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According to Merriam-Webster, humanism is a philosophy that usually rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individual’s dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason. Humanism is not just about males or just about females; its about humans living as one. In Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, humanism is shown through every single word and every single detail. A Doll’s House centers on humanism because it demonstrates the search for identity, living up to societal standards, and believing that men and women are equal.
Throughout the entire play, each character searches for their true identity. First by her father then by Torvald, Nora is treated like a doll her entire life. She does not know how to live any other way. All the men in her life treat her as a porcelain figurine as if she did not know any better. On page 181, Nora quotes, “When I lived with Papa, he used to tell me what he thought about everything, so I never had any opinions but his.
And if I did have any of my own, I kept them quiet, because he wouldn’t have liked them.
He called me his little doll, and he played with me just the way I played with my dolls. Then I came here to the live in your house–” In this quote, Nora describes to Torvald how she never had no say in her life; she always was someone’s shadow. Once she decides to leave Torvald, she has found her true identity.
She decides to become an independent women and try to figure life out on her own. Nora isn’t the only character that is on a search for their true identity though. Krogstad is decried as morally corrupt by many of the characters.
And yet this fellow Krogstad has been sitting at home all these years poisoning his children with his lies and pretenses…” Krogstad, a single father, forged a document and got caught in his act. At the end of the play, the readers find out that Mrs. Linde and Krogstad had a relationship a while back in the life. Mrs. Linde proposed the option of them getting married, for financial reasons. Krogstad loves the idea and seems like he has never been this happy before. It turns out that Krogstad just never wanted to be lonely and just wanted a partner.
Seeking to find identity is what all human beings go through to find out who we, as a person, really are. Humanism also involves living up to societal expectations. Even in that time period, the characters experience different situations that anyone in this time period could go through as well. Torvald, being the man of the marriage and the father, has to take care of his whole family. Torvald did face many struggles, but one thing he did not do is show weakness. Because of society’s standards, showing weakness as a man was wrong.
As read on page 185 Torvald says, “…Nora! Nora! … Empty! She’s gone! … The miracle of miracles–? ” This quote shows that Torvald is a little broken-hearted about Nora’s decision to leave but we does not do anything about it. He just watches Nora slam the door behind him. Torvald could not change to be the man Nora wanted. Society’s expectations also put a lot of pressure on the citizens to gain money. Just because of money, Nora and Krogstad both break the law by forging a document. Plus Nora went behind her husband’s back just to gain a few extra bucks along the way.
Also because of financial reasons, Mrs. Linde left Krogstad to be with a wealthier man to support her family. It seems like money revolves around everyone in this play. Money was the common goal that all citizens, male or female, required in their life to make it function properly. Living up to society’s expectations can lead to someone having troubles in their life, even in the 1800’s. One very important factor in humanism is equality. In the late 1800’s, there were absolutely no equal rights between men and women.
Ibsen shows through his writings that regardless the gender, all should be equal. Ibsen gave Nora the role almost as if she was a man. On page 148, Nora tells Mrs. Linde, “Whenever Torvald gave me money to buy myself new clothes, I never used more that half of it; and I always bought what was cheapest and plainest…” In this quote Nora explains that she saves up some money, without Torvald knowing. Nora took roles that helped out her family financially. This is odd because in that time period, that was the men’s job.
Nora almost disobeyed her role as a women to have a men’s role in life. Ibsen gave Nora this role to show that females were capable of making money and supporting their family. While the women knew this, the men of that time period thought the opposite. Also Ibsen stressed that women are females too. He showed through the text that females were capable of getting a job and making the money, just like the males. Even Mrs. Linde got a job of her own that replaced a male. Ibsen strongly believes that both men and women should be equally viewed, no matter what time period.
In Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House, he portrays humanism on the next level. A Doll’s House and humanism are connected by the search for identity, the society’s standards, and the fact that both men and women deserve to be equal. Everyone has a different view on what Ibsen thoughts were when he was writing this play. Behind every word he wrote, there was a moral that Ibsen tried to get the reader to understand. Even when human rights were frowned upon, Ibsen knew that change needed to be done and equality needed to happen.
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