The play, A Doll’s House, by Henrik Isben, took place during the Victorian era. It was dedicated to the social standards of both men and women. The women are portrayed as inferior to men and will show the sacrifice of themselves. This essay is going to focus on the ways that women were perceived as well as the social movement of women's equal rights and opportunities, both socially and economically.
All of the women characters in A Doll’s House play are put in difficult situations where they have to decide to sacrifice themselves for their husbands and children. Mrs. Linde and Nora are discussing the decisions that were put upon Nora concerning saving Torvalds life. Nora had taken matters into her own two hands to get a loan, Nora says “And besides, how painful and humiliating it would be for Torvald, with his manly independence, to know that he owed me anything! It would upset our mutual relations altogether; our beautiful happy home would no longer be what it is now” (Ibsen 12). Because Nora is a woman, borrowing money turned into an illegal action, which was a forgery. Nora had to make the difficult decision of sacrificing her innocence or her husband. She chose to take the selfless act, by sacrificing her innocence she was also sacrificing her reputation and her marriage. Because Nora is a woman, she has to keep the deed a secret among herself. She has brought difficulties upon herself, she now has payments to make and no job to earn the money. In fear that Nora will ruin her husband's reputation, due to the women saving the man, it is viewed unconventionally. Another woman that makes a selfless decision is Anne-Marie.
After Nora believes that she is corrupting her children, Nora asks Anne-Marie what are some troubles of raising children and what it was like to foster her child. Anne-Marie replies “What, when I was going to get such a good place by it? A poor girl who has got into trouble should be glad to. Besides, that wicked man didn’t do a single thing for me” (Ibsen 30). This excerpt proposes that Anne-Marie was once in the position of being a single mother. She was not able to take care of her child, she had given it up for adoption in hopes to be able to support herself and give her child a better chance. Being a woman, Anne-Marie was unable to provide for herself and a child, she was unable to have an adequate job to take care of them both. She was stuck with a child because of restrictions, due to being a woman. Mrs. Linde also had made difficult choices. As Mrs. Linde and Nora are conversing, Nora says “Tell me, is it true that you did not love your husband? Why did you marry him?” (Ibsen 8) Mrs. Linde responds, “My mother was alive then and was bedridden and helpless and I had to provide for my own two younger brothers; so I did not think I was justified in refusing his offer” (Ibsen 8). Later on in the play, it is revealed that Mrs. Linde's true love was Krogstad. Yet, the situation that she was in, she sacrificed her desires and married for money in regards to helping provide for her family. It shows a woman unable to work for herself, had to make a sacrifice of hers for others. Which is confiding her to the values of society.
Society for women is conforming to living in a man's world. Nora decides to try and have a serious conversation with Torvald. She says, I mean that I was simply transferred from Papa’s hands into yours. You arranged everything according to your taste, and so I got the same taste as you-or else I pretended to. I am not quite sure which- I think sometimes the one and sometimes the other. When I look back on it, it seems to me as if I have been living here like a poor woman- just from hand to mouth. I have existed merely to perform tricks for you, Torvald. But you would have it so. You and Papa have committed a greater sin against me. It is your fault I have made nothing of my life” (Ibsen 66).
While Nora is consulting Torvald, she makes it understood that she and her husband's relationship is just as she and her father were. She was obligated to conform to their values and beliefs, controlling her so she is unable to bring forth her own opinion and ideas. This is showing the expectations of society during this era. As well as, showing the oppression of female characters in this play. In this play, Torvald begins in sexual advances towards Nora. Nora refuses to accept it and Torvald says, “What’s that? You’re joking, my little Nora! You won’t- you want? Am I not your husband?” (Ibsen 58). That excerpt is saying that Torvald believes because Nora is his wife, so she is obligated to his sexual advances, which shows that Torvald treats Nora as an object. It makes it clear that a man’s wants and needs are above his wife's. It is showing a female character to confinement to social norms. Torvald also shows that he is above his wife by using the pet names. Torvald says, “Nora! The same little featherhead…” (Ibsen 2) By calling Nora pet names, it is diminishing her self worth. The definition of a featherhead is a silly or foolish person. Not only does Torvald call Nora a featherhead but he also uses the pet names such as little squirrel, little skylark, miss sweet tooth, sweet little skylark, and poor little girl. He treats his wife as if she were below him.
Some choices of the female characters. At the end of the play, Nora makes a bold choice, which is to leave Torvald. In an argument, Nora says, “ Indeed, you were perfectly right. I am not fir for the task. There is another task I must undertake first. I must try and educate myself- you are not the man to help me in that. I must do that for myself. And that is why I am going to leave you now” (Ibsen 67). Ultimately, the decision Nora had made to leave was heartbreaking to Torvald, but it was the best decision or her. Up until this point Nora has been trapped, feeling that she is being played with as a doll in her marriage. By leaving the cage her husband has her in, allows her to discover herself and abandon society's expectations. As for Mrs. Linde, when Mrs. Linde goes over to Krogstads to discuss the letter, the conversation is heading towards the topic of their relationship, Mrs. Linde is deciding that she would like to continue to pursue Krogstad, her long lost love. Mrs. Linde says,
I could not endure life without work. All my life, as long as I can remember, I have worked, and it has been my greatest and only pleasure. But now I am quite alone in the word- my life is so dreadfully empty and I feel so forsaken. There is not the least pleasure in working for one’s self. Nils, give me someone and something to work for (Ibsen 53).
Originally Mrs. Linde married a man that she was not in love with to be able to support her family. She soon became the main provider, which was not easy to obtain being a woman, not being able to get a well-paying job because of her gender. With the lifestyle that was put upon her, she was very unhappy. Once her husband died, she now has the freedom to make her own choices. She is beginning to shape her future. Although Mrs. Linde's choice was not what Nora wanted, Mrs. Linde did what was in her best interest to make herself happy.
In A Doll’s House play, he brings attention to the relationship between men and women. It focuses on the change of society socially and economically, it allows the readers to understand the social transformation, allowing women to have more freedom. The play functions as such a clear understanding of social roles in the nineteenth century and how women can start taking more responsibility and have a choice other than being just a stay at home wife, and or mother.