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The Controversial Theme of A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen

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The Controversial Theme of A Doll's House

In his play, A Doll's House, Henrik Ibsen depicts a female protagonist, Nora Helmer, who dares to defy her husband and forsake her "duty" as a wife and mother to seek out her individuality. A Doll's House challenges the patriarchal view held by most people at the time that a woman's place was in the home. Many women could relate to Nora's situation. Like Nora, they felt trapped by their husbands and their fathers; however, they believed that the rules of society prevented them from stepping out of the shadows of men. Through this play, Ibsen stresses the importance of women's individuality. A Doll's House combines realistic characters, fascinating imagery, explicit stage directions, and an influential setting to develop a controversial theme.

The characters of this play help to support Ibsen's opinions. Nora's initial characteristics are that of a bubbly, child-like wife who is strictly dependent on her husband. This subordinate role from which Nora progresses emphasizes the need for change in society's view of women. For Nora, her inferior, doll-like nature is a facade for a deeper passion for individuality that begins to surface during the play and eventually fully emerges in the ending. An example of this deep yearning for independence is shown when Nora tells her friend, Kristina Linde about earning her own money by doing copying. Nora explains, "it was tremendous fun sitting [in her room] working and earning money. It was almost like being a man" (A Doll's House, 162). Mrs. Linde is an inspiration to Nora, because Kristina has experienced the independence that Nora longs for.

Even though Nora seeks to be independent, she uses her role of subordination to her advant...

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...ntroversial theme. Ibsen expresses to the audience his hope for the "miracle" of true equality, when neither men nor women abuse the power that society gives them. When Nora sheds her doll's dress and steps out into the real world, she opens up a new realm of possibilities for all women.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Agress, Lynne. The Feminine Irony: Women on Women in Early-Nineteenth-Century English Literature. London: Associated UP, 1978.

Durbach, Errol. A Doll's House: Ibsen's Myth of Transformation. Boston: Twayne, 1991.

Ibsen, Henrik. A League of Youth/ A Doll's House/ The Lady From the Sea. Trans. Peter Watts. England: Clays Ltd., 1965.

Salomé, Lou. Ibsen's Heroines. Ed. and trans. Siegfried Mandel. Redding Ridge: Black Swan, 1985.

Templeton, Joan. "The Doll House Backlash: Criticism, Feminism, and Ibsen." PMLA (January 1989): 28-40.
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