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Often literature is used to underline some social problems, to criticize and to some extent eliminate certain defects of social system. For example, fictional characters may be depicted as victims of society. Thus, A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen focuses upon this dilemma in society during Victorian epoch. Ibsen raises much controversy on the roles of males and females in society and tires to attract attention to hypocrisy and use of public opinion to suppress individuality.
A number of literary critics treated Ibsen’s play as a means for infringing social norms and rules, for instance, Bjorn Hemmer, literary critic and researcher, in his article in The Cambridge Companion to Ibsen, observed: “The people who live in such a society know the weight of ‘public opinion’ and of all those agencies which keep watch over society’s ‘law and order’: the norms, the conventions and the traditions which in essence belong to the past but which continue into the present and there thwart individual liberty in a variety of ways” (Hemmer, 83).
Almost every key personage of A Dolls’ House is presented as a victim of society.
Torvald is a victim of society, because he is forced by the need to fit into society’s standards and to be treated as a representative of a high social status. Torvald knows very well about the pressures, produced by the society upon him and shows his willingness to get adjusted to them. Though Torvald is a victim of social circumstances, Ibsen makes it absolutely clear that he is quite comfortable and satisfied with the idea.
Torvald has reached everything he may have wanted, and everything he may have been expected by society to have, in life.
He established a family, with a beautiful wife and three children, a big comfortable house, a respectable job, which provided him with a higher status in society, he supervises other people in his business, and enough money so that he can spoil his pet, Nora. Probably, due to all these achievements Torvald does not want to do anything such as “touch any case that isn’t – well – nice” if it can affect his image and make him bad reputation. Torvald is ready to do whatever is required to prevent the need to “cut costs to an absolute minimum” and “save every cent” again, in other words he is not ready to lose what he has earned at any cost.
The last scene makes it apparent when he wants to conceal Nora’s misdeeds, only to prevent it leaving a bad mark on his name: “I must try to buy him off somehow. This thing must be hushed up at any price. ” (Ibsen, Act 3) Torvald would do everything to keep up to any expectation set by society for people. He created his own social image as someone who must maintain an important and influential role in the family. He is confident that maintaining such an image will make him become similar to everybody else, in society.
Being the male and husband Torvald believes that it is his responsibility to be the family supporter the head of the household: “you will not find me lacking in strength or courage. I am a man enough to bear the burden for us both. ” (Ibsen, Act 2) The implications of social impact on Torvald’s moral convictions appear in Act 3. The realization that society may get to know about Nora’s actions almost kills Torvald. He cannot go through the fact that his wife tried to give support to him and save his life: “he’s so proud of being a man- it’d be so painful and humiliating for him to know that he owed anything to me (Nora).
” (Ibsen, Act 1) Social tradition claims the opposite – the man is to support the family and to protect them. Another critic of Ibsen’s works Gail Finney in the same book The Cambridge Companion to Ibsen says that in the notes for A Doll’s House, Ibsen comments that a mother in modern society is “like certain insects who go away and die when she has done her duty in the propagation of the race. ” (Finney, 91) The evidence for this opinion one can find in Torvald’s rejection of his wife as soon as he discovers her secret; he insists that she is not good for bringing up their children if her good name is disgraced.
The importance for being accepted into society for Torvald is also evident when Torvald reveals about Nora’s agreement with Krogstad. It becomes obvious that Nora and Torvald’s ideal marriage had been a falsification made for society’s sake. Torvald introduces society’s views and destroys Nora’s belief that he truly loved her: “As regards to our relationship- we must appear to be living together just as before. Only appear of course. ” (Ibsen, Act 3) He appears as an absolute hypocrite and cares how her actions may harm his reputation.
Torvald’s wife Nora is also a victim of society because of Torvald’s wish for being a perfect family, in order to fit in into social stereotype. As a consequence, Nora is convinced that it is her responsibility as a wife to live up to Torvald’s expectations and play the established role, in order to satisfy the society. At the beginning of A Doll’s House a reader perceives Nora as a doll controlled by her husband. She relies on him in everything. At first Nora enjoys playing the role of Torvald’s obedient wife. She finds it appropriate to be comfortable in society.
The Christmas presents bought for the children prove that she follows the stereotypical views of society. She makes her children to respond to the different treatment by feeling different and behaving differently. She reinforces the stereotypical gender roles that keep her in subordination to her husband. Nora treats her daughter the same way she seems to be treated all of her life – that is, as a doll: “A trumpet for Bob. And a doll and a cradle for Emmy. ’ (Ibsen, Act 1) Nora protests against society’s morals that “a wife can’t borrow money without the husband consent.
” (Ibsen, Act 1) but as she realizes it is not proper and wrong thing to do, nevertheless, she finds it “great fun, though, sitting there working and earning money. Almost like being a man. ” (Ibsen, Act 1) As the play proceeds Nora becomes aware that she has been disillusioned that it is her duty to act as the ornament and prize to her husband, the role which society has given to her. The moment in A Dolls’ House where Nora takes off her fancy dress, symbolizes her refusal to remain the same person as she was: “Taking off my fancy dress…I’ve changed. ” (Ibsen, Act3).
Finally she finds courage to reject playing the role to please society. The example of a person who once being a victim of society changes as soon as the whole situation changes is Mrs. Linde. The social circumstances made her marry the man who she did not love, but could support her ill mother and two brothers. But after her husband’s death she behaves as an independent woman. She must work to support herself and become self-sufficient. Torvald in this case again reveals his biases in relation to women’s proper roles in society: “Well, it is not altogether impossible.
I presume you are a widow, Mrs. Linde? … Ah! well, it’s very likely I may be able to find something for you” (Ibsen, Act 1) The analysis of the choices the characters from the play make in society, either to follow the social convention or be a social outcast, like Dr. Rank, reveals characters readiness to be a victim of society. Dr Rank while being a respectable man with important profession of doctor and supposed to be an important and honorable member of society he is a victim of both his father’s mistake and social conviction that he deserved such fate.
Through Torvald’s words it becomes evident that Dr. Rank was always an eyesore for perfect social circle: “He with his sufferings and loneliness was like a cloudy background to our sunlit happiness. Well, perhaps it is best so. ” (Ibsen, Act 3) No matter, whether major or minor, most of the characters throughout the whole play are presented as victims because of their wish to be accepted into society. A Doll’s House openly declares the need for a renewed society’s understanding of males and females role.
Works Cited list:
Goldman, Emma, The Social Significance of the Modern Drama.The Gorham Press, Boston, 1914 Retrieved on 18 Nov. 2005 from Hemmer, Bjorn. “Ibsen and the Realistic Problem Drama”. The Cambridge Companion to Ibsen. Ed. James McFarlane, Cambridge University Press, 1994, 68-88. Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll’s House. 1879. Trans. James McFarlane and Jens Arup. 1981. Retrieved on 07 Nov. 2005 http://www. classicreader. com/booktoc. php/sid. 7/bookid. 2011/ Finney, Gail. “Ibsen and Feminism”. The Cambridge Companion to Ibsen. Ed. James McFarlane, Cambridge University Press, 1994, 89-105.
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