Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen introduces ideas in his play, A Doll’s House, that are so controversial for his time; he has become a trailblazer in Realism. In the course of the play, Nora Helmer-a wife and a mother- faces many challenges that prompts her to be reborn as a new independent person. Published in 1879, the play has a context when women in Europe were not accepted as people who can vote and have rights regarding their life and marriage. In most European countries women were not given their right to vote until the 20th century. Keeping that in mind, Ibsen started tackling this idea ‘where a woman belongs” and “individuality and independence of women” 34 years before Norwegian women could vote.
Ibsen portrays a dynamic between Nora and Torvald where Nora gets treated and scolded like a child by her husband. He has degrading pet names for Nora such as; “skylark”, “squirrel”, “spendthrift”, “noodlehead” and many other. To the reader until the Act III, Nora seems like she’s not offended by any of the remarks her husband makes. She lives in an illusion where she believes that her husband would risk everything; his life, his reputation for her sake. Torvald, on the other hand, does not perceive Nora as a person with her own ideas and aspirations for life. He makes his idea of Nora clear when he says “my little lark is talking like a real person” (Act III, 208), Nora, Nora, you are such a woman!”(Act I, 34), “The child will have its way!”(Act III, 648), and “my most precious possession”(Act III, 216). Torvald does not see Nora as a person, he rather accepts her as a “possession” that plays the role of a wife and mother. Ibsen harshly criticizes the objectification of women through his realistic portrayal of rich characters that mirror the spirit of his time.
When Torvald states “You are a wife and mother, first and foremost”(Act III, 562), Nora’s reply voices Ibsen’s vision for the women. Nora says, “I don’t believe that anymore. I believe that first and foremost, I’m a human being-just as much as you-or at least I should try to become one”(Act III, 563). This possibility of equality between men and women is a groundbreaking revelation to make in Ibsen’s time. His play lived through years, and unfortunately is still relevant to our time where men and women are not equal in many social spheres of life.
My question for further discussion would be:
Where is the line between a person’s responsibilities for her or himself, and the responsibilities towards other people in her or his life?
Do people lie and deceive themselves more than they deceive other people? Nora deceived herself through out her 8 years of marriage, while all along she knew how it wasn’t what she wanted for herself. Why do people put up with situations they don’t like?