A Doll's House

Existential Models of Love in A Doll's House and The Seducer’s Diary

According to Soren Kierkegaard, there are three categorizations of people based on their motive and actions: the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious. In The Seducer’s Diary, Kierkegaard presents the character of Johannes as a typical aesthete who centers his life on the single-minded pursuit of personal pleasure. The story follows his romantic pursuit of Cordelia, the latest in a long list of young women he has conquered and abandoned. In contrast, Henrik Ibsen’s character of Torvald Helmer in A Doll’s House seems to be Johannes’ opposite in his motivations, in his approach to relationships with women, and in what he thinks the purpose of such relationships is. Whereas Johannes is obsessed with the gratification of his personal desires at the expense of society, Torvald derives gratification from conforming to societal standards to the greatest extent possible, even at the expense of personal relationships.

Torvald’s ethical urge to live up to society’s standards prompts his concern for his reputation and his desire for the admiration of others, and contributes to his belief that Nora should serve to promote his social standing. Torvald’s extreme sensitivity to others’ perceptions of him can be seen as his motivation for...

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