A Review of Henrik Ibsen’s Play, A Doll's House in View of a Woman’s Societal Role

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In the play, A Doll’s House, written by Henrik Ibesen, the interaction of characters exposes the ideas such as women in society for the audience to think about. For example, from the interaction between Nora and her husband, Torvald, we see that the position of a woman in society at the time is a lot lower than a man and not as capable. Torvald believes that before everything else, Nora is a wife and mother and has control over her. From the last scene where Nora finally learns to stand up for herself, we can clearly see this idea.

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A Doll’s House is about a woman, Nora, who suffers from a marriage and deals with things she doesn’t know but thought “a miracle will come true” and everything will be fine after all. Nora had no idea about law but in order to go to Italy for her husband, Torval’s health, she forged a signature and borrowed money from Krogstad behind Torvald’s back. Torvald works at a bank as a manager but he had concerned about Krogsatd so he fires him. Krogstad wants his job back at the bank so he threaten Nora that he will reveal the truth to her husband. Nora believes that Torvald will stand by her side and well understand her sacrifice when he finds out everything. However, Torvald only cares about his own reputation and blame Nora that she does not have the right to raise the children. That’s when Nora realizes how foolish and ignorant she has been and has been treated like a doll for all her life so she decided to leave the house to explore the world herself.

Interaction of Nora and Torvald brings up the idea that women’s function in the society were to be wives and mothers. “Shouldn’t you first understand your place in your own home? … Isn’t it your duty to your husband and children?” Torvald questioned Nora when she decided to leave. He believes that “Before everything else, you’re a wife and a mother.” We as the audience clearly see that back in 1879, women were not considered independent or as capable. Torvald calls Nora by “little scatterbrain” and “little skylark” and refer Nora as small, subservient animals. The animal imagery used again shows women’s role in the society. Women were considered as useless and always need protection. They also needed someone, usually a man, to guide them. Otherwise they will be lost and have no idea what to do. They must rely on someone else. “Yes, do take me in hands, Torvald… show me where I’m wrong, the way you always do.” Nora is worry about the blackmail letter that Krogsatd placed in their letterbox so she asked Torvald anxiously to guide her and practice the dance together. “You see how much I need. You must coach me up to the last minute.”. Torvald also constantly refers to “a little squirrel” shows that women were considered as no real use or silliness. But Nora plays up to it by answering “If only you knew what expenses we skylarks and squirrels have, Torvald.” The audience gets a feeling that Nora is so ignorant and has been treated unfairly by her husband. Even though she might be living a wealthy live and her marriage seems wonderful with three adorable kids and a husband who has a decent job but she is actually suffering under Torald’s control.

Another idea that the audience gets from the interaction between two main characters, Torvold and Nora shows the idea women were not expected to think differently from their fathers and husbands. They were also not expected to be at an equal position as men in the society. We can see this when Nora tells Kristina, her friend, about borrowing money behind Torvald’s back so they could go on a trip for Torvald’s health. “Besides, Torvald has his pride – most men have – he’d be terribly hurt and humiliated if he thought he owned anything to me.” Nora is right and sure that Torvald will be hurt and humiliated if he finds out he is actually the one who had needed help and protection. When Torvald reads the first letter from Krogstad which was about Nora’s crime of forgery, he was really mad about what Nora had done. He believes that all her actions were ungrateful and ruined his reputation. “What a terrible awakening! … now I find that you’re a liar, a hypocrite – even worse – a criminal!” Torvald does not believe that the only reason why Nora has done it is because of love

and is for his health. “You’ve completely wrecked my happiness, you’ve ruined my whole future! … And I’m brought so pitifully low all because of a shiftless woman!” This again, indicates the idea that a woman’s position in a society is lower than a man and is not allowed to think differently or do things that are not under the male authority figures’ control. After reading the second letter from Krogstad, he found out that Krogstad had retracted his blackmail threat and returned Nora’s note. He tried to return to their previous life. “Nora! I’m saved! … These three days must have been terrible for you.” But Nora recognized that miracles she believed in will never happen and she no longer wants to participate in this fake marriage. “I’ve never seen things so clearly and certainly as I do tonight.” The contemporary audience was shocked by Nora’s action because it was rare for a woman to stand up for herself back in those days. But to the modern audience, Nora is just like another ordinary person who tried to seek the truth and their authentic selves.

Through Nora and Kristina’s conversation, we can again see the idea that women’s function in society is to be wives and mothers unless in unusual cases – when no husband or father are around to support – that was the only time when a woman was expected to work. Nora couldn’t understand Kristina’s situation and why she had to work so hard to live. “He didn’t leave you anything to live on? And no children? … Oh, but Kristina, that can’t be true.” Nora is like a little kid comparing to Kristina who has learn a lot through her experience and journey. But Nora hasn’t learnt or experienced any. “My mother was bedridden and I had three younger brothers to look after.” Kristina explains to her and tells her the reason why she had to marry someone for money. “Nora, Nora! Haven’t you learned sense yet? Even at school you were a terrible spendthrift.” Kristina’s mature tone and point of view again emphasizes Nora’s childishness and ignorant. “I just had to struggle along… I haven’t a father to pay for my fare, Nora.” The viewers realize how hard living must have been for Kristina under society’s pressure and prejudice of women. She had to marry for money and worked hard after her husband’s death because no one is there to support her like Nora has.

In conclusion, I strongly agree that in the play, A Doll’s House, written by Henrik Ibesen, the interaction of characters exposes ideas for the audience to think about. Through the interactions between Torvald and Nora, also among Nora and Kristina, the audience clearly sees one of the main themes in the play – Women in Society – how they were limited from seeking the truth and learning from the real world and suffer under a male authority figure’s control.

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