A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen was written as a result of the rules and conventions obtained by the Northern European Society. In this novel, he proposed that the society was controlled in a restricted manner and was extremely unfair. Although the social context may have differed since the 19th century, the universality and comprehension of the issue of gender equality persists. As years have passed, society has accustomed themselves to providing women with their independence and job opportunities however, a division between gender roles with respect to their roles in society still remains the same in numerous countries and cultures
In the novel, Ibsen marginalises the main female characters Nora and Mrs.Linde. This is evident as the male characters direct patronising and belittling dialogue towards them. The relationship between Nora and Torvald is portrayed as more paternalistic because he addresses Nora with numerous demeaning pet names such as “little squirrel” (25). These pet names assert his authority and power within the household. Moreover, Ibsen makes sure Torvald is depicted as very controlling of most of the conversation, and the contrast in lengths of dialogue, until the last act, casts back the relative position of women in a society.
In European Society, the social structure have imposed a political and legal marginalisation of women. Perception of men has differed from the 19th century as men were once the sole breadwinners of the household. For the middle class behaviour, standards were set in which men were to be held up as the superior being in the family, and women, “spendthrift[s],” (24) as quoted from A Doll’s House by Nora’s obsession with having “lots and lots of money.” (24) Ibsen harshly lambastes these societal values by accentuating the importance of male dominance and the lack of attention expressed toward women in the novel. Ibsen has incorporated a sense of comedic stereotyping which is expressed through the difference in the attitude of spending between men and women however, there are evidences of a much deeper issue beneath the comedic surface.
Women were debarred from important decision-making and significant matters occurring within society hence, Nora was carved into an unconventional protagonist to provocate Victorian society’s definition of a woman this was evident through her actions which are focused on defying the societal and gender norms. An instance in the novel which provides proof in regards to Nora’s defiance is the handling of debts, which is mostly perceived as a man’s duty. Mrs.Linde is seen throughout the novel as Nora’s confidante however, she also plays a more significant role as she is much more independent. Regardless of the fact that both female characters, Nora and Mrs.Linde are sharply contrasting in terms of personality, Mrs.Linde is observed as also being submissive as she resorts to asking Torvald for help as he “may be able to find some job for [her],” (42) However, as she is relevantly unimportant to Torvald, he displays a lack of interest and treats her in a casual manner hence, indicating that the reliance of women on men for financial resources also marginalized them, as there was a disregard for women concerning monetary control and employment.
Nora is prideful about her involvement in acquiring a pecuniary advantage as she believes it will manifest her ability in order to become an independent woman and to prove that she is not “completely useless,” (36) therefore, delineating the way in which she is viewed due to her gender. Individual freedom is a thematic focus in A Doll’s House. Torvald encourages Nora to be confident with her physical appearance. This is seen in the play as he tells others to “take a good look” (85) at his “most treasured possession” (87), reinforcing the norms in society where women were objectified for personal pleasure or desire. This suggests that they were exposed to a restricted amount of opportunities and their individual expressions were dismissed because only male opinions were taken into consideration. The objectification of Nora as a “doll” (98) or a ‘trophy wife’ symbolises a prison constructed on the basis on patriarchy where women are forcefully confined to the house in order to perform their “sacred duties” (100), and in which “first and foremost [Nora is] a wife and mother.” Her secret indulgence in “macaroons” (27), which is representative of her hidden desire for independence and to be “free” (78), reflects the repression against women in society.
As the act progresses, there is a significant hierarchical shift and this is evident through the gradual increase of strength and power seeping through Nora’s dialogue as she embodies the personality and characteristics of being an untraditional woman by disregarding the societal conventions where women were expected to yield to men. In the third act, towards the end of the play, Nora begins to depict freedom and is finally acknowledged by Torvald when she says, ‘I’ve a lot to say to you’ (97). Despite the fact that there is as yet uneven turn taking among her and Torvald, she dominates the volume in the conversation, with the utilization of imperative phrases, for example, ‘don’t interrupt me’ (97) and an inexorably confident tone, which foreshadows her ascending to power and Nora starting to dominate the relationship.
In spite of this, Torvald reveals to Nora that she is ‘blind’ as she has ‘no experience of the world’ (99). This vulnerability was present in women amid this time, as they were viewed as unintelligent individuals who had no concern for humanity. Arguably, this vulnerability is an aftereffect of women being treated as unimportant and inferior to men, as men were given more opportunities than women and were believed to be more influential.
In conclusion, the female characters in A Doll’s House were marginalised by the values and confinements imposed by society which was dominated by men. A Doll’s House depicts Ibsen’s convictions of independence and opportunity. Nora is a strong character, her rebellion towards Torvald, gives her the chance to explore her personality. While, Mrs.Linde serves as an example of women relying upon men, as she identifies Krogstad as somebody to ‘live for’ (84), which further articulates a man’s power within society as Mrs.Linde feels that life would not be content without a spouse. The complexities between the two ladies gives us alternate points of view on gender inequality and the minimization of ladies. Nora’s character and actions surpass this and show the comprehensiveness of her battle as well as the insubordination to social measures as the play closes with Nora being a dignified woman with unrestrained choices.