The play A Doll’s House written by Henrik Ibsen aims at fighting for the role of women in society. It empowers women to get out of the cocoon of blind marriage where they are manipulated by their husbands for their own benefits. Women are considered the minority in the society and do not have the right to own property and could not acquire a loan without a male co-signer. This is evident in the first act when Nora behaves childishly, and Torvald enjoys instructing and indulging her. It also shows the vices in the community where the society is filled with hypocrisy, blackmailing and deceit. Most families are broken by misunderstanding between the husband and wife. The title of the play symbolizes the inactive contribution of the women in the family. Even as they try to improve their status, they are laid back by their husbands. Corruption is also a key theme in the play depicted by the characters. This is seen in the deal between Nora and Krogstad. He knew of the forgery committed by Nora but remained silent. People are brought as being interested in maintaining their reputation rather that doing right. They will do everything to hide their true colors from the public.
This paper aims at illustrating the use of symbolism, character development and the play setting in passing the message.
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Henrik uses symbolism to bring out the role of women in the society and the way they were seen in the eyes of their own husbands. The play shows the role of women as wives and mothers. They should not take any key role other than taking care of their families. They should therefore be submissive to their husbands. This is seen when Torvald discovers the forgery by Nora and tells her that she is not fit to raise their children. Christine also says she got married, because she had no means of caring for her mother and raising her siblings. This means that they were dependent on men and could not manage raising their families without the help of a man.
Henrik also depicts the discrimination against women in society. Nora could not be lent money without a male’s co-sign. This is why she forges her father’s signature three days after his death. Repaying the loan became a problem as they were not allowed to work like men. She had to raise the money from the house-keeping budget and from the meager income she earned from copying papers by hand. This was done secretly, because they were not allowed to earn any income. Women could not be allowed to inherit any property from their husbands due to their place in society. This is seen when Christine’s husband died, and she was left with no money.
Corruption in the society is symbolized by Krogstand as he misuses his office and allows Nora to forge her father’s signature with his knowledge. He later uses this to blackmail her to get retain his job. After promotion, Torvald uses his position as the vice-president of the bank to hire and fire whoever he wishes. He fires Krogstand, because he was differential in front of the other employees even when he was superb at work. The people are easily blackmailed by their past misdeeds. This is evidenced when Krogstand writes a letter to Torvald informing him of his wife’s forgery. He decides to reinstate him to maintain his reputation and that of his family.
Immorality is a vice that is symbolized in the play by the characters. This is seen when Dr. Rank even tells Nora, a married woman, that he loves her. Christine also promises Krogstand love if he is willing to withdraw his blackmail to protect Nora’s marriage. Nora loses trust in his husband and believes that they have deceived her, because they were engaged in other affairs even after marriage. This is why she decides to leave her husband to begin her life, to understand who she is, what she wants in life, and how she will redefine her future.
The setting of the play was in Europe where marriage was considered one of the most holy covenants, and it was thought that deceit could not be found in any marriage. They believed that every husband and wife had the duty to be honest and faithful to their partners and should not hide anything from them. It was during the 19th century that women in the society were looked down upon and their rights were infringed. Henrik took this opportunity to illustrate the mistreatment of women not only in their careers but also in their homes. The setting helps to identify the play with the target audience.
Henrik Ibsen develops different characters of the actors at the end of the play. Nora, who was a laid-back, always submissive lady and wholly trusted her husband is brought to light as her desire to redefine her life rises after she realizes the deceptive nature of men. Living a timid life, she does not even tell her husband of the loan she took to treat him when he was ill. As she works to repay the loan, she works secretly, because she does not want to disobey her husband. At the end, she realizes the dark side of the life she had been living and how her timid nature had deceived her. Realizing that marriage could deceive, she decides to leave her husband. She bangs the door as she leaves the house to show that she was putting the past behind from the life of being dependent to independence. All her life she had depended on either her father or her husband to provide for her basic needs, but at the end of the play, she is ready to cater for her needs though she does not know how. Christine, at the beginning of the play, is seen as a timid lady who depends on her husband for everything. After the death of her husband, she realizes that she has to look for ways to fend for herself, her mother and her siblings. She moves to town and is employed as a secretary.
Krogstand is also portrayed in the beginning of the play as a dishonest and corrupt employee. As a lawyer, he accepts a forged agreement with Nora. He also commits an act that ruins his reputation in the entire community. After realizing his mistakes at work, he changes after being employed in the bank. He changes his performance at work, and this is appreciated by Torvald as he talks to Nora. He is not ready to lose his job and decides to blackmail the vice-president by threatening to expose his wife’s forgery. Though he knows this is not right, he puts his personal interests ahead of Nora’s marriage and is only influenced otherwise by a promise of love from Christine.
It is ironic that Henrik uses a doctor to depict death after acquiring tuberculosis. Dr. Rank is brought in the play as an indication of the end of life. Though he has the title of a doctor, having helped many people get well from different diseases, he could not save his own life. He makes his last confession to Nora knowing that he was about to die. However, he confesses but does not want Torvald to hear him; he leaves the house never to be seen again. He wanted to create the reality of life that after living the lives of deceit and dishonesty, we will all die.
In this play, the role of women is brought out as being servants rather than companions to men. This is seen when Nora is told that she cannot play the role of being a wife and a mother. She also takes care of her husband when he is sick and even goes ahead to borrow a loan to take care of him. She has to hide this to cover his pride as man. Christine is burdened by the role of taking care of her siblings and her mother. Men are meant to go to work and provide for the family. There is a clear separation between the role of women and men.
In conclusion, Henrik uses his play to bring out the role of women in society. He uses different styles of writing to pass his message. The play also criticizes the vices in society. Using different actors to symbolize these vices, the play is made a success. Immorality, deceit and the place of women in the society are symbolized by the characters and their actions. Nora is brought out to represent many women who suffer in marriages out of deceit, infringement of their rights and pretense. The play is set in Europe where at that time marriage was considered one of the most sacred institutions in which one could not be deceived. They believed that after getting the blessings to marry, one was to enjoy life without facing challenges. This was not true as marriages were full of pretense and dishonesty. Women should not be forced to stay in situations that prevent them from achieving their ambitions in life and realizing their potential.