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A Doll's House By Henrik Ibsen

1443 words - 6 pages

“Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” (TED) This is the definition that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, an African author and feminist, discovered when she looked up the term “feminist” in the dictionary at age fourteen. This is also the definition that she based her speech, “We Should All Be Feminists”, off of. Nora Helmer, the creation of Henrik Ibsen for his play A Doll’s House, is a feminist by this definition. One can be a feminist without knowing it, such as Adichie was at a young age. Nora is one of these people. Nora transitioned from being an obedient, subordinate housewife to a role model for women everywhere. Despite rapid criticisms and controversy about her behavior as a woman of the 1860’s, the character of Nora Helmer grows to be a powerful, independent, clear-headed woman who serves as a feminine archetype for future generations to follow.
While Nora can be received well in modern times, in the 1860’s Nora was highly criticized. “In fact, Nora’s declaration of independence in the play prompted such heated discussions among the public that the topic had to be declared off-limits at social gatherings.” (Moss, 116) Nora’s actions were so controversial that it prompted people to talk about her as if she were a real person, rather than a character in a play. Others criticized Nora for her naiveté. “Nora has always been a child; her father, a man devoted of easy conscience, has brought her up entirely unsophisticated. She knows nothing of the serious side of life—of its privileges, its real opportunities—nothing of the duties of the individual in a world of action.” (W.E. Simmons 119) This was a common criticism of Nora, that she had no right to leave her husband and children when she knew nothing about the world that she was about to enter on her own. Many criticized Nora heavily for her decision to leave her children and husband. On the opposing side, many respected her for following her instinct that something was wrong in her life. For the purpose of Ibsen’s play, Helmer, her husband, is the human epitome of society. Helmer equated Nora to a child, showing how society equated women to children. Following this model, it can be noted that children leave the house of their caretakers once they have grown up. This is similar to how Nora “grew up” and subsequently left her caretaker. Helmer’s attitude towards Nora as a caretaker was always rather condescending. “There’s some truth in what you’re saying—under all that raving exaggeration.” (Ibsen, 110) The instant Nora tries to be serious and stand up for herself, she is instantly condescended by Helmer, as if being serious is a matter she need not concern herself with. Helmer, playing the role of society as a whole, tries to disregard her attempts to be serious. “Nora, you’re sick; you’ve got a fever. I almost think you’re out of your head.” (Ibsen, 112) When a woman tries to stand up for herself, society goes as far to accuse her of...

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