Task: Ibsen Take-home Essay
Question 3: Literary texts often pose questions about an established social order. Discuss how representations have been constructed in A Doll’s House in order to critique, reinforce or destabilise social institutions and/or social expectations
In the play A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen uses theatre as a means of voicing his own opinions on the imperfections of his society, posing question about the crippling effects these flaws will inevitably cause. The play’s protagonist Nora Helmer is presented as a “realistic human individual” through the literary genre of social realism. The play reflects the society of the time from which it was written, nineteenth century Norway, with a dominant male and a subservient wife. Both Torvald, Nora and their relationship are represented as reflections of the society expectations constructed through dialogue and characterisation. With this Ibsen critiques and highlights the injustices plaguing his society, advocating for the equal rights and treatment of men and women, not just in the eyes of the law but throughout society.
In the case of Ibsen’s, A Doll’s House, both the world of the play and the world the author lived in are the same. He wrote A Doll’s House in Norway in 1879, and the play presumably took place sometime in the very same decade. The play, set in an upper-middle class home, demonstrates the importance of social class in late-19th century Norway. Born into the upper-middle class himself, Ibsen not only understood the importance of social class during his time, but also the expectations placed on all of its members. Similarly, A Doll’s House tells the story of husband and wife, Torvald and Nora: a married couple living in a society where in which to keep your social standing, it is necessary that you abide by its strict, and at times, suffocating standards. Being all too aware of the subordination and subservience of women in nineteenth century Norwegian society, Ibsen wrote in his very notes for A Doll’s House in 1878, “A woman cannot be herself in contemporary society, it is an exclusively male society with laws drafted by men, and with counsel and judges who judge feminine conduct from the male point of view”. This is why Nora’s declaration that she also had “a duty to herself” shocked the audiences of the play’s time. The play exposed the injustice upon women, which was inherent in the culture and attitude of the male-dominated society. This new ideology providing an alternative to the rigid and supressing societal structure, both shocked and enlightened it’s audiences, though not initially well received.
Nora is represented in the play as the epitome of a nineteenth century Norwegian wife imprisoned by her own marriage and required to submissively care to the every need of her husband and children, while trapped within a household of chauvinism. The title “A Doll’s House" acts as a metaphor for Nora’s captivity and lack of humanitarian rights within the patriarc...