Gender Roles in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House Essay

Gender Roles in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House Essay

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Henrik Ibsen’s famous play A Doll’s House was first published in 1879 and contains elements and characters that appear to support feminism, and drew attention from the women’s rights movement. However, Ibsen himself said that he was not a feminist; rather, his play is about the human nature in general, and is not specifically about women’s rights. Over the years, this was the view that most scholars used to interpret the play, but more recently scholars have produced an opposing argument. Margaret Stetz, one such scholar, writes that “To call Ibsen a feminist playwright or to describe A Doll’s House as a drama in favor of women’s rights is no longer controversial” (150). The most obvious example of Ibsen’s view on gender roles is the relationship between Nora and Helmer and, more specifically, Nora’s self-discovery at the end of the play. Other characters, however, such as Mrs. Linde and Krogstad, as well as Anne-Marie, play a part in defining gender roles in A Doll’s House. In this essay, I will discuss the ways in which Ibsen represents gender roles in A Doll’s House through the characters in his play and the differing views about feminism and gender roles in the play.
At the beginning of the play, Nora and Helmer’s relationship appears to be a typical marriage in the 1800s. Helmer, as the man, is the head of the house and Nora is portrayed as the naïve, “spendthrift” wife who has no dealings with the financial situation of the family. However, as the story evolves, a different side of Nora emerges. She attempts to conform to society’s views of gender roles in order to keep her “beautiful and happy home” and fears that telling her husband about what she did will “completely upset the balance of [their] relationship” (891). ...

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...nd society, and the differences between Nora and Anne Marie, the nursemaid. Anne Marie, as Stetz points out, was forced to “give up her own daughter, who was born out of wedlock, in order to take the job of raising Nora” (151). However, she does not seem discontent with her position in life; in fact, she seems quite content to have gotten “such a good situation out of it” (905) in coming to be Nora’s nursemaid, and then that of Nora’s children.

Works Cited

Kennedy, X. J., and Dana Gioia. "A Doll’s House." Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. 4th ed. New York, N.Y. Longman/Pearson, 2008. 881-939. Print
Templeton, Joan. "The Doll House Backlash: Criticism, Feminism, and Ibsen." PMLA 104.1 (1989): 28-40. Print.
Stetz, Margaret D. "Mrs. Linde, Feminism, and Women's Work, Then and Now." Isben Studies 7.2 (2007): 150-68. Print.

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