A critical look at Ibsen's "A Doll house"

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'A Doll's House' is classified under the 'second phase' of Henrik

Ibsen's career. It was during this period which he made the transition

from mythical and historical dramas to plays dealing with social problems.

It was the first in a series investigating the tensions of family life.

Written during the Victorian era, the controversial play featuring a female

protagonist seeking individuality stirred up more controversy than any of

his other works. In contrast to many dramas of Scandinavia in that time

which depicted the role of women as the comforter, helper, and supporter of

man, 'A Doll's House' introduced woman as having her own purposes and

goals. The heroine, Nora Helmer, progresses during the course of the play

eventually to realize that she must discontinue the role of a doll and seek

out her individuality.

David Thomas describes the initial image of Nora as that of a doll

wife who revels in the thought of luxuries that can now be afforded, who

is become with flirtation, and engages in childlike acts of disobedience

(259). This inferior role from which Nora progressed is extremely

important. Ibsen in his 'A Doll's House' depicts the role of women as

subordinate in order to emphasize the need to reform their role in society.

Definite characteristics of the women's subordinate role in a

relationship are emphasized through Nora's contradicting actions. Her

infatuation with luxuries such as expensive Christmas gifts contradicts her

resourcefulness in scrounging and buying cheap clothing; her defiance of

Torvald by eating forbidden Macaroons contradicts the submission of her

opinions, including the decision of which dance outfit to wear, to her

husband; and Nora's flirtatious nature contradicts her devotion to her

husband. These occurrences emphasize the facets of a relationship in

which women play a dependent role: finance, power, and love. Ibsen

attracts our attention to these examples to highlight the overall

subordinate role that a woman plays compared to that of her husband. The

two sides of Nora contrast each other greatly and accentuate the fact that

she is lacking in independence of will.

The mere fact that Nora's well-intentioned action is considered

illegal reflects woman's subordinate position in society; but it is her

actions that provide the insight to this position. It can be suggested

that women have the power to choose which rules to follow at home, but not

in the business world, thus again indicating her subordinateness. Nora

does not at first realize that the rules outside the household apply to

her. This is evident in Nora's meeting with Krogstad regarding her

borrowed money. In her opinion it was no crime for a woman to do

everything possible to save her husband's life. She also believes that her

act will be overlooked because of her desperate situation. She fails to

see that the law does not take into account the motivation behind her

forgery. Marianne Sturman submits that this meeting with Krogstad was her

first confrontation with the reality of a 'lawful society' and she deals

with it by attempting to distract herself with her Christmas decorations

(16). Thus her first encounter with rules outside of her 'doll's house'

results in the realization of her naivety and inexperience with the real

world due to her subordinate role in society.

The character of Nora is not only important in describing to role

of women, but also in emphasizing the impact of this role on a woman.

Nora's child-like manner, evident through her minor acts of disobedience

and lack of responsibility compiled with her lack of sophistication further

emphasize the subordinate role of woman. By the end of the play this is

evident as she eventually sees herself as an ignorant person, and unfit

mother, and essentially her husband's wife. Edmond Gosse highlights the

point that...
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