Written by Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House is a play released during the Victorian era of the 19th century. The play addresses life as it was then, when women where no more than dolls, unable to perform significant roles in the then society as well as standing up for themselves in the family.
It addresses the issue of gender roles, showing how disempowered the female is and the consequences behind this. Nora, a major character and a wife to Helmer, illustrates how women suffer mistreatments and degradations from their husbands. Following the impact on the life styles of women and the devastation of gender roles in the then century, brought by Ibsen through this publication, which is also evident today, the composition stands out as a feminist essay right from the title, A Doll’s House, up to the end of the play.
Feminism in the Play
Feminism is an issue that pursues the liberation of women, majority of whom live as slaves even in their very own families, whether married or not. This is the condition of women as at the time when Ibsen composes the play. He is handling the situation as it is as a call for women to stand up and fight for their rights in the society.
The topic of the play serves as a clear illustration of feminism. A Doll is denotes the position of a woman in the family. A major character employed to portray is Nora. She is married to Helmer who refers to her as a mere doll rather than a wife. Nora is referred by her husband as a songbird, a lark, a squirrel, names that suggest how insignificant she is to her. In fact, Helmer asks, “Didn’t you tell me no one had been here…My little songbird must never do that again. A songbird must have a clean beak to chirp with-no false notes!” (Ibsen 25).
Helmer stands out as a commander in his family. Everything he tells his wife ought to be adhered to regardless of the consequences therein. The way he questions Nora depicts his sternness and authoritative position in his family.
He deprives Nora of the ability to decide as the wife. She cannot decide on whom to welcome in her family, neither can she decide on what to do in it. She only dances the tune of her husband. She is just a doll in the house that does in accordance with what others need out of it but not what it needs out of them. This degradation is what the writer brings forth to the women stressing on their need to rise up and fight against it. Nora is given every sort of names by her husband. But this does not make her dump him. They are together as a husband and a wife for a good number of years.
Yes, Torvald, I can’t get along a bit without your help” (Ibsen 26). Money seems to be everything that Nora wants. But she realizes later that it (money) is useless without her enjoying her rights, not only as a woman but also a living being. In her reaction against the situation, she makes the best individual pronouncement for the first time. She opts for abandoning her husband to stay alone where she can enjoy freedom. She will not be constrained in a house like a doll; neither will she dance to any other person’s tune, but hers. She is a feminist whom the play uses as an illustration that women can make sound decisions as well as playing a significant role in their families other than just cooking and taking care of their husbands.
“The common denominator in many of Ibsen’s dramas is his interest in individuals struggling for and authentic identity in the face of tyrannical social conventions. This conflict often results in his characters’ being divided between a sense of duty to themselves and their responsibility to others” (Ibsen 1563). Nora realizes that she is more than what she does or what his husband thinks she can do and has the right to manifest her talent or powers as a woman. She goes for this right. In fact, she declares that she needs to “make sense of [her] self and everything around her” (Ibsen 25). This is her turning point. She is ready to stand up for her rights as a woman regardless of the prevailing situation where women are being oppressed and denied some of their fundamental rights like the right to make personal decisions.
Mrs. Linde’s conversation with Nora depicts her as one who led a life based on the decisions of her late husband. For instance, when her husband dies, she has virtually nothing of her own, money and children inclusive. This places everything in her then family in the hands of her husband. She has no power to earn as a woman. This is only the task of her husband. The death of her husband is symbolic. It implies the end of slavery and a commencement of feminism.
Linde sets off to look for a job, which in turn enables her to take care of her family. This is no more than the realization that she is capable of working for her people just like her husband. In fact, she stands out as woman enough to leave a note to her husband claiming to return the following day. This is contrary to what is expected of the then women. They ought to stay in the houses all the times as the title, ‘A Doll’s House’ suggests. In her dialogue with Krogstad, she says that she is now ‘free’ and wishes to look after her family.
This depicts the oppression she experiences before realizing that she is equally as powerful as a man and that she is all able to support her family. For instance, she takes a full responsibility of nursing her sick mother. This is not a possible case before when she is a doll in her husband’s house. She says that she was “a poor girl who’d been led astray” (Ibsen 29).
This is the consequence of oppression that Ibsen addresses, that is in turn realized and abandoned by people like Linde and Nora-the feminists. Nora initially is a ‘pet’ in her family. She is just there to make her husband happy by going out with him, cooking for him, and maintaining his title as a ‘man’ owing to her beauty. As a doll plays its assigned role, not based on the situation, Nora has to tolerate this torture for the sake of her husband. This is her life that she realizes later that it is no more than a lie. She imagines of another one where she will be, not a doll, but a significant and a responsible person in her society.
Nora says, “I’ve been your wife-doll here, just as at home I was Papa’s doll-child”(Ibsen 1608). This is the beginning of her realization. She is now courageous enough to confront her very own stern husband no matter the outcome. She is ready to fight for her rights as a woman. “I have to try to educate myself.
You can’t help me with that. I’ve got to do it alone. And that’s why I’m leaving you now” (Ibsen 1609). Nora goes for the change she wants.
She can educate herself regardless of her being a woman. She is not afraid of saying this to her husband.
Ibsen finalizes the play by depicting all the women characters as feminists who abandon their ‘doll’ lives to leave like free, significant, and responsible in their societies. Nora, Linde, among others, begin as slaves but end a feminists.
This renders Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’ a feminist essay.
Ibsen, Henrik. “A Doll’s House” London: Nick Hern Books, 1994.