Dr. Sherwin Perlas
January 14, 2012
A Doll House by Henrik Ibsen
During the late nineteenth century, women were enslaved in their gender roles and certain restrictions were enforced on them by a male dominant culture. Every woman was raised believing that they had neither self-control nor self-government but that they must yield to the control of a stronger gender. John Stuart Mill wrote in his essay, “The Subjection of Women”, that women were, “wholly under the role of men and each private being under the obligation of disobedience to the man with whom she has associated her destiny”. This issue of gender roles in the society propelled to the production of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House—a controversial play of a woman who disregards conventional norms of the society. It displays how lies and deceptions could destroy relationships and the need of every individual to possess self-identity.
The evident dramatization of a woman struggling to step beyond the limited identity imposed by her husband and society spawned to various arguments as to the true purpose of the playwright in writing the play. Templeton in her article, “The Doll House Backlash: Criticism, Feminism and Ibsen”, enumerated arguments that were used to reject the play as a feminist text. After thoroughly scrutinizing the arguments, she did not concur with the ideas and wrote in her journal:
“Finally, research on Ibsen’s life proves that, all claims to the contrary, his intentions in A Doll House were thoroughly feminist” (Templeton).
Being claimed and lauded by propaganda feminist, some critics argued that Ibsen’s intention in writing the play is not to resolve gender inequality and to liberate women in the society but rather just to illuminate it and reveal a moral issue faced by every person in his life (Cliffsnotes).
Moreover, an article written by R. M. Adams explains:
“A Doll House represents a woman imbued with the idea of becoming a person, but it proposes nothing categorical about women becoming people; in fact, its’ real theme has nothing to do with the sexes”( qtd. in Meyer 1136).
In addition, Einar Haugen, the doyen of American Scandinavian studies, insisted that, “Ibsen’s Nora is not just a woman arguing for female liberation; she is much more. She embodies the comedy as well as the tragedy of modern life”. ( qtd. In Templeton 1136)
I intend to show that the play is not just a dramatization of a feminist heroine but depicts a moral issue that is evident until today. Through a thorough discussion of the characters I hope that it will shed light to questions as to the true purpose of the playwright in writing the play.
Let me quote further the assertion of Michael Meyer, he noted, “A Doll House is no more about women’s rights than Shakespeare’s Richard II is about the divine right of kings, or Ghost about syphilis... Its theme is the need of every individual to find out the kind of person he or she is to strive to become that person” ( qtd. in Templeton 1135).
Being regarded as feminist poet and revolutionary, Ibsen himself disclaimed the title, he stated in a speech given on May 26, 1898, to the Women Rights League:
“I thank you for the toast, but must disclaim the honor of having consciously worked for the Women’s Rights Movement…. True enough, it is desirable to solve the woman problem, along with all others; but that has not been the whole purpose. My task has been the description of humanity ( qtd. in Templeton 1135). II. Sources and Influences of the Play
Ibsen started thinking about the play around May 1878, although he did not begin his first draft until a year later, having reflected on themes and characters in the intervening period (he visualized its protagonist, Nora, for instance, as having approached him one day wearing “a blue woolen dress”). He outlined his conception of the play a as : “modern tragedy”, in a note written...