A Doll’s House is a controversial play penned by Henrick Ibsen and published in 1979. It features Nora Helmer who leads a superficial life and appears to be a delicate, helpless and silly woman to her chauvinistic husband, Torvalds Helmer. In reality, she is an individual who craves independence and has struggled to protect her husband. She commits an illegal act, one concerning the antagonist Krogstad, for her husband. Her internal conflicts enclose a plethora of emotions. She is torn between her morale, loyalty towards her husband and her wish to go on a path of self-discovery. For all those years, Nora had been playing the part of a puppet and was living in the shadow of shallow Torvalds. Eventually, the conflict in her mind is replaced by her clear and strong decision to leave him, and her children, and start a life of her own. Nora’s final door slam, created a rage and invoked a variety of reactions from the audience.
The idea of feminism is one that has been spoken about since a long time. Divided into different periods, feminism entails five distinct waves. The second wave of feminism lasted for roughly two decades, with an aim to increase equality for women by gaining more than just enfranchisement. The fourth wave of feminism on the other hand focused on justice for women, in terms of sexual harassment and violence against them. A feminist from the second wave of feminism, would propagate the ideas of liberation and free decision making of a woman, with respect to her daily, social and personal life. An anti-feminist from the fourth wave of feminism, on the other hand, could feel that women don’t get a say, when exploited by a man, mentally or physically as they have good reason to do it. It is the difference in a thought process, beliefs and mentality between both the types of readers that’ll shed light on different ways in which the last act of ‘A Doll’s House’, is perceived and interpreted.
In the last act of ‘A Doll’s House’, Nora’s complete change in behavior, bold words, and shocking decisions invoked myriad reactions. The first reader, being the feminist from the second wave of feminism, rejoices and propagates her motive. The ‘Feminist Literary Theory’, which hugely criticizes the patriarchal norms projected in literature, would this time advocate ‘A Doll’s House’, and create love and respect for Nora in the mind of the reader. The ideas of liberation, and a free will of women, despite the monetary dynamics in the house, is exactly what feminists in the second wave fought for. ‘A Doll’s House’, portrays Nora to place her dignity and choice of lifestyle, over her husband, even though he pays the bills. The reader, in this case, would appreciate the plot twist, condemn the character of Torvalds Helmer, and adhere to the feministic set of values that were the foundation of the second wave, while appreciating Henrick Ibsen. The way Torvalds treats his wife Nora, as fragile, weak, dependent and silly, enrages the reader and his character is hence loathed by the feminist. He would be the perfect representation of the class of people that the reader, and similar people fight against. Therefore, in the eyes of the first reader, ‘A Doll’s House’, is a crucial piece of literature, that breaks stereotypes, supports the voices of unheard feminists, and proves how the ideas of women empowerment stem from basic liberation and go way beyond employment.
The second reader, on the contrary, would analyze the last act of ‘A Doll’s House’, with an extremely pessimistic and chauvinistic point of view. Being an anti-feminist, the reader would be disgusted and shocked by Nora’s decision. In the fourth wave of feminism, anti-feminists were infuriated by the demand for women to get justice based on any grounds. This reader would criticize, defame and denounce Henrick Ibsen, for supporting the ideas of women empowerment. Being a probable believer of the norms set by ‘Bourgeois Respectability’, the reader would think of Torvald Helmer as the ideal man and husband. His gestures would seem loving, well placed and caring. The reader would also think, that Torvald did not deserve to be treated the way he was, by Nora. Nora would be perceived as foolish, overtly daring and narcissistic. She would be the exact opposite of what the reader would think of as a perfect wife and mother. ‘A Doll’s House’, would hence be strongly protested against by the second reader. Both the readers, with their points of view, create a blatant distinction in two wide categories of the audience that would have read and thought over the play. While both have their reasons to pass a judgement on the play, it goes about to show the sheer strength of the crowd that Henrick Ibsen had affected, by ‘A Doll’s House’.
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