A Feminist Perspective of A Doll’s House
In “A Doll’s House”, Ibsen portrays the bleak picture of a role held by women of all economic classes that is sacrificial. The female characters in the play back-up Nora’s assertion that even though men are unable to sacrifice their integrity, “hundreds of thousands of woman have.” Mrs. Linde found it necessary to abandon Krogstad, her true but poor love, and marry a richer man in order to support her mother and two brothers. The nanny has to abandon her children to support herself by working for Nora. Though Nora is economically advantaged, in comparison to the other female characters, she leads a hard life because society dictates that Torvald be the marriages dominant member. Torvald condescends Nora and inadvertently forces Nora to hide the loan from him. Nora knows that Torvald could never accept the idea that his wife, or any other woman, could aid in saving his life.
At the beginning of “A Doll’s House”, Nora seems completely happy. She responds to Torvald’s teasing, relishes in the excitement of his new job, and takes pleasure in the company of her children and friends. Nora never appears to disagree with her doll-like existence, in which she is cuddled, pampered and patronized. As the play progresses, Nora’s true character appears and proves that she is more than just a “silly girl” as Torvald calls her. Her understanding of the business details related to the dept she incurred in taking out a loan to help Torvald’s health shows her intelligence and her abilities beyond being merely a wife. The secret labor she undertakes to pay off her dept demonstrates her determination and ambition. In addition, her willingness to break the law in order to aid her…
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…dlike mentality and needs to grow before she can raise her own children. Her defiance of Torvald, when he refuses to let her leave, reflects her epiphany that she isn’t obligated to let Torvald dictate her actions. The height of Nora’s realization comes when she tells Torvald that her duty to herself is as strong as her duty as a wife and mother. She now sees that she is a human being before she is a wife and mother and she owes herself to explore her personality, ambitions, and beliefs.
Clurman, Harold. Ibsen. New York: Macmillan. 1977
Ibsen, Henrik. Four Major Plays. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998
Shaw, Bernard. “A Doll’s House Again.” Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1979.
Templeton, Joan. “The Doll House Backlash: Criticism, Feminism, and Ibsen.” PMLA (January 1989): 28-40.