A Doll’s House

Posted: May 13, 2016




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The play ‘A Doll’s House’ by Henrik Ibsen is one piece of literature that inspires the society to re-evaluate the role of the woman due to the controversial symbolism brought out in the book. It is a book that shows a different perspective of how the society assumes feminine and masculine roles, especially at the family unit level.  This paper attempts to exploit this play to analyze the feminism social-economic power in the past, and different the concept is the present day. It is a cultural norm that men and women have different roles where the man is superior to the woman. In the past years, the female gender was assumed to be the weaker and less able as compared to the male. Women have the basic role of doing house chores, raising children and taking care of the husband who in turn provides for the family. In this paper, we discuss the most dominant theme, feminism.

Women did not have a place in the career world or in entrepreneurship that is why ‘A Doll’s House’ becomes a book of interest as it portrays the woman as a strong being who can do more than man. At a first look at the characters in the play, the reader gets the notion that each character plays their roles by the expectation of the society. But a deeper analysis of the circumstances surrounding each of these characters reveals the reality on the ground. The book revolves around several characters, Nora, Torvald Helmer, Krogstad, Mr. Linde, Dr. Rank, Bob, Emmy, Ivar, Anne-Marie and Nora’s late father.

Nora, the doll, is at first seen as the quiet wife with little knowledge of the world and is part of a very happy marriage. The Helmer’s are both happy with their new development; Torvald gets a job since they now have a manageable income.  It is only later in the play that we discover she is a strong woman who readily takes a big risk, without the husband’s knowledge, to pay his medical bills. The fact that she forges her father’s signature to get a loan from the bank shows that’s she has worldly experience and is not as naïve as earlier portrayed (Gray and Ibsen 52). She secretly pays up the debt by doing little side jobs and skimming from the allowances her husband gives for the house.  Torvald, Nora’s husband, on the other hand, takes his wife for granted and does not care to protect her when he discovers what she did for his sake.

This twist of events gives Nora a clear picture of how the society and her husband view her and from this she gathers the courage to free herself from the unfruitful marriage and stand on her own. Her decision shows her willingness to go against the traditional norms oppression of women in marriages. Torvald is this traditional husband who clearly cares about how the society views him and his status, regarding Nora as just a doll or an accessory for admiration. In the process, he fails to appreciate his wife’s love and ends up losing her, an unexpected move. Krogstad also values women less since he readily exposes Nora to her husband yet he knew the negative effects this would bring on Nora.

From these three main characters, it is evident that Ibsen shows concern of the woman’s role in the society which often a self-sacrificial role. The author has a strong conviction that women ought to be allowed the right to self development socially and economically. Females are not allowed to own business or even have their money that they can control since it was a requirement that they always have authorization from a man, husband, father or brother. It shows that women were inferior to men even economically since only a man could be in charge of economic activities. Females are not as educated as the males hence cannot be put in high professional positions that have multiple responsibilities. Women who are not in marriages seem to be more independent although the few job opportunities are restricted to low poorly paying positions. At list, the single women could handle their money without being forced to give it their men for ‘proper accounting’ purposes. A woman who bears children out of wedlock is stigmatized while the man responsible walks away freely (Gray and Ibsen 78).

From an overall view, all the women characters in the play had to sacrifice, socially and financially, so as to be accepted in the society without criticism. Women get shamed for the same acts that men go without condemnation. The woman is economically powerless with a very low social status. This notion is changing over time due to the presence of organizations and upcoming societies that promote women empowerment. Women of the present day have access to education and more career opportunities than before. There are so many women entrepreneurs as the world slowly but surely accepts that both male and female are equal genders. The author, Ibsen, does not find solutions to the social and economic problem of the woman, presented in her book, but instead seeks to enlighten the society on the plight of the woman. It is for the global community to take up the challenge presented and find solutions to attain gender parity.

Works Cited

Gray, Frances, and Henrik Ibsen. A Doll's House, Henrik Ibsen. London: York Press, 2008. Print. 

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