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A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen Essay

A Doll’s House is the most famous work of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. It has been staged throughout the world since way back until now, one and a half century later. However, few plays have had a similar impact globally on social norms and conditions (UNESCO, 2008). Ibsen introduces a play that is adequate in all aspects, much as it is intriguing in his time. It is a play of depth, gravity, and social relevance that it extends it’s importance and application even in the present society. This play tackles the life of middle class people in Ibsen’s time and how their lives are heavily affected when they encounter various crises.

However, much as it is about families, it highlights the struggles of women and their sacrifices in creating harmony and stability in the home at the expense of their own personal, physical, and emotional well-being. A Doll’s House criticises the traditional roles of men and women in 19th-century marriage (Shapiro, 99). During this era, this was considered quite scandalous in the European countries because of the great value that they put on marriage. This play was met with a lot of criticisms but was eventually accepted as it simulated real-life occurrences that are experienced by a lot of women.

The theme dwells highly on the sacrificial role of women in the different classes of society. Since a number of the characters are women with their own stories to tell, the play was at one point or another considered as a feminist play. The theme was highlighted in the play with the introduction of these various women and their circumstances. For instance, the nanny in the play had her own share of sacrifice when she has to leave her own household to be a caretaker in the house of Nora and Torvald. This is an act of love by a mother to provide better means for her own child.

Another character who has impacted the play was Mrs. Linde who had to give up Krogstad despite her love for him. This was sacrificial of her happiness because she opted on marrying a richer man as society may have forced her to do. The most influential character and protagonist in the story is Nora, who in her lifetime, experieneced a lot of hardships and sacrifices in pleasing her husband as well as her father. It was a series of hardships for her because of the fact that society dictated Torvald to be the dominant partner and she has to be a slave to his every whim.

She was like a puppet on strings that should never fail to beguile, charm and entertain her husband as well as be like a trophy for him. She even has to be deathly afraid of the possibility that he may know of the loan despite the fact that it was for his sake. To quote Nora, “I have been performing tricks for you, Torvald. That’s how I’ve survived. You wanted it like that. You and Papa have done me a great wrong. It’s because of you I’ve made nothing of my life. ” This is somehow a summary of how she was made to feel like a childish, innocent woman, when in fact, she is just as intelligent and capable as they thought she was.

The moods of the play ranged from light to heavy as different secrets and stories unfold. This moods are highlighted by focusing on different scenes that contribute to the understanding of the story. For example, the lighter moods such as Torvald calling Nora using affectionate names highlights the theme in a way that it expresses Nora’s dependence on Torvald as well as her helplessness. Another notable aspect in the stage direction of the play is the use of the scene of the porter in the opening and Nora’s and Torvald’s discussion of money.

This also puts the spotlight on money being one of the forces that creates the conflict in the play. As the scenes progress, some aspects of the play contribute to the progression of the theme like the scene where Nora still practiced her routine despite her nervousness on the impending confrontation about the loan. This simply shows how she is experiencing extreme anxiety but still refuses to give in to the fear and prefer to still please her husband. This also highlights the title as it is symbolic of the characteristics of dolls.

It reiterates the idea that as a doll, Nora should only work on being pleasing to her husband and never grow or improve. Another inclusion, such as Nora eating maccaroons even if Torvald forbids it, is quite satirical but is also symbolic of Nora’s realization that she should take a stand sometimes. “As to symbolism, [Ibsen] says that life is full of it, and therefore his plays are full of it, though critics insist on discovering all sorts of esoteric meanings in his work of which he is entirely innocent (Metheun, 1991.

” As to symbolisms, the use of the christmas tree in the play is very important as it embodies the character of Nora as a decorative element in the house. It reduces to her being just a plaything for Torvald and nothing more. This parallel observation was even highlighted in the second act as the christmas tree was decsribed as being “dishevelled” which is also the start of Nora’s questions and self instrospection. Another symbolic part of the play is the use of the New Year.

Being a festive event, it also is a symbol for newer things and beginnings. For Torvald, it was supposed to be the start of his new post in his job and the end to the loan that Nora is paying. However, the New Year proved to be something more than that. It was a start of conflicts and realizations that the married couple must face as they embark on a challenge on their marriage due to the radical decision that Nora has made. A Doll House is a play that is definitely noteworthy because of it’s timelessness.

The scocial relevance that it carries with it encompasses centuries as they are still obervable today. Society is definitely of patriarchal design and tends to be very critical of women and their actuations as well as their rights in the way of life. In the past, this was very much evident in almost a worldwide scale. Today, it is slowly improving as women are now open to doing more things for their self-improvement as the previously did.

This play is not only releveant as it showcases the life of women in the 19th century, but it also serves as an inspiration and a mark in the timeline of how women have gone from being dolls in the household to being independent and strong in real life. Works Cited Shapiro, Ann R. “The slammed door that still reverberates”. in Fisher, Jerilyn; Silber, Ellen S. Women in literature: reading through the lens of gender. Westport, CT: Greenwood. pp. 99–101. ISBN9780313313462. “Henrik Ibsen: A Doll’s House”. UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. 16 May 2008. Retrieved 14 December 2009.


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