April 15, 2010
Symbolism and Sexism in Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”
Henrik Ibsen, the author of the controversial play “A Doll’s House” said, “There are two kinds of moral laws, two kinds of conscience, one for men and one, quite different, for women. They don’t understand each other; but in practical life, woman is judged by masculine law, as though she weren’t a woman but a man…A woman cannot be herself in modern society.” Isben created the plot of “A Doll’s House” from those ideas. Ibsen was viewed by his contemporaries as a moral and social revolutionary who advocated female emancipation and intellectual freedom. He believed that freedom must come from within individuals rather than from the efforts of social and political organizations (141). His play displays many sexist issues from the nineteenth century that are displayed through Nora’s treatment in the play. European and American women in the nineteenth century lived in an age characterized by gender inequality. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, women enjoyed few of the legal, social, or political rights that are now taken for granted. They could not vote, could not sue or be sued, could not testify in court, had extremely limited control over personal property after marriage, were rarely granted legal custody of their children in cases of divorce, and were banned from institutions of higher education. Women were expected to remain subservient to their fathers and husbands. Their occupational choices were also extremely limited. Middle and upper class women generally remained home, caring for their children and running the household. Lower class women often did work outside the home, but usually as poorly paid domestic servants or laborers in factories and mills (Feminism in Literature). This background is portrayed in Ibsen’s play in several ways. For example, Nora has to betray her husband’s trust because...
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