Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls both are a pillar of critical writing about the society they were originally produced in and have a central theme of the oppression of women, which makes them great sources of feminist reviews. Although Ibsen “abandoned the concept that the play was about gender roles” (Urban, 1997), the central question is beyond the original context within which the plays were produced and received. A Doll’s House can be regarded as criticism of the 19th century marriage norm, the work of the naturalist and the romanticist movement, whereas Top Girls considers gender roles and necessary sacrifices of women to be successful and rise above a masculine world.
Both plays insinuate that to find and stand up for oneself is the most important and hardest challenge in people’s life, regardless of society and political status. To examine these questions, Churchill and Ibsen used a different strategy, language and structure. They use dissimilar supporting characters whose roles are still significant in identifying the protagonist and the problems and situations she handles, forasmuch the stories focus on women’s rights and feminist views. However, while Churchill uses Brecht’s alienation and conversation mainly to emboss the main theme of the play, Ibsen’s work is a naturalist romantic one, and at many points almost “too sentimental, to a degree that makes Ibsen seem unsure of convincing his audience. [...] The ‘all or nothing’ in Ibsen’s writing [...] is rather a quality of the melodrama” (Gray, 1977. p.43).
We are likely to feel involved in Nora’s life and feel scorn for Helmer for his arrogance, petty and selfish behaviour. In A Doll’s House we face a chronological plot structure, however, the story starts in the late past. It is seemingly a well-built classical tragedy about everyday people, but at the end of the plot, instead of easing the problem we find a quarrel