In what ways and with what effects has “The Doll’s House” offered a critique of the culture?
Ibsen wanted to use his play “A Doll’s House” to challenge the norms of society and criticize the way middle-class married woman were looked at. He wanted to portray Nora’s struggle through the restriction of society. The theme of a woman’s right to individuality and the theme of a man and his wife trying to live their own individual lives were the cause of harsh criticism and controversy in the play because the audience of the late 19th century had never seen women as equals to men. They felt the play was too unrealistic, as in those days women were not seen as individuals but as dependent on their husbands or their fathers. The play created uproar in the contemporary theatres with Nora rejecting her family life and separating from Torvald. Nora’s character and her relationship with Torvald were Ibsen’s tools to criticize society’s portrayal of a typical housewife Ibsen challenged the views of the people at that time by portraying middle class women in a way they had never been seen in.Order now
The theme of a middle-class woman trying to be independent and do business behind her husband’s back was Ibsen’s way of challenging the stereotype of a middle-class woman. He portrayed Nora as the typical 19th century housewife at the start of the play as can be seen in the dialogue between her and her husband, Torvald and by how she goes along with her husbands whims and fancies. But you also see her keeping secrets from her husband when she hides the macaroons from him –
“Hel: Hasn’t Miss Sweet Tooth been breaking rules in town today?
Nora: No; what makes you think that?”1
This was a foreshadow to the other much bigger secret that Nora kept from Torvald about borrowing money from Krogstad. Nora realized that she could not be bound down by the norms of society and by her husband’s views. Torvald wanted Nora to do what he wanted and think what he thought. He wanted her to be able to live up to his image in society. Nora decided that she could not take that sort of treatment. She wanted to start working and living for herself, not having to be tied down by social customs. This made her leave her children and Torvald. Her decision to leave shocked theatergoers, as they had never seen anything like it before as it totally went against the culture of the time.
The theme of a husband and wife both having to live separate lives was also criticized harshly because it was not considered proper in society for a man and is wife to be divorced at that time. Torvald was portrayed by Ibsen as the typical husband who thought his wife could not live independently. He also was only concerned with his social position. He did not care what trouble Nora would have to face because she forged her father’s signature but was worried about what society would think of them. Ibsen went against the culture at that time by showing the wife as an independent person who could live without the help of her husband or her father. Divorce was frowned on by society and divorcees were shrouded with social stigma. Ibsen felt hat showing a wife and her husband, as two individual entities would challenge the culture’s prejudice that a wife needed her husband or her father to provide for her.
Nora’s character was the main component of Ibsen’s rebellion against the 19th century society. She was rebellious and independent. She lied to Torvald and ultimately left him when she found out that he only worried about his social position. She may have appeared to be a simpleton but it was only a guise. She actually knew a lot about business because of the loan she had taken. She also was able to keep a lot of secrets from Torvald for a very long time. Ibsen used her character to show what the new age woman would be like. He wanted the audience to feel that she was what modern woman would be like.
The relationship between Torvald and Nora and the gender roles was also a challenge to the culture by Ibsen. In most of the play, Torvald is the one with the power in the relationship while Nora is the subdued servile one. Torvald’s choice of nicknames for Nora like “squirrel” and “skylark” almost imply that Nora is more of a pet than an equal for Torvald. This was almost like a typical middle class relationship at that time. But towards the end of the play Nora realizes that she does not want to be treated as an inferior anymore. She felt that Torvald did not love her but was concerned with his social position. Their relationship turned on its head when Torvald read Krogstad’s letter. Nora realized that Torvald was only concerned with his social position. She left Torvald and her children to live by herself. She did not care what society would think of her. It was social convention that decided what her role would be but her individuality made her separate from Torvald. Ibsen used Torvald and Nora’s relationship to bring about the conflict between freedom and society’s norms.
Ibsen used the themes of his play and Nora’s character to challenge the culture of his time. Society looked down upon independent women and divorces. Ibsen wanted to change the views of society. The play is based on the clash between societal norms and independence. When the play ends with Nora becoming independent critics were flabbergasted by Ibsen’s portrayal of women. The portrayal of women in “A Doll’s House” though controversial in the 19th century is accepted view in today’s day and age which was just what Ibsen expected it to be.