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“A Doll’s House”: The Problem of Position of Women in Ibsen’s Play

A Doll’s House is a vivid example of the genre of analytical drama. The genre got its name due to the fact that all stage events are the result of what happened to the characters before the action begins and requires a reflexive analysis to understand everything that happens further. Thus, each such play becomes a kind of investigation of the secrets of the past. One of the main themes of the play is the depiction of the life and position of women in the family. However, the author reveals this topic because of the problems of the status of women in society, their rights, and traditional attitudes towards them. Thus, these problems are revealed by the example of the life of the play Nora’s main character.

In the center of the play is a happily married couple – lawyer Helmer and his wife, Nora. In the first act, the spouse appears before us as a strong, loving, caring husband and father of the family. His wife is a cheerful, carefree, cheerful, and frivolous spender. However, everything changes by the end of the third act, when the terrible truth is revealed. It turns out that in order to save her husband, Nora borrowed a large sum of money by forging her father’s signature. Nevertheless, the author sympathizes with his heroine, showing her as a loving wife who is ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of saving her husband and family.

When reading the work, it seems that each of the main characters lives their own secret life, and the visible part of it is a kind of screen, a mask, behind which they conveniently hide their personality. Through it, they also manipulate the lives of other people. In Ibsen’s world, people are puppets of each other, and only under certain conditions and circumstances they free themselves from the external puppeteer, and show their true self, reveal their inner world, which is at odds with their role.

The plot of Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House happens in the course of three days in the house of the Helmer family. The tightness of the premises where the action takes place is counterpoised with the intensively developing plot. The primary aspect in the work is the inner dynamics. Most notably, this applies to the personality of the female character, Nora Helmer, who turns from a “skylark” and “squirrel” into a completely new, different from her former self, being (Ibsen 7). Trapped in a corner, Nora fights for her happiness by all means. She is the central resident of the “doll house”, subconsciously attempting to keep order in it. Through these words, “You and papa have committed a great sin against me. It is your fault that I have made nothing of my life,” readers can see that heroine realizes that she was a doll in the hands of her father, and then-husband (Ibsen 75). That the woman played a role made up for her and never went beyond it. She had never been herself, fully honest and happy person.

When it appeared that Nora choose to undergo an independent act, lending money in order to pay for the treatment, the readers are shown the genuine attitude of a seemingly affectionate spouse. “All these eight years – she who was my joy and pride – a hypocrite, a liar – worse, worse – a criminal! The unutterable ugliness of it all! – For shame! For shame!” (Ibsen 71). The husband was a despot who did not permit the thought that his partner could choose anything for herself or be responsible for her own choice. This conflict was the subsurface on which the Helmer family was built.

The author exposes the lies and unfairness of the social structure in the play, in which a woman is deprived of any rights, except the right to be a wife – a doll, an ornament of a person’s life, his application. The play sharply raises the question of the part of women in environment and the prospects for a family’s existence. When Helmer, in an effort to keep the wife, reminds of her duties to the husband, children and tells that a woman is first and foremost a wife and mother, Nora responds – “I have other duties just as sacred… duties to myself” (Ibsen 76). These are the words of a woman who has realized her human dignity and is no longer able to blindly obey the outdated views of a society that does not take women’s rights into account.

The author gives the dramatic function of the bearer of the harsh truth to the second female character, Mrs. Linde. She is presented as a lady of principle, released after the death of her husband – “Well, I am like a shipwrecked woman clinging to some wreckage – no one to mourn for, no one to care for” (Ibsen 60). With the appearance of Linde, the character of the main character changes: having revealed her innermost secret to an old friend, the main character causes the reader respect and some bewilderment. It becomes incomprehensible how such a determined and courageous woman can behave so frivolously. Unlike Nora, whom Mrs. Linde helps to see the world not as a doll but as a real one, the free woman makes the reader think that it is time for women to declare their rights and dictate the laws openly.

The end of A Doll’s House symbolizes a change of fate for all the characters. Ibsen did not view Nora’s drama as purely feminine. The play is about the liberation of a person, regardless of gender. After all, everyone here was being freed or trying from something: Helmer from the stagnation of perception of the world, Dr. Rank – from the terror of inevitable mortality, Krogstad aims to escape an improper elapsed time, Mrs. Linde – from the solitude and uselessness of life.

In Ibsen’s sense, a doll house is not only the place of residence of the Helmer couple, where the events of the play are described. That is the whole world, where people play the roles they have been invented and imposed on, and they are unhappy because they do not live their own lives, cannot fully open up, be beneficial to society, and the family to themselves. Furthermore, in the play, Ibsen reveals the problem of the position of women in society and submits to the general public the final solution to it. Having sacrificed herself, rejected the reality of the “doll’s house”, left her children, and went into self-imposed exile, Nora crossed out all her past and broke social standards, intending to start life with a clean slate.

Work Cited

Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll’s House. A Penn State Electronic Classics Series Publication, 2001.


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