just them and she acts like that. This is also shown clearly at 35:23 she is suspired and scared that her husband is home because she was alone waiting for her kids to hide and was expecting her husband to just be there when she opened her eyes. Her reaction is the natural human reaction in that situation.

  7. Habib Bodunrin

    For one scene that prove Zola theory of naturalism would be the part around 48:20 in terms of setting because of the props. The props help the play feel more believable because it shows a house with different furniture and lighting enhancing the viewer immersion into the setting. Furthermore this setting help portray naturalism through the character is by the lighting, since the room is dark and that darkness allows the viewer to focus on the actors. The actors who were attire that would fit more of a middle class person in the late 1800s(the time period when Doll House was created). As well as the fact that the way the actor talk portray a sense of realism due to vulgarity of their words. Finally naturalism is conveyed by the events where the Torvald Helmer was talking about the concept of lying to his wife Nora. In the play he states the following “to lie in a family home diseases a place. It contaminate a it.”(49: 42 – 49:47). This is a very important statement because Torvald Helmer expands on the concept further by explaining how he seen this concept of lying, played during his time as a lawyer. Especially when he was working with a family of criminals who put lies on each other all time. Which conveys a sense of realism because it shows a person talking about a real issue in figurative manner and giving their own backstory about their own life when talking to another person in life. Similarly to how family members can talk to their relatives about their own backstory.

  8. jacqueline_f

    jacqueline flores D273

    1-The scenes that I felt captured naturalism in the Doll’s House production were scenes 2:13:00-2:15:47. In the scene Nora finally snaps at her husband telling him that she doesn’t know who she is and has only been playing a character fit for him and society so it’s acceptable. They were always put together however as Nora snapped in that scene they were both (word for not neat)  

    2- What kept the scene realistic was during the climax as they both argue and she grabs her bag and is in a state of panic and stress as she packs her bags quickly. Showing how fast she was thinking her movements weren’t able to catch up. Her clothes are all over while her husband tries to stop her from leaving him. Her clothes were scattered around and her bags were everywhere.  

    3- We can also account for the acting in which her voice shakes and her hands tremble as she can’t formulate her feelings. Even more real is when she notices the door open and looks horrified and quickly goes and closes it. Realism in the sense she didn’t want the maids nor her children to hear the fight that ensues in that room. As she becomes more conscious of the reality of her situation, her desire to rebel grows and she eventually leaves her husband and kids. Nora completes this acting again when she realizes reality she thinks about religion, what is even real anymore. 

    And this goes back to Zora’s quote “The physiological man in our modern works is asking more and more compellingly to be determined by his setting, by the environment that produced him”. As the quote remarked saying it’s the product of one’s environment. So in nature vs. nurture, Zora is siding more with the nurture side. In this case, Nora because she was the one who was a product of her environment. Nora snapped because she lost herself in her societal role, she wasn’t at a natural disadvantage but a social one so nurture is the problem.

  9. Pierre-Ryan

    In Act 3, specifically 1:59:20 (where it starts) and 2:05:00 (where it really begins) of “A Doll’s House,” Nora reaches a breaking point and has her confrontation with Torvald, where she asserts her desire for independence and questions the foundation of their marriage. Emile Zola states “Existing under the sovereign dominion of their nerves and their blood, devoid of free will and drawn into every act of their lives by the inescapable prompting of their flesh”. This scene exemplifies this quote by Zola because throughout the production Nora’s entire attitude and demeanor around Torvald was like that of a child, or a very submissive as Torvald is dominant over her. Oftentimes this is Subtle, where Torvald puts Nora down by referring to her as small birds, or expresses ownership over her, other times he directly does puts her down and talks down to her, or tries to control her (2:00:00 and 2:04:00 as an example of this). In this scene, Nora confronts Torvald about her feelings. Nora’s actions and words reveal her acknowledgment of the constraints placed upon her by society and Torvald’s dominance (forces that have governed her life thus far). Zola’s concept of characters being “drawn into every act of their lives by the inescapable prompting of their flesh” is evident in Nora’s realization that her own desires and needs have been suppressed in order to maintain these appearances with Torvald, and to fulfill her societal roles.These scenes show the naturalistic portrayal of human behavior, where characters are depicted as products of their environment and unable to escape the influence of these forces. This is shown through Torvald’s constant need to “confess” or to control her, and Nora’s inability to truly be herself, or to stand up for herself with Torvald until 2:05:00 (where she realizes she was Torvald’s doll in Toravald’s house).

  10. Jesus Diyarza

    The scene in 16:55 looks into how Kristine had to start working when husband left her to maintain her family. Soon after, her mother died, and when her kids had positions of their own, she felt alone because she no longer had anyone living. She decided to move and find work where Nora lives because not having work turns someone’s mind bitter. There is nobody else in the room where both Kristine and Nora are, making the scene more intimate because Kristine is talking about her struggles to a friend she has not seen in 3 years. The acting fulfills Zola’s description of naturalism because the actor of Kristine genuinely looks guilty when she said that she didn’t have someone to pay for her things like Nora “existing under the sovereign dominion of their nerves and their blood, devoid of free will and drawn into every act of their lives by the inescapable promptings of their flesh”. People are able to accomplish anything if they are determined enough, and that the environment surrounding them influences their actions, because just as how animals have evolved through adapting to different natural conditions, human beings are motivated to do the same. 

  11. Tshari Yancey

    The first form of naturalism we see A Doll’s House is the environment a small apartment and a “happy” family of five. But the actions of Nora say otherwise, Zola’s quote “The physiological man in our modern works is asking more and more compellingly to be determined by his setting, by the environment that produced him” ( cited in Megson, 2010, x). The scene that relates to this quote for me is the minute mark of 56:32 where Nora talks to her nanny Anne Marie, hypothetically speaking about leaving and the kids. When we first met Nora everything seems great, Torvald is newly promoted, her friend is visiting, she plays with her kids, and buys what is wants. If her environment determined her character, why is contemplating and eventually does leave her family? It could be out of guilt from the money. But If her husband loves her he should be understanding that she made a mistake regardless of how he feels about forging signatures.

  12. Nancy

    The quote I choose from Sierz Naturalism is “The physiological man in our modern works is asking more and more compellingly to be determined by his setting, by the environment that produced him” (cited in Megson, 2010, x). In Doll’s House this can be seen at 1:00:00. Nora’s friend confront her about her change in her attitude based on all that has happened him her husband being sick but still having g to work to provide. She believes Nora might be looking to find another way out my seeking a rich husband, and hints that she might be going out with Dr.Rank. This could be by her change of environment that is making her change how she is. Although it is not true this was led because she had also had an idea about finding herself a rich admirer to help her out of her situation. Not only that but prior to that scene she questions herself and also asks her children’s nanny if anything were to happen such as running away if she would take care of her kids. She questions herself if it is the right thing.

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