Gender Conflict in "A Doll’s House"

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Gender Conflict in “A Doll’s House”

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Throughout the novel A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, an apparent issue that is portrayed is gender conflict. In the children comic strip we have created we have aimed to highlight numerous concept including the inequitable problem of gender conflict. Nora Helmer represents a feministic viewpoint in an oppressed position. Trapped in her role of the “doll”, Nora struggles to break free. A Doll’s house reveals the constricted role of women during the Victorian age and the dilemmas that will arise from the unjust imbalance of power between men and women.

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The gender difference approach analyzes how society treats men and women differently. Women are typically placed in roles that do no enable women the chance to become, Nora self-aware or independent. Women’s “role” in this time period was commonly to play the role of the stay at home mother whom takes care of the children, cooks, cleans, maintaining a well kept appearance, and most importantly never defying their husband. Whereas men are expected to sustain a well respectable, distinguished status while going to work to provide for their family. This is demonstrated throughout the relationship of others in the novel including Nora and Torvald; living the true stereotypes of men and women. Torvald calls Nora juvenile names such as “my songbird, my sweet little lark.”(Ibsen 16) This implies that Torvald does not respect her as a women or his wife but rather as a child or a doll; a significant metaphor in this play.

Torvald also implies that Nora is not intelligent or responsible degrading her significantly. When Nora suggests financial advice he responds by saying “Nora, Nora! Just like a woman! I am serious.” (Ibsen 12) This suggests that not only Nora is foolish but on top of that women in general as well. In act one Torvald does not allow Nora to consume macaroons because Nora says, “the fact is he is afraid of them ruining my teeth.”(Ibsen 34) While this treatment does seem to mildly frustrate Nora, she plays along with it, calling herself “little Nora” and promising that she would never fantasize of ever rebelling against her husband. Despite this there are clues that she is not entirely happy with the restricted position she has as a woman. When revealing the secret of how she borrowed money to pay the trip to Italy, she refers to it as her “pride” and says it was fun to be in control of money, explaining, “it was so much fun sitting there, working, earning money. It almost felt like being a man.”(Ibsen 29)

In addition to women fulfilling the said stereotype, men are also expected to play a particular role; shown throughout Torvald and Krogstad. They are both very ambitious men driven not only by the need to provide for their families but also by a desire to achieve higher status. When Krogstad finds out there is a possibility of Torvald firing him he goes to great lengths in attempts to secure his position. Thus being blackmailing Nora by threatening to expose her secret to Toravld of borrowing money from him. He intimidates her by saying “Now you listen to me Mrs. Helmer. If necessary I am ready to fight for my little job at the bank as if I were fighting for my life.”(Ibsen 41)

On the other hand, Torvald was more concerned of his reputation. Throughout the play Torvald always claimed how much he loves and would do anything for Nora however, this completely changes when his reputation is at stake. When Nora’s secret is finally revealed to him his attitude towards her changes entirely and he does this by saying “All there is now is saying what’s left of our shattered lives, keeping up appearances”(Ibsen 106) The actions of these men demonstrates the extent men were willing to go to achieve what they wanted, being power and respect from society and how crucial their reputation was to them.

In conclusion, Henrik Ibsen’s play “The Doll House,” emphasizes the conflicts women face in a male dominant world. The stereotypes and assumptions made in A Doll's House are revealed in the way Torvald Helmer treats his wife. These assumptions deal with the way in which the male characters see the female characters, on an absolutely stereotypical, gender-related level. Masculine power is lost as a result of female’s ideological awakening, which suggests a new structure of society.

Works cited

  1. Ibsen, H. (1879). A Doll's House. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  2. Belsey, C. (1995). The Subject of Tragedy: Identity and Difference in Renaissance Drama. London: Methuen.
  3. Bloom, H. (Ed.). (2008). Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House (Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretations). New York: Chelsea House Publications.
  4. Goldman, E. (2008). Feminist and Queer Theory: A Reader. New York: Columbia University Press.
  5. Kundera, M. (1995). The Art of the Novel. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
  6. Moi, T. (1985). Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory. London: Methuen.
  7. Roberts, J. (2012). A Doll's House: A Play by Henrik Ibsen. London: Nick Hern Books.
  8. Wagner, G. (2016). A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen. London: Cambridge University Press.
  9. West, R. (1988). Gender and Discourse. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
  10. Wolf, N. (1991). The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women. New York: William Morrow and Company.

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