Oppression Thrives on Misunderstanding: Analysis of "A Doll House"

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Of all the struggles of the oppressed, perhaps the most daunting has been the most silently tyrannical. Women have spent ages proving their obvious intellectual, cognitive, and social equality to the male population, especially to the men in their lives. In “A Doll House” and “Trifles,” Henrik Ibsen and Susan Glaspell illustrate how men not only underestimate their wives, but also drive them to hide their true thoughts, act in secrecy, and ultimately take formidable, yet understandable measures of overcompensation. They do so while simultaneously imposing unique male and female perspectives on the relationships they create. Through the men’s shallow view of the women around them and their inability to properly analyze their interactions, the male characters in “Trifles” and “A Doll House” create a culture of tension and resentment in their households that lead their wives to rebel against their oppression.

In A “Doll House,” Ibsen uses Torvald’s character to highlight the patronizing quality of the 19th century husband. Torvald addresses his wife, Nora, almost always by pet names, such as “Is that my little lark twittering out there?...Is that my squirrel rummaging around?...When did my squirrel get in?” (859) For the better part of three acts, Nora internalizes the condescension and relishes the adoration—or at least she pretends to. The comments, which serve to reduce her humanity, lead Nora to realize that Torvald is ill-equipped to be a husband or a father, as he can only seem to sustain the relationships he dominates. As she comes to this realization, she tells her husband “There’s another job I have to do first. I have to try to educate myself. You can’t help me with that. I’ve got to do it alone. And that’s why I’m leaving you now.” (907) Although removing herself from the hold of her husband’s patriarchy seems logical, it is uncertain whether Nora will adapt to the realities of an independent lifestyle. The transition from her father’s...
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