Throughout the 1800s, women faced the harsh reality of being forced to conform to a predetermined image. In his play, A Doll House, Henrik Ibsen delves into the roots of this hypocritical culture. The play discusses how women were treated like second-class citizens, but were ridiculed if they acted as such. Due to his involvement in addressing the inequalities of women, Ibsen found himself being unwillingly pulled into the women’s movement. Henrik Ibsen’s somber play, A Doll House, discusses the injustice of the sacrifices women make to fit into society’s mold.
The most impactful aspects of A Doll House are the realistic themes that are portrayed. The most evident theme is that women should not have to sacrifice their identities for their husbands. This theme is shown by Nora, who feels she had sacrificed her identity in order to fit into society’s mold of the perfect daughter and wife. NORA. [Papa] used to call me his doll-child, and he played with me the way I played with my dolls. Then I came into your house… I mean, then I went from Papa’s hands into yours.
You arranged everything to your own taste, and so I got the same taste as you? or I retended to; I can’t remember (Ibsen 109). This is when Nora finally realizes that she is just a toy who is there to appease her husband and do as he wishes. She has lost her happiness and freewill just so she can fit into her role of perfection. She is like a doll, a creature whose life is run by and decided by someone else. By writing about this theme, Ibsen tries to exhibit to society that although women are stereotypically viewed as property to men, they are just as intelligent as men. His purpose for writing is to prove to patriarchal society that women have minds of their own.
Nora is an intelligent young woman because she understands her place in society, but she still fights it. NORA Yes? maybe sometime, years from now, when I’m no longer so attractive. Don’t laugh! I only mean when Torvald loves me less than now, when he stops enjoying my dancing and dressing up and reciting for him. Then it might be wise to have something in reserve (Ibsen 55). The quote shows that Nora is smart in that she realizes the true nature of her marriage: Helmer is only married to her for her good looks.
She knows she will someday lose her looks and that she needs something to ensure he remains faithful to her. She will use the fact that he is indebted to her because she took a loan to save his life. The fact that Nora took out a loan to save her husband’s life is the main conflict of the play. During the time period of the play, it was illegal for a woman to take out a loan without the approval of a man. Nora got her loan from a man named Krogstad, but in order to save his job at the bank that Helmer just became manager of, he threatens to spill her secret to Helmer (Ibsen 65).
Nora gets very scared and begs Helmer to keep Krogstad as an employee, but he refuses. Through this, Nora realizes that Helmer, and the society he represents, has oppressed her for far too long. Adding to the man vs. man conflict, Nora ends the play by exiting Helmer’s house, thus proving to society that she is done with being put into her molded role (Ibsen 113). In order to make the conflict seem realistic, Ibsen uses a somber tone in the characters’ dialogue. The entire plot is very dark, with a woman fighting her pre-determined role in society and leaving her husband.
She fights the oppression of her husband, justifying her potential and attempting to live up to it by the end of the play (Ibsen 114). In the 1800s when ibsen was writing, this occurrence would be viewed as rebellious and wrong, so Ibsen uses a tone that relays that feeling without making the piece satirical. Ibsen’s choice of tone forces the reader to understand the deep implications that Nora’s choices have on her life. She would be forever cast out of society after abandoning her husband and children in order to live up to her potential.
Nora becoming an outcast of society can be closely related to Ibsen’s personal life. For instance, Ibsen and his wife Suzannah had a fake marriage. Their relationship looked perfect from the outside, but on the inside, it was gloomy and filled with unhappiness. The two grew apart emotionally as the years progressed. Ibsen also had multiple affairs with different women (Brunsdale). In the play, Nora and Helmer have a false marriage because from the outside, they look happy and in love, but on the inside, Nora is miserable with her meek life. Although Nora did leave Helmer, the Ibsens managed to remain together (Ibsen 114).
Ibsen also had a friend, Laura Kieler, who took out a secret loan without her husband’s approval, just like Nora did. Both Kieler and Nora were caught, but Kieler was sent to an asylum by her husband, whereas Nora simply left her husband (Brunsdale). Another similarity is that both Helmer and Ibsen had financial problems shadowing their lives. They both felt as though they were failures until they could properly provide for their families. Ibsen was unsuccessful as a writer when he first started out, and Helmer was insecure about the fact that he could not spoil his wife to the maximum.
A Doll House uncovers the harsh nature of being a woman in the nineteenth century world. Ibsen wrote the play to show readers how women were forced to cede their identities and happiness, only to find themselves living an empty life dictated by others. The somber tone Ibsen uses in his play portrays a realistic conflict of a woman exiting society’s mold and meeting her capability. The play, though highly controversial in its time, has become a world phenomenon, inspiring generations of advocates to continue their fights for equality.