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The Role Of Woman In A Doll's House

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Henrick Ibsen’s “A Doll House” tells a story of women’s roles in society and their suppressed individuality in the 19th century. The author explores social convention in roles of woman and reflection upon relationships. Henrick Ibsen’s title “A Doll House” has a significant representation to convey Nora Helmer and her image. She is conceived as a subservient, easy to handle and under control by her husband Torvald. Nora is depicted as a lovely doll in a lovely house that Torvald takes care of and owns. Henrick Ibsen uses relationships, love and family, to show how women are treated unfairly and unequal throughout the play.

Henrick Ibsen portrays Nora as an obedient, affectionate and loving wife to Torvald Helmer. She has a childish manner and does not seem to mind Torvald’s belittling teasing comments, and references towards her. At some point in the story, Nora begins to realize that she is being treated unfairly by her husband because of these belittling comments. The story begins with Torvald’s comment to Nora ‘sky-lark twittering’ outside his office. This suggests their relationship is a father-childlike association. (Ford, 2004) Nora’s movements of fluttering and darting around the room and Torvald describes her state in the house and relationship. Nora returns home from Christmas shopping and is chastised playfully by Torvald. He greets her with juvenile animal nicknames and calls her a “spendthrift.” She is chastised about financial matters she does not understand because she is a woman. The statement made by Torvald is a trepidation on economic dependence of women and patriarchal society (Bhat, 2017). Torvald teases and tells her she is irresponsible with her money but gives her more than she asked for to please her and to see her reaction. Throughout the play, there are many instances where it is hinting at the fact that men like to have some sort of control over women. Nora lives in a house of rules presented by her husband. He asks her if she has made a detour and purchased macaroons for her sweet tooth. Nora denies the accusation and shows that she knows her husband’s wishes but breaks them when it suits her. Nora says “ I should not think of going against your wishes” yet hides secrets from her husband.

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Ibsen introduced another character, Cristine Linde, whom is a woman who had given up many sacrifices to be able to survive. Kristine comes to visit Nora after not seeing her for almost ten years. Kristine talks more about being able to have what she needs because she has gone through enough hardships to know that she needs to do what she can to live. Meanwhile, Nora talks about abandoning her obligations such as taking care of her father to take a year in Italy. Here Ibsen is showing that Kristine has gone through hardships that have given her an unfair life. She talks about having to sacrifice to take care of her sick mother and two younger siblings. Kristine is given an unfair life while Nora describes living a life not worrying about such things. Nora tells Kristine that she needs to get away, she says, “you look tired out now. You had far better go away to some watering-place,” (Mays, 1985). Kristine then explains that she does not have a father to give her money, and Nora told her she had. Ibsen uses his relationship between Kristine and Nora to show that Nora is given all these opportunities but only because of the men in her life, she has gotten money from who Kristine assumes was her father and in the earlier part of the play from her husband, meanwhile in order to survive Kristine has had to but effort into making ends meet and giving up the man that she loved to marry another with money. This is when Nora reveals to Kristine her illegal loan that allowed them to go to Italy for a year, yet another childish thing that Nora has not had to sacrifice for yet. Kristine says, “ a wife cannot borrow without her husband’s consent,” (Mays, 1986) here the author is showing yet another instance where the woman is not supposed to make decisions without the approval of a man.

Ibsen relates Nora’s situation to Krogstad’s to show that women are treated unfairly by men. Nora tells Krogstad she has a tiny bit of influence on Torvald then contradicts herself by saying she has absolutely no influence. Krogstad sees it upon himself to use Nora to make sure he doesn’t lose his job at the bank by threatening her. It is after this conversation with Krogstad, that Nora tries to talk to Helmer about Krogstad keeping his job and quickly realizes that her situation is significantly more complicated than she originally thought. This show’s another limitation on how women are treated. Nora took out a loan in deception because she was not able to borrow the money herself because she is a woman (Ford, 2004). Nora’s associations with men shows her status of the issues that women faced during that time. This is around the time that Nora begins to realize the consequences of her actions and that she may have needed her husband’s permission after all in this man biased world she is living in. Helmer gets a letter from Krogstad telling him about the illegal loan that Nora had taken out and immediately is criticized for possibly ruining their lives. It is here that Nora has given up, she realizes that she has spent the past years of her marriage under the supervision of a man, that she was not allowed to survive on her own without her husband. Looking back on it she finds that this entire time she has spent not being able to make decisions on her own. Ibsen is showing through Nora that men are the decision makers when it comes to everything. During this time period women were treated as children like they could not do anything. Helmer is given another letter retracting everything that the previous letter states and immediately tries to forgive Nora, but it is far too late. Nora is now realizing that she wants to be able to be independent and not rely on a man. However, Nora isn’t ready to let go of the situation so easily. Nora tells Helmer that even with the marriage and the time they spent together, ended in neither of them really knowing each other. She tries to mention that they have never had a serious talk but Helmer continues to brush it off by saying, “what good would that ever do you?”(Mays, 2024). Women are constantly treated unfairly when it comes to making any sort of decision. During this time period, men were the decision makers for anything and everything.

Henrick Ibsen uses relationships to show that women are treated unfairly and unequally. Ibsen shows multiple times that Helmer never thinks of Nora as an equal and constantly looks down upon the things that she can possibly do. Kristine and Nora were on two different spectrums when it came to maturity but either way both of them were handed unfair plates on different color platters. Women for a long time were never allowed to make big decisions and sometimes they are still questioned whether or not they can. “A Doll’s House,” was written to show feminist values that in the end even if women are treated like dolls and taken care of every step of the way, eventually they will want to break out and be independent. The last action in the play is Nora slamming a door which alludes to the fact that this is a closing chapter in Nora’s life because when one door closes, another one opens.

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