Theme Of Feminism In A Doll's House

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Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 A Doll’s House is inherently a feminist play as it illuminates the struggles faced by European women – as represented by Nora – in the 19th century; and, in Act Three, explicitly rejects the patriarchy which oppressed them. If one defines patriarchy as a force which denies a woman autonomy, and feminism as a movement which liberates her, then this passage is a microcosm of the conflict between the two – Torvald tries to assert his dominance over Nora, who insistently proclaims her independence. This section is also central to the modernity – defined by Marshall Berman as “an attempt […] to become subjects as well as objects […] to make themselves at home in [the modern world]” (5) – of the text.
Berman’s definition of modernity
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Wollstonecraft called for women to “unfold their faculties” (72), to be independent in thought and action, rather than have their lives dictated by men; in Act III of A Doll’s House, Nora carries out this feminist vision. In asserting “I have to think things out for myself, and get things clear” (82), she asserts that she will educate herself and make her own choices – she will unfold her faculties. It also echoes Wollstonecraft’s notion that “women should [..] [be] educated in such a manner as to be able to think and act for themselves” (114), as this is exactly what Nora is insinuating for herself. She elevates her own position to a status of an autonomous individual, using simple, strong declaratives containing first person pronouns such as “All I know is that this is necessary for me” and “I believe that first and foremost I am an individual” (82). This repeated assertion of her own needs and of her own self-governance encapsulates the most basic principle of feminism, that of the right to agency in one’s own life, which Wollstonecraft continuously argued for. A humanist interpretation might suggest that this reflects a wider issue, as all of humanity lack full autonomy under capitalism, and that this is what Ibsen aimed to address. Arguably, this is the overarching condition of modern life; however, it is women who lack the most basic autonomy – she is denied freedom of speech, freedom of tenure, and freedom of action, all of which men possess for themselves, and regulate in women. Thus, that the play argues centrally for women’s liberation is the reading one must return
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