A Doll House is a play focusing on women’s role in society. The play indicates that women are treated as inferior beings, while men are deemed as superior. This play is one of modern feminism most influential literary texts that incite a systematic backlash that would save Ibsen from feminism. This leads to the denial that genders disparity can have a portion in Ibsen’s universal artistic work, with claims that the chief protagonist, Nora Helmer, is quite inconsistent, frivolous, abnormal, dishonest, and non-loving to become a feminist heroine. A statement that the main character represents not women but everyman can be regarded as gender based tautology (McFarlane 28).
This play focuses on how women are treated in the context of motherhood. The character of Torvald has been portrayed to have an exceptionally clear definition of the role of women. The climax of the play is a matter of resolving identity and confusion. This can be applied to the thoroughgoing of the play; however, the confused notion is that the critics of feminism and its relationship to art can lead them to uphold positions that are illogical, and their charges against Nora (McFarlane 29).
The author presents the main character a helpless child. In the story, Nora carries on like a little child and those who surround her treat her as such. This play portrays the theme of the role of women in a society and how gender disparity has made women be treated as helpless creatures by men. Ibsen has used this symbolic play presenting Nora as the bird. The marriage is also symbolized by the cage. Thus, a bird may be in possession of beautiful wings, but as indicated, within the cage, wings are useless. The bird does not fulfill the potential, with which it was created, and observed as merely a decoration within the household. However, Nora is truly beautiful externally who entertains the husband with beautiful images of a submissive and obedient wife. Internally, Nora is depicted as a desperate creature who longs to explore her potential outside the cage of her marriage. As the play advances, the main character becomes audacious, motivated, and concludes by depicting her character as a strong-willed, independent thinker, however, Torvald is depicted as a simpering sad person. The title of the play is a symbol of maturity in a household. The main character is a symbol of a doll in a house which in itself is the playground of a woman. The title of the play is also a symbol of how others observe the marriage between Nora and Torvald, whereas others observe it as a perfect home, husband, wife, and the siblings.
A male dominated society, women must choose between obligations that are determined by women’s role in disagreeing to obligations of self in determining the true identity within a social convention of marital life. According to feminist critics, the flight of Nora to personal freedom is considered to be useless. The author portrays this due to the decision of a re-union between Christine with Krogstad. Nora is praised for leaving Torvald. Thus, the two women differ in their characters by taking different actions due to their character. The role of women in late 19th century was quite stereotypical. In such a society, a perfect woman was to provide a husband with children, care for one’s family, be honest, loving and loyal to the husband. Ibsen play described how women do not have the rights as men, and Nora is depicted as the total opposite. The author describes Nora as a bird that escapes and flies away. This makes the bird leave an empty cage and only to experience new ways (Wollstonecraft 10). A woman was considered unqualified for a paying job, and is not to deal with monetary issues, these were the role of men in a society. This makes feminism to be a dominant theme in the play. The feminist school of thought has brought about the re-examination of women’s role in a society through an analysis of women’s cultural as well as historical background, and criticism of social sexist values. According to feminist critics, the play showed a lot of controversy especially when it was first performed since its paramount theme was based on the right of women to individual self fulfillment. Thus, it was considered highly subversive in an era when women were not having the freedom to get involved in any form of business without an authority from the husbands or fathers, since they were considered their property. Women had no freedom of voting, divorcing, though it was possible under certain circumstances when both partners agreed (McFarlane 30). The row presented in the play was centered on whether Nora made a right decision t leave her husband and children. Hence, critics claimed that the decision was unrealistic because no real woman was to do such a thing. The author was forced to write an ending where Nora decided that her children needed her more than she needed her freedom. This was referred as a barbaric outrage and, the author insisted that it must only be applied when necessary (Wollstonecraft 11).
The views of Ibsen differ from those held by modern feminists because of the belief that women could only serve as mothers and wives. In addition, he also had a view that a wife and husband should live as equal partners and to become their own free human beings. This is one of the major themes in the play. Ibsen is concerned with placing social problems before which he thought was a drastic role to identify ways of doing away with problems in the social system. Modern critics are likely to follow the critics of Ibsen in the discussion whether it was justified for Nora to leave in order to attain some identity. According to Ibsen, his point was to illustrate to the audience that Nora made a firm decision; consequently, Mrs. Linde took an opposite direction by subjecting her freedom to be with Krogstad. From this point, it is clear that Ibsen is not criticizing marriage as a social institution, instead point out that most marriages suffer the same problems faced by Nora and Torvald (Wollstonecraft 20).
During the days of Ibsen, women made many achievements in gaining a choice in determining the role relating to a family or society. The transformation of Nora by the end of the last act is realistic since she puts a convincing performance by being submissive, selfish, as well as, a foolish woman, showing that these acts were not real her. When Nora asks her husband for money at the end of a drinking spree, she appears selfish and grasping. However, it was later learnt that she never intended to squander money for her selfish needs but to pay off the loan in order to protect the life of her husband. Thus, she denies herself new things to make her family get what they needed. The arrangement of a trip to Italy and proper management of money indicated strength in her character. This is further illustrated by taking a responsibility to pay off the loan which is a crucial step towards independence that she finally embraces. In the beginning of the play, Nora does not acknowledge her personal strength due to factors that were attributed by her husband and society in general which would not comfortably countenance a woman’s strength. Therefore, this made Nora keep her head low instead of risking the consequences of showing her self off. Her submissiveness to Torvald is never all it seems, hence; through playing the doll child based on her personal wish, she manipulates her husband into a responsibility of an indulgent father-figure. Despite the skill she has in managing her husband, Nora had instances in which she desperately needed her husband to play the role of a man, for instance, she wanted her husband to protect her from the destruction that were caused by Krogstad’s revelations. The failure of her husband to provide the strength that she needed made her love for him diminishes, hence, forcing her to find strength within herself. Therefore, she realized that she needed to pursue her independence, a transformation to her personal strength (Bordo 12).
Women and husbands should live as equal partners in a society. However, in the play Torvald lives by the norms of the society. When he faces a choice to support her wife or the society, he chooses the society. After realizing a fraudulent act of forgery of a loan document, Torvald never questioned the morality of such a law which he leaves to the wife to resolve. The main aim of Torvald is to preserve the appearance of respectability in order to ensure his continued acceptance and recognition from the society. The man becomes so much shaped by the conventions of a society, rendering him not to see his wife subjected to suffering (Wollstonecraft, 2010). According to Ibsen, a woman in a modern society is likened to a certain insect that goes away and die after doing her duty in race propagation. This is a view that is confirmed by the rejection of Nora by Torvald after discovering her secret. The private life of Torvald has been obscured by public life. In addition, for Nora to find out her true identity, she has to reject a life prescribed by the society for her as a wife and a mother of two children, and her own life (Bordo 14).
In conclusion, the 19th century experienced a massive shift from the traditional social order of self improvement within a stable rural society to a newly founded social order based on money (Wollstonecraft 55). Women at the time were unable to control money and other wealth without the consent of their husbands who owned them. However, single women had a total control over their life and money compared to married women. In addition, married women were also discouraged from taking jobs and to live matters pertaining to money to their husbands (Wollstonecraft 18). Ibsen supported economic reform in the society that would protect the property of women, in addition, other social issues that are addressed includes the education of women both for the family responsibility and for self fulfillment, as well as, women right to define their role in the society and family, and the negative effects of poverty on self fulfillment.