A Doll’s House (1879) by Henrik Ibsen focuses on the depiction of the issues that women faced in the nineteenth century. The author of the play depicts the status of females in the male-dominated society. Ibsen reveals such problems faced by women as the lack of respect, justice in treatment, as well as true love. The drama serves as a field for researchers in which they can use the feminist approach of literary criticism. The feminist criticism of A Doll’s House shows that the drama illustrates the ways in which marriage may suppress the development of female identity and hinder possibilities for a woman to gain freedom and respect from a husband.
From the beginning of the play, Henrik Ibsen presents Nora, the protagonist of A Doll’s House, as a submissive character who is willing to perform her husband’s wishes. Nora appears to the audience as the author’s mouthpiece of the female emancipation. The woman is trapped within the “doll’s house,” which is both her home and prison. Torvald, Nora’s husband, has built the life of his family in a way that is suitable only for him. With his dolly wife and children, Torvald has created a perfects life that is beneficial only for him. Although Nora wants to change her life and do something for herself, she cannot do it because of her husband’s constant domination and suppression. Within the family, the woman plays the role of a sex object as she is a loyal and dutiful wife who lives solely for the pleasure of Torvald. Things happen to Nora; however, she cannot make any things happen. The female has to follow the orders and carry out the desires of her husband like many women living in the nineteenth century.
In A Doll’s House, the writer tries to depictthe unjust treatment of women that was inherent to the male-dominated society during the nineteenth century. The drama is an effort to set females free from the culture in which men dominated. According to Uddin, those European women who lived in the eighteenth century did not play any role in society as their primary duties referred to cooking, sewing, cleaning, as well as raising children. Men treated them not as individuals who could think and act for themselves but as material possessions and decorative representatives of the family. Only in the second half of the nineteenth century, women tried not to follow the submissive conduct. Instead, they focused on the development of their individuality and raising the level of self-respect. However, despite these attempts, the male bourgeois society still expected their wives to be submissive objects. Such historical and social conditions that women experienced in that period may help the audience understand the role of Nora in Ibsen’s play. In A Doll’s House, the protagonist manages to go against the social standards and religious values. Nora struggles against imposed rules of the period when females have no right to ignore their husbands’ dictations and social norms of treating wives. The characters’ closing of “a heavy door” at the end of drama symbolizes the fact that she goes to the world, which may offer her a variety of possibilities. These features explain the reason why woman’s life is limited.
Nora’s life is substantially restricted in the play. At the beginning, Ibsen depicts the protagonist as a passive recipient of her husband’s submissive treatment. Torvald imposes his will on her and expects her to behave in the way he orders. For example, Nora cannot eat what she likes or spend money without Torvald’s permission. He argues, “It is a sweet little lark, but it gets through a lot of money. No one would believe how much it costs a man to keep such little bird as you”. The evidence proves that Torvald perceives the woman as an object and personal property. Later, Nora claims because of males she does not “fit for nothing really serious”. These words show that woman does not have any sense of individuality. Before marriage, Nora’s father treats her like a baby doll. The woman cannot express her opinion. The only thing that she is allowed is to obey to her father in any case. After the marriage, her husband also does not treat her as a human. Both her father and husband use her for their amusement. She does not have any right to think for herself while her duty is to accept their opinions. Both men limit the individuality of the character and restrict the development of her identity.
In A Doll’s House, the author depicts the protagonist’s attitude to males, mainly her husband, to help readers form their attitude towards the female and male characters in the play. From the beginning of the play, Nora not only obeys to her husband but also cares for him. It is evident in the episode when the woman forges a signature to obtain money that is necessary for Torvald’s treatment. The fact that Nora has borrowed money without asking for Torvald’s permission is not acceptable. However, to woman, saving her husband’s life is more significant than following social rules. Nora argues that men will never sacrifice their “honor for the one he loves” while “millions of women have done so”. When Krogstad threats to reveal the secret, matter to her husband, she hopes that Torvald will understand her. However, Helmer aggressively reacts to her action. The episode is the turning point of the drama. It helps the audience not only to observe Nora’s disappointment but also form their attitude towards the characters. At the end of the play, Helmer is presented as an egoist who believes that a wife should conform to the husband’s desires and opinions while Nora appears as a person who is ready to fight for her rights and freedom.
In the drama, Nora has little power as she is a submissive character. The character’s first attempt to exercise masculine power is the idea to borrow money by forging her father’s signature. The second one is a talk between Nora and her husband that represents a reversal of their previous roles as it is Nora who forces Torvald to examine their marriage from a new angle. In this episode, the woman also makes a decision to leave her husband to free herself from male domination and suppression, as well as develop her identity. Her decision shows that men do not have any right to treat their wives as objects. Such a conduct of the protagonist at the end of the play makes the audience respect the character. Nora becomes a bold individual. As a result, if the readers had a chance to rewrite the text’s ending, they probably would not change anything as the final scene serves as the manifestation of females.
In conclusion, the feminist approach of literary criticism of Ibsen’s play reveals the fact that it depicts how marriage may suppress the development of female identity and contribute to the loss of individuality. At the example of Nora, the author illustrates the life of women living in the nineteenth century. Henrik Ibsen shows how the male dominated society hinders any possibilities for women to gain freedom and respect from their husbands.