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How Henrik Ibsen Reflected Realism In A Doll's House Play

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Realism is defined as a literary and intellectual movement began in France in the 1850s, rejected Romanticism, try to portray contemporary subjects as in its truth and accuracy. Poets and novelists changed the traditional style of literary works based on imagination and metaphors to study life with its real events and people with their daily problems by recording what they see around them. The realist writer shows in their works all the details of ordinary life as if it depicts the reader how to live the life. One of the realist writers Henrik Ibsen, who discussed in his works a lot of psychological and social problems which are existed already in the reality, and aimed to solve many issues of the community through using realism in his plays. This essay will explain how Henrik Ibsen reflected realism in a Doll's House play.

The play of the doll house is one of the literary works that received much attention in the nineteenth century, because it aimed to interest in women and gender relationships. The play deals with events happening with the Helmer family: Nora, Torvald, and their children. Since the beginning of the play, the difference in strength and inequality between Nora and Torvald appeared. Always he sees Nora as a small thing for him, although he is affectionate with her but considers her less than a full human being, as something of his own. Through appearing of her old friend Mrs. Linde, her lie about the loan has been discovered to help Torvald financially, so he abandons her and only cared about his reputation. After the crisis ends between them, Nora realizes that she has no impact in this marriage and family, she is just followed to Torvald and prior to her marriage to her father, Nora decides to leave her family and go on her own.

There are many themes in A Doll's House play, but the most common of them are Self-Awareness, Nora did not realize that she lacked self-consciousness throughout her life, did not realize that she deserved an identity, independence and should seek to find herself. Another important theme is Sexism, Nora's relationship with her husband is typical, as if their roles in life are defined by the husband working and making decisions, and women’ role is limited to housework, they are not treated equally because of their gender. The last theme is Individual versus Society, all the characters in the play work under the authority of society, no one seems independent, at the end only Nora breaks all the barriers drawn by society, and decides to live for herself. These themes make the play realistic because they refer to attitudes taken from the matters of ordinary lives of people.

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George Bernard Shaw in Pygmalion looks like Ibsen in the play ِA doll's house in terms of the characteristics of the two female characters in the plays, Nora Helmer and Eliza Doolittle, both are fragile and naive characters, shifts occur in their lives that lead to great changes in both characters, because of the two men in their lives Torvald and Mr. Higgins, who completely control their lives. Although both men have their lives centered around these two women, Nora is Torvald's wife, who helped him with the loan, bears the responsibilities of his family; and Eliza, who bears Higgins' responsibilities and fills his life. But male power makes the two men treat these women badly and selfishly, making Eliza and Nora realize that they deserve to be more respected and decide to make tough decisions in their own lives by themselves.

The most important parts of the novel when Nora Travold confronts her husband and tells him that her life with him is similar to her life with her father, both of them deal with her like a doll, that they control it as they wish, this part reflects the important themes emerged in realism movement, self-awareness and identity. At the end of the novel, Nora realized that she only belonged to her father and then to her husband, she did not find herself and lost her identity, which she may not have known.

From my point of view, this play reveals aspect of societal commentary because Ibsen was not only intended to urge women to find themselves, but also everyone in the society have a right to know his true identity and make decisions in his own life. Also, it highlighted several personalities who suffer from psychological and social problems such as, Torvald, Dr Rank, etc., which means that the play aims to reform the problems of the whole society.

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How Henrik Ibsen Reflected Realism In A Doll’s House Play. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 5, 2023, from
“How Henrik Ibsen Reflected Realism In A Doll’s House Play.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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