A Doll's House was a controversial play in its time because of Ibsen's bold questioning of society's basic rules and norms. One of the most pressing questions in the play is that of the unequal treatment of women.
Ibsen questions Is it right to treat women as inferiors?' Through the relationship between Nora and Helmer, Ibsen presents unequal power sharing in a negative light, trying to provoke the audience into questioning what was accepted as the norm in that period. One of the subtler techniques used is Helmer's language and diction. He uses animal terms to refer to her, such as skylark' and squirrel'. This suggests that Helmer does not love Nora as an equal, and treats her like a pet'. Worse, he calls her his possession', as if she were a thing, not an individual with her own separate identity. This use of patronizing, demeaning terms highlights the social norm of treating women as inferior, and provokes the audience to question the validity of that norm.
Moreover, for the larger part of the play, Helmer is portrayed as having the most power in the relationship. He controls all the money, and gives it to Nora as gifts. Nora's statement that she has lived by performing tricks' and by being pretty and charming, makes the audience aware of the demeaning, unethical aspects of inequality, and again questions the validity of this social norm, which, unfortunately, has not been completely eroded even in modern society.
Nevertheless, the question of inequality between the sexes is only part of the major question Ibsen poses: Is it right to force people into social roles without giving them the freedom to explore who they are and what they want to be?' Ibsen presents this question by first characterizing Nora and Helmer as faithful conformists to social roles and then dramatizing the negative effects of those roles in an effort to provoke audiences of that period to think about their deeply ingrained beliefs.
Nora seems to fulfill the role of a...
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