Women and Femininity “The Dollhouse”

Women and Femininity “The Dollhouse”

Henrik Ibsen’s “A Dollhouse” focuses on women issues in Victorian Norway. More particularly, its main issue is the status of women in the society and their treatment by their counterparts, men. There is also the lack of respect and true life for a wife from their husband and the lack of dignity and justice in women treatment by the society itself.

Henrik Ibsen’s “A Dollhouse” is a flourishing area for feminist criticism. Ibsen has been viewed as a social realist by feminist critics. They also see him as a revolutionary and innovative thinker, and an angel for the repressed suppressed and oppressed women in Europe and Norway in the nineteenth century. It is true that the play is about women’s right to freedom, individual, and the many ways through which marriage stifles conventional provincial in the Victorian society thwarts and frustrate women individuality who are as capable as their husbands.

Nora is similar to most women in a society, contemporary. She has all the natural skills and abilities to develop into a powerful and successful member of the society, like other men. In fact, her sense of justice, critical mind, ability to change, lack of hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness in connection to tradition, and other qualities-positive- would aid her in making tremendous progress and developing her personality, her society and her family: if she’s granted the opportunity and regard from her stupid husband.

Nora Helmer is the main character and she attempts to realise the proper notion that is set for her by the husband and society contexts. She contrasts other women in Henrik Ibsen’s “A Dollhouse”. She is trapped in the ‘dollhouse’, her home, physically. Her husband, Torvald, has built an amazing but imitative life for her special doll wife and their beautiful dolly children. She later transforms and discovers her role in role in the society, dollhouse, that has been placed on her and she desperately needs to get out, at all costs.

While she is the central character and protagonist, there are many other women character in the ‘dollhouse.’ Anne Marie, their nurse, stands for everything that Nora opposes. They contrast, directly. Anne Marie gives up her daughter to be adopted so that she can survive in the dollhouse society. Nora calls this a tragedy for Anne Marie who continues on with her life as usual. She gladly accepts her role in the society by content and contest with two letters from the lifetime of her daughter (Clayes & Spencer, 1962).

However, they are similar to a point. While Nora accepts her role in the society to a point, Anne Marie accepts her role fully. Torvald tries to explain to her wife, Nora, that a lying mother poisons children. Nora accepts this advice as truth and decides to leave her children. Nora like Anne Marie, allows her husband to select her position in the society showing another side of hers. However, her decision to leave her children and her husband is not an acceptance to what society has thrown at her. She makes a life transformation (Krutch, 1953).

Ibsen uses Mrs Christine Linde’s character to express women abilities and achievements without a man. Mrs Linde takes off her young brothers who had a bright future and dying mother. The demeaning theme of Nora’s simple life is alluded by Mrs Linde “How kind you are Nora…for you know so little of the burdens and troubles of life…My dear! Small household cares and that sort of thing!—you are a child, Nora.” She is more than outraged by this remark. Her dear friend, Christine, doesn’t take her seriously and the individual she tries to be.

Henrik Ibsen’s “A Dollhouse” shows how women are stereotypically represented in the Victorian society as naïve, irrational and men dependent. The Victorian way of life lowers women to a demesne way of domestication by depriving women of a voice, political or otherwise, while asking men to identify with a rational dialogue which divides and denies the sense of feeling and its importance.

The Victorian society was divided into private and public spheres. This division gave husband and wife unique functions that are complimentary. Women function as religious and moral guides to their children and husbands and they were required to care for their children and the house. Women were to blame if the children turned bad and their family untainted. Nora is threatened by her husband, Torvald, after discovering her crimes. Women are put on a pedestal and cage by this division. Women exist in this society to only perform their husbands’ tricks.

On the other hand, Nora is a different character and transitions to a monster from a flawed angel. Outwardly, she is innocent, cheerful, and a home angel but she proves the readers otherwise. Krogstad drives her to madness after discovering her crime, forgery, by blackmail. She dearly loves her husband who doesn’t reciprocate these love feelings.

The patriarchy system enslaved women to their gender roles and enforced some restrictions to women. Women were raised believing they had no self-control and self-government. They were raised believing that they must yield and blindly follow their husbands. In this society, men were viewed as individuals who would write laws, judge women and prosecute criminals on their beliefs. Men are also imprisoned in their roles. Ibsen boldly questions the society’s norms and rules through the Nora and Torvald marriage-unbalanced and unfair power sharing between women and men. The language was full utilised in this male dominated society to create a perception of a leader and subject and possessor and possessed.

Torvald uses anti-feminist language. He refers to his wife, Nora, using animal terms like squirrel and skylark suggesting that he does not adore his wife and doesn’t view her as an equal. This also shows us how he treats her; as a pet. In some occasions, she calls her a possession, like she was a thing and not a human being. The use of demeaning terms shows the society’s way of viewing women as inferior. Torvald also has all the power in the marriage since he controls money and gives it to her as a gift.

This society does not give both sexes the right to explore and discover their true identities. They, Torvald and Nora, conform to the roles, socially. Unfortunate for her, she is not fulfilled by motherhood and marriage. This role doesn’t fully utilise her skills and abilities. She attempts to copy the currency to level up her debts, just like a man. For her, this experience is enjoyable and fun. From her conversation with Christine, we find out that Nora is a suppressed woman. She is even linguistically bound.

From a feminist standpoint, the play exposes women’s economic dependency. Even if they wanted, women were not permitted to work. It was the responsibility of the man to work and ensure that his family is fed. Torvald calls Nora a spendthrift demonstrating her weakness, unlike his strength. Having both the qualities of a woman and a man, Nora acts differently. Ibsen created Nora to be farsighted and independent. She was also adolescently capricious. The ability to mix both childishness and wisdom display her unique qualities which enable her to defy her husband and society.

It is necessary to rethink if Henrik Ibsen’s “A Dollhouse” as a play is only about women. Henrik himself claimed that it was not a feminist play. He went further ahead to argue that it was a humanist play. This can be interpreted as the main subject of this play was every individual’s need, whether woman or man, to discover the true identity of the person. It is not only about women. His suggestion was that the play is generally about humanity justice.

This means that the play should be viewed from a high level of human concern. He witnessed the injustice women faced and documented it. This implies that the play is about women and injustice. The play is concerned with humanity than feminism. He, Henrik, was more of a humanist that a feminist. Since he was a humanist, he had no reason for one to be a manist or feminist.

His failure to limit the meaning of the play to be feminist fails to change the psychological and emotional effect the play has on readers and audiences. The play deals with women predicaments; the topic of the play is wife disillusionment; it is the unforeseen move a wife takes that ends the play; the women in the play gain maximum sympathy from the reader and audiences. Whatever his intentions, the play raises a great deal of pity for women and their cause.

Eventually, Nora overcomes the societal stereotypes of a custom woman who is subservient and docile. She defies and rejects her society tailored role and opposes the social morals and standards. The play portrays women’s rights and freedom as a human rights problem. It shows the need for women to independently recognise their true identities in a suppressive and male dominated society. Moreover, it shows the need to discover oneself and act on it irrespective of the social way of life (Krutch, 1953).

The play exposes the injustice inflicted upon women. This injustice was natural in male attitude and the culture that allowed for male domination in society in Norway. It asks for justice, be it to humanity or women. This play shows the unfair marriage system and the need for individuality while fighting for one’s own freedom by protesting all societal restrictions.

Ibsen views social conventions and instructions as an enemy of individuals since they restrict their personal identity and freedom. His work, “A Dollhouse” expands the women’s position outlook whose freedom and individuality has been taken away by the society and male. Nora, as a wife, woman, and mother acts like a doll. She is controlled by invisible forces and the patriarchal society pressures. He protests the women position in an unfair society dominated by male.

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