Societal Views of Women in the Victorian Era in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House

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Societal Views of Women in the Victorian Era in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House

A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen, creates a peephole into the lives of a family in the Victorian Era. The play portrays a female viewpoint in a male-dominated society. The values of the society are described using the actions of a woman, Nora, who rebels against the injustices inflicted upon her gender. Women’s equality with men was not recognized by society in the late 1800’s. Rather, a woman was considered a doll, a child, and a servant. Nora’s alienation reveals society’s assumptions and values about gender.

A woman was considered by society to be a doll because she was expected to be subordinate to her husband’s whims. Referring to a ball that she would attend, Nora asks her husband, Torvald, if he would “take me in hand and decide what I shall go as and what sort of dress I should wear” (26). Nora relies completely on how her husband would dress her, just like a doll. Just as Nora is treated as a doll, she interacts with her children as such. She doesn’t raise them, she merely “play[s] and romp[s] with the children” (13). She tells Torvald, “our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll wife, just as at home I was Papa’s doll child; and here the children have been my dolls” (67). In this conversation, she shows her alienation as a woman in society by expressing discontent with her role in life.

In addition to being treated like a doll, Nora is also regarded as a small child. Victorian society looks upon women’s intelligence as no better than a child’s. Torvald tells her, “You talk like a child. You don’t understand the conditions of the world in which you live” (69). Yet, he does nothing to rectify the situation. While ...

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... a heedless child” (70).

Because of Torvald’s inability to grasp the concept of equality, Nora leaves him. Society’s values are revealed by Nora’s declaration of equality and independence. Through Nora’s rebellious declaration and departure, she removes herself from society’s standards and makes a move towards equality. She renounces society’s views of a woman as a child, doll, and slave. Men in Victorian society told a woman how to act as a parent to a child, how to dress for a public event as an owner to a doll, and how to keep her thoughts to herself as a master to a slave. Henrik Ibsen portrayed qualities of the Victorian era through the alienated female gender, represented by Nora.

Works Cited

Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House. Dover Thrift Edition, 1992

Northam, John. Ibsen. A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. 1965.
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