Interpretation Of A Dolls House Essay

Interpretation of A Doll’s House”A Doll’s House” is classified under the “second phase” of Henrik Ibsen’s career. It was during this period which he made the transition
from mythical and historical dramas to plays dealing with social
problems. It was the first in a series investigating the tensions of
family life. Written during the Victorian era, the controversial play
featuring a female protagonist seeking individuality stirred up more
controversy than any of his other works. In contrast to many dramas of
Scandinavia in that time which depicted the role of women as the
comforter, helper, and supporter of man, “A Doll’s House” introduced
woman as having her own purposes and goals. The heroine, Nora Helmer,
progresses during the course of the play eventually to realize that
she must discontinue the role of a doll and seek out her

David Thomas describes the initial image of Nora as that of a
doll wife who revels in the thought of luxuries that can now be
afforded, who is become with flirtation, and engages in childlike acts
of disobedience (259). This inferior role from which Nora progressed
is extremely important. Ibsen in his “A Doll’s House” depicts the role
of women as subordinate in order to emphasize the need to reform their
role in society.

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Definite characteristics of the women’s subordinate role in a
relationship are emphasized through Nora’s contradicting actions. Her
infatuation with luxuries such as expensive Christmas gifts
contradicts her resourcefulness in scrounging and buying cheap
clothing; her defiance of Torvald by eating forbidden Macaroons
contradicts the submission of her opinions, including the decision of
which dance outfit to wear, to her husband; and Nora’s flirtatious
nature contradicts her devotion to her husband. These occurrences
emphasize the facets of a relationship in which women play a dependent
role: finance, power, and love. Ibsen attracts our attention to these
examples to highlight the overall subordinate role that a woman plays
compared to that of her husband. The two sides of Nora contrast each
other greatly and accentuate the fact that she is lacking in
independence of will.

The mere fact that Nora’s well-intentioned action is considered
illegal reflects woman’s subordinate position in society; but it is
her actions that provide the insight to this position. It can be
suggested that women have the power to choose which rules to follow at
home, but not in the business world, thus again indicating her
subordinateness. Nora does not at first realize that the rules outside
the household apply to her. This is evident in Nora’s meeting with
Krogstad regarding her borrowed money. In her opinion it was no crime
for a woman to do everything possible to save her husband’s life. She
also believes that her act will be overlooked because of her desperate
situation. She fails to see that the law does not take into account
the motivation behind her forgery. Marianne Sturman submits that this
meeting with Krogstad was her first confrontation with the reality of
a “lawful society” and she deals with it by attempting to distract
herself with her Christmas decorations (16). Thus her first encounter
with rules outside of her “doll’s house” results in the realization of
her naivety and inexperience with the real world due to her
subordinate role in society.

The character of Nora is not only important in describing to role
of women, but also in emphasizing the impact of this role on a woman.
Nora’s child-like manner, evident through her minor acts of
disobedience and lack of responsibility compiled with her lack of
sophistication further emphasize the subordinate role of woman. By the
end of the play this is evident as she eventually sees herself as an
ignorant person, and unfit mother, and essentially her husband’s wife.
Edmond Gosse highlights the point that “Her insipidity, her
dollishness, come from the incessant repression of her family life
(721).” Nora has been spoonfed everything she has needed in life.
Never having to think has caused her to become dependent on others.
This dependency has given way to subordinateness, one that has grown
into a social standing. Not only a position in society, but a state of
mind is created. When circumstances suddenly place Nora in a
responsible position, and demand from her a moral judgment, she has
none to give. She cannot possibly comprehend the severity of her
decision to borrow money illegally. Their supposed inferiority has
created a class of ignorant women who cannot take action let alone
accept the consequences of their actions.

“A Doll’s House” is also a prediction of change from this
subordinate roll. According to Ibsen in his play, women will
eventually progress and understand her position. Bernard Shaw notes
that when Nora’s husband inadvertently deems her unfit in her role
as a mother, she begins to realize that her actions consisting of
playing with her children happily or dressing them nicely does
not necessarily make her a suitable parent (226). She needs to be more
to her children than an empty figurehead. From this point, when
Torvald is making a speech about the effects of a deceitful mother,
until the final scene, Nora progressively confronts the realities of
the real world and realizes her subordinate position. Although she is
progressively understanding this position, she still clings to the
hope that her husband will come to her protection and defend her from
the outside world once her crime is out in the open. After she reveals
the “dastardly deed” to her husband, he becomes understandably
agitated; in his frustration he shares the outside world with her, the
ignorance of the serious business world, and destroys her innocence
and self-esteem. This disillusion marks the final destructive blow to
her doll’s house. Their ideal home including their marriage and
parenting has been a fabrication for the sake of society. Nora’s
decision to leave this false life behind and discover for herself
what is real is directly symbolic of woman’s ultimate realization.
Although she becomes aware of her supposed subordinateness, it is not
because of this that she has the desire to take action. Nora is
utterly confused, as suggested by Harold Clurman, “She is groping
sadly in a maze of confused feeling toward a way of life and a destiny
of which she is most uncertain (256).” The one thing she is aware of
is her ignorance, and her desire to go out into the world is not to
“prove herself” but to discover and educate herself. She must strive
to find her individuality.

That the perception of woman is inaccurate is also supported by
the role of Torvald. Woman is believed to be subordinate to the
domineering husband. Instead of being the strong supporter and
protector of his family, Nora’s husband is a mean and cowardly man.
Worried about his reputation he cares little about his wife’s feelings
and fails to notice many of her needs. The popular impression of man
is discarded in favor of a more realistic view, thus illustrating
society’s distorted views.

Ibsen, through this controversial play, has an impact upon
society’s view of the subordinate position of women. By describing
this role of woman, discussing its effects, and predicting a change in
contemporary views, he stressed the importance of woman’s realization
of this believed inferiority. Woman should no longer be seen as the
shadow of man, but a person in herself, with her own triumphs and
tragedies. The exploration of Nora reveals that she is dependant upon
her husband and displays no independent standing. Her progression of
understanding suggests woman’s future ability to comprehend their
plight. Her state of shocked awareness at the end of the play is
representative of the awakening of society to the changing view of the
role of woman. “A Doll’s House” magnificently illustrates the need for
and a prediction of this change.


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