“A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen

“A doll’s house” is a play written by a Norwegian author Henrik Ibsen in the year 1879; precisely one year after the author had written ‘the pillars of society’. However, it should be noted that the story became controversial at the time as it provided a sharply critical view towards the 19th century models and standards; also because the work takes the form of a well drawn play only to change at the final part of it breaking into a dialogue and not an unraveling with regard to male dominance. Additionally, the other titles given to the play are those of a truly feminist literature and a contribution to the naturalist movement from the previous views of romanticism among others. The main point to be discussed in this paper is unraveling and giving a full analysis of Nora who is the main character with regard to how she changes from the point of the beginning of the play; to the climax arrived at through examining her actions, words and behaviors from the varied encounters especially towards her husband (Ibsen 3 Parag 1).

The character of Nora from the play is one that takes the role of the ‘play protagonist’; being the wife of Torvald and one who has just changed from the care of a father to that of her husband. Further, this character is portrayed as one who is very much inexperienced with regard to the realities of living due to the sheltering she received all through her life, making her very materialistic and impulsive. However, the play is of the idea and inquiry as to whether these traits could only be a disguise; which she utilizes to surmount the patriarchal oppression she goes through everyday. At the starting point Nora is portrayed as independent, as she proves capable of negotiating for a loan to materialize Krogstad’s special day (Ibsen 4 parag 2).

The main theme under discussion is male dominance with regard to males’ domestic provision, the gender perception of women and male material autonomy. The other issues to be addressed under the theme of male dominance include the role of enlightenment, the role of religion, morals and individualism with regard to the female gender. The issue of male dominance can be seen from the part where Helmer asks “when did my squirrel come home” showing how he dominates over her. The abuse she goes through is further depicted from the statement ‘Come, come; my little skylark must not droop her wings’ (Ibsen 3 parag 2) to which she does not answer. The starting point of the play is a portrayal of how Nora is materialistic as she believes that due to her husband’s new job; they no longer have to use money sparingly. However, the husband criticizes her for being a spendthrift which he claims to be an inheritance from her father; which he further contrasts to the character she possessed the previous Christmas of not being outgoing and a spendthrift. Nora is also at the beginning of the play depicted as enlightened with regards to her past character; as she had been able to secretly lie about the loan she secured and the lies she makes about the goods she had bought for Christmas. At the same point with the play she is also portrayed as being very possessive and proud about the husband; as she tells Mrs. Linde that she would reveal the loan secret to the husband later in life so as to keep his love after her beauty is worn-out. This attribute is also evident from the fact that she is very proud of the husband’s achievements at the bank. Further, it can be argues that at some point Nora is not enlightened as she is of the opinion that the court cannot find her guilty of fraud for faking her fathers signature; as it was geared towards saving her husband (Ibsen 7).

From the first act Nora is also portrayed as being a schemer as she plans the occurrence of events like revealing the loan secret to her advantage and manipulating Krogstad’s blackmail threat; to secure his loss of his bank job through her husband. From this part it is clear that Nora is a representation of the then women; she is content with the domestic luxury provided without necessarily caring about the outside lives of men. From the same part it can also be argued that Nora at the start is materialistic taking money for happiness; as she shows the characteristics of a spendthrift from the holiday and the shopping she does. Additionally, at the start Nora is shown as a character that is comfortable with the simplistic interaction with the outside world as she never had the chances with the outside aspects of life. This further builds on the conclusion that she was comfortable with the autonomy of men over women, as she only operates from the room where the husband controls her all through the play (Ibsen 3 parag 1-5 parag 4).

From act two it is evident that Norah begins to question whether her domestic self and world are fake with regard to her basic existence. At this point, Nora is also shown as being one who is a coward towards facing her problems as she is portrayed as thinking of suicide or running away; which she is not bold enough to undertake. From this part Nora is also depicted as a woman who is very much concerned about her children from the conversation she has with the nurse, complaining about her having to leave them alone. The fact that she also worries about her corrupt life in the fear that it may affect her children further shows how concerned she is about the children; as was the case with Dr. Rank’s disease which is a manifestation of his father’s actions. Further, from this act Nora is depicted as having the traits of a schemer and a tactful planner when it comes to the relations she has with other people; as she thinks of using Dr. Rank’s weakness of having confessed his love to her to extort money from him (Ibsen 184 parag 2).

From the third act Nora starts questioning the relationship she always cherished and protected to the extent of using other people to lie about the loan she had secured. At this instance it is pointed out clearly that she tells the husband that she never understood him; which was unusual of her to question her identity as a wife and mother. Further, at this point she goes ahead to argue that the husband has treated her like a doll; only being together with her to please his urge and suit his needs. Additionally, she claims that she has never been happy with him based on her having nothing made by her own efforts; as this would give her a reason to be truly happy (Ibsen 208 parag 1).

After the short argument Nora’s husband offers to stop playing with her and start educating her; which she declines based on the fact that she thinks he is not the right person to do it after having told her that she was unfit to raise their children. At this point she proves to be a very independent determined person; when she tells the husband that she would leave him so that she can educate herself before educating the children. From the third act it is also clear that Nora questions the autonomy of the husband for instance the incidences he demanded to make love to her against her will. In addition, from this part it is clear that she even questions the authenticity of religion, virtue or morality in overcoming the oppressive life she faces from the husband (Johnston 12 parag 2).

The time of writing the play dates back to 1879 when Ibsen was in Rome during the time of the European revolution which had been fueled by the 1848 challenging of the romantic traditions of the time. The play was also further fueled by the freedom from the four centuries of Danish ruling in the year 1814; a time during which Norway was shading off the ruler-ship dictation pressed on them by the Danish (Johnston 14 parag 2).

Based on the fact that the play was airing views about male dominance against the previous issues of feminism; it is clear that the audience of the play include the activists of equal rights for women, the women and the men within the society of the time. Additionally, it can be argued that the audience included all the people that had fallen victim of the acts of feminism and female dominion; as opposed to the promotion of equal rights for women and the members of the suffrage movement. The audience can also be generally argued out to be any individuals who were concerned with solving the issues and troubles of women’s suffrage, and the interaction of women with the outside world (SparkNotes Editors 1 parag 2).

The tone of the play is one created to portray the characteristics of a sarcastic, patronizing, formal and conceited organization within the different sections of the story to bring out the contrast between the different sections. The level of discourse is highly created using the aspects of symbolism like the tarantella to show the previous happiness, the macaroons to portray the childlike nature of things and the Christmas tree as a symbol of perfection. The play further shows a high level of discourse from the numerous questions the characters ask and give answers to; in exchange with one another. An instance of dialogue is the case where the helmer asks, “is it my little squirrel bustling about?;” to which Nora answers yes (Sparknotes Editors 2 parag 1).

The amount of detail used in the play is very effective as from the conversations and settings used; it is evident from the different sections to show the dominance practiced on women by the men within the society. Further, it can be argued that the style and literal tools used for the story are appropriate for the audience as they are effectively comprehensible to the different audience including the female rights promoters, women, men and the members of the society in general (Sparknotes Editors 1 parag 2).

From the play it is clear that the author is of the question whether the sacrificial role of women, filial and parental obligations makes them unreliable society members; and whether they have any special appearance within the society. The author answers these questions through portraying the effect of enlightenment on the position and the view of women within the society. In answering these questions, the author portrays women as being capable of achieving better than they are depicted as capable of (Spark Notes Editors1 parag 3).

The author further raises the questions as to whether the eating of Macaroons by Nora contributes to her rebellion towards the husband, and whether the motives behind Nora’s definition of freedom are acceptable. One of the questions that can be raised from the play to which the author has not given any answers is why Torvald supports Nora’s wasteful behavior despite his being uncomfortable with it. Further, it is evident that this article fits into and makes a contribution to professional knowledge; as it is clear from other articles like ‘the dialectical anthropology journal’ that sex-role evolution is highly related to the access of individuals to resources and goods like education. The article is further very much similar to other articles like the ‘the evolution of male dominance’, ‘Ibsen the Norwegian: A Revaluation’, and ‘the death of tragedy’ (Brad 24 parag 3).

Works cited

Brad brook, Muriel. “Ibsen the Norwegian: A Revaluation”. London: Chatto and Windus. (1966):24-26.

Ibsen, Henrik. “A Doll’s House (Ibsen Plays: Two)”. London: Methuen Drama, 2000. 2-116.

Ibsen, Henrik. “A Doll’s House”. No city: no publisher. (1879):4-8.

Ibsen, Henrik. (Trans. Charlotte Barslund and Frank McGuinness). “A Doll’s House. London: Faber and Faber. (1997): 4-12.

Johnston, Brian. “Ibsen’s Selected Plays”, A Norton Critical Edition. New York: W.W. Norton. (2004): 12-24.

Spark Notes Editors. “Spark Notes on a Doll’s House.” SparkNotes.com. Spark Notes LLC. 2002. Web.

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