Before the women’s suffrage and women’s rights movement, women were taught to act like dolls, which is portrayed in the first and second act of “A Doll’s House”. Many women weren’t educated well and their only duties were taking care of the children, the house, and their husband. Men, and even some women, believed that being a mother and wife should be a woman’s only job. Being that women were not typically bringing in any sort of income, they were often not included with the financial situation of the family, with no knowledge or say in where and how the money was spent.
The world was heavily influenced by the power of men during this time period. Besides in royal families, a woman was never seen in a government or political position. The only women other women had to look up to, were women they saw in films, who also acted as dolls and portrayed the role of ‘trophy wives’. Because of the lack of role models and decent education, women didn’t know how to think on their own, even if they wanted to. Many would try to break the cycle, but because they were never taught how to live on their own and be an independent being, they would return to their life as a housewife.
“In 1869, this faction formed a group called the National Woman Suffrage Association and began to fight for a universal-suffrage amendment to the federal Constitution.” (History.com) The year 1869 was the peak for the Women’s rights movement. This was the year Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton began the National Woman Suffrage and gained the biggest following behind this movement than ever before.
Ten years later, Henrik Ibsen published ‘A Doll’s House’. The play first premiered, a short month after being published, in Denmark. Ibsen’s playwright took off around the world, being one of the first books where a woman thinks for herself and stands against her husband to be an independent woman. Ibsen was an active advocate for the women’s rights movement, and given the circumstances around the world, his playwright made the platform for women’s rights that much larger. Not only was he a man who was fighting along side the women of the world, but he was also a man who saw and depicted that women could be independent from their husbands with the right education, drive, and sense of self. He represented this woman through the character, Christine Linde.
Nora: “What do you consider my most sacred duties?”
Helmer: “[…] your duties to your husband and your children.”
Nora: “I have other duties just as sacred. […] Duties to myself.” (Act III)
This quote shows how Ibsen represents the way most people viewed women through Torvald. However, earlier in the book you meet Dr.Rank, a close friend to Nora and Torvald. It is apparent that Dr.Rank loves Nora, even though it is not directly stated. He views Nora as an equal and values her thoughts and opinions, rather than her doll-like facade. This could be a direct symbol of Ibsen himself, and his value for other women. Letting his women activist readers know that there were men who valued them for human beings was important to Ibsen, which is why he made it a point to make Dr.Rank such a strong character.
This book helped women understand the importance of being aware of the world around them and how things that normally men would handle, like finances, they should know how to handle, too. The more women learned about being self sufficient, the closer they reached their goal of gaining the women’s right to vote. Politicians, and men in general began to take them more seriously. After ‘A Doll’s House’, more authors and playwrights began to write more openly about sovereign women, which in turn gave women even more insight for their fight for equality.
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