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