“In many cultures, a woman is expected to assume the role of the submissive, attentive wife. Often, a woman’s role is limited by society to that of wife and mother. Henrik Ibsen, in his play A Doll’s House, examines the consequences of the stereotypical roles of women in marriage.” Ibsen allows the reader to follow Nora, the main character, along her difficult journey to regain her self-esteem and worth.”( Durbach 153) In this play, Henrik Ibsen tackles the problem of women’s rights.
The play somewhat showed the face of the modern women with the will to become independent, with self-determination and courage. When the play was written, the society was conservative, and the main role of women was to stay at home look after their husbands and children. Women were not allowed to apply for jobs unless they were widows. If women were found working despite having a husband, they were considered social outcasts.
Questions Raised. The play raises many questions about the role and equality of women in a relatively patriarchal society. We shall discuss a few of these questions in paragraphs to follow.
- Many people called the play “too feminist for that era. Is it so?” In the play, Nora’s husband, Torvald, is very authoritarian and cares more for his reputation than his family. He called Nora names such as “my little squirrel, my skylark, spendthrift,” portraying Nora as a weak, inferior person. However, the play is about a woman struggling for her authentic identity and individuality. Therefore, it would be wrong to call it “too feminist”.
- Another question raised in the play was, “Shouldn’t women have the right to put forward their opinions and ideas and have them considered as significant as male ideas?” During the play, Nora was never taken seriously. She was treated like a child, unaware of what she speaks. Whenever she tried to put forward her own thoughts and opinions, Torvald interrupted her, who starts calling her names like “my squirrel, skylark” or passing other comments. Here are some instances from the play. Torvald: “Nora, Nora, just like a woman .”Torvald: “What do we call my pretty little pet when it runs away with all the money .”Nora: “Eight whole years, since we first knew each other, we have never exchanged a serious word about serious things .”Torvald: “What did you want me to do? Get involved in worries that you couldn’t help me to bear”(Henrik Ibsen pg 79). He denied Nora the right to expression and freedom of opinion. He required her to act like an imbecile.
- Here’s another question raised during the play. “Shouldn’t women have the right to take their own decisions, both on a large scale and small scale? Shouldn’t she have the right to be treated like an adult? Nora had never been exposed to the outside world. She had been pampered and treated like a doll both by her father and Torvald. This leads to her immature and Doll-like behavior in the play. The reasons for her immature behavior are not as far to seek.
- She was not allowed to do as she wished. Despite being a grown-up woman, even for trivial decisions like buying a macaroon, she had to take her husband’s permission.
- Society was patriarchal. Women could not work to support their families. All documents required the signature of a male member of the family.
- It was against the law for women to take loans without their husbands’ consent. When Nora did this, she proved that she wasn’t as immature and ignorant as everyone thought.
She took this bold step to save her husband’s life. She regretted her decision later, not because it was unlawful but because she thought, “Did he deserve it.” Nora expected her husband to love her more when he heard of her sacrifices. She was disappointed. He called Nora a hypocrite, liar and criminal. He abused the teachings given to Nora by her father. He said that Nora had ruined his life, shattered his reputation and jeopardized his future. Nora considered it her duty to protect her husband but apparently, he was too obsessed with his position and status in society. This made Nora realize that Torvald didn’t really love her. On the contrary, he loved the idea of being in love with her.
Nora leaves her immature nature behind by the end of the play. Her experience has taught her a lot. She tells Torvald, “I’ve been your wife-doll here, just as at home I was daddy’s doll-child.”(Henrik Ibsen pg 80) Dolls always maintain the same look, no matter what the situation. Dolls cannot complain or express their feelings. Here’s what she said: “I must take steps to educate myself. You are not the man to help me there . That’s something I must do on my own. That’s why I’m leaving you”(Henrik Ibsen pg 81)
Conclusion. Thus, the central theme of the play is Nora’s struggle against society and the standards expected of her. This raised many questions about the equality of women and their rights which have been answered briefly by me. In the end, Nora decides to follow her conscience and educate herself . Till now, Torvald had been her identity. No matter what the situation, she had to remain Torvald’s happy doll. She finally ends her artificial doll life by leaving her house. She decides that from now, she will be her own puppet.
I acknowledge the following websites and sources for providing valuable information that helped me to structure my commentary.
- Rev. of “Nora Helmer of in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.” www.123helpme.com. 24 Sept. 2008 <http://www.123helpme.com>.Path:http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=6693.
- Rev. of “A Doll’s House.” . www.123helpme.com. 24 Sept. 2008 <http://www.123helpme.com>. Path:
- Interpretation Of A Doll’s House . http://www.cyberessays.com. 24 Sept. 2008
- <http://www.cyberessays.com>. Path: http://www.cyberessays.com/English/114.htm