The idea of equality for women has been the subject of countless books, speeches, and performances for decades. The concept of a world in which a woman can be considered equal to a man is not a new concept in today’s society, but it was in that of 19th century Norway. This is the world of noted playwright Heinrik Ibsen, a forward thinking individual with ideas that challenged the restrictions of society time and time again. A forerunner in the women’s rights movement, Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House offers a commentary much before its time on the dangers of a patriarchal society through the evolution of its protagonist, Nora. In his play, Ibsen uses the Christmas tree to symbolize the growing empowerment and independence of Nora, as well as the steady deterioration of Nora and Helmer’s marriage.
The beginning of the play portrays the Christmas tree as being well put together and beautiful, the same way as the protagonist, Nora. Her relationship with her husband Torvald can be considered to be picture-perfect, a fact that can be contributed mostly to her subservience. As long as Nora knows her place in the home and remains compliant, their relationship seems wonderful. Nora’s blind obedience at the opening of the play is evident as she adorns the tree with beautiful flowers and candles, promising to “do everything [she] can think of to please,” even offering to sing and dance for his pleasure (Act 1). This exemplifies the way Nora still works to maintain the appearances of both her family and her tree, dressing the tree so that it is “splendid” and also promising to do Torvald’s bidding to ensure his contentment. It also establishes a correlation between the ...
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...fail, but also creates repercussions that reach far beyond those individuals. Nora and Torvald Helmer seem to be the archetypal example of this, as their unequal relationship led them to assigning priority to material items. Once Nora realizes her mistake, she discovers that she must place herself first and no longer finds fulfillment in the superficial aspects of her life that she once found so fascinating. Through the subtle correlation between the tree and Nora, Ibsen indicates to the audience that not only does the oppression of women lead to the destruction of healthy relationships (a concept that is indicated in various ways throughout the play) but it also distorts the priorities of an individual.
Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll's House. Trans. William Archer. Boston: Walter H. Baker & Co., 1890. Gleeditions. Web. 12 April 2014
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