Challenging The Conventions Of Marriage In Henrik Ibsen's "The Doll's House"

1523 words - 6 pages

How does Ibsen challenge the conventional notions of marriage in A Doll's House?Henrik Ibsen's naturalistic drama 'A Doll's House' shocked its contemporary audience with its bold attack on the scared institution of marriage and was a savage critique on what Ibsen saw as the hypocrisies within marriage and oppression of the female spirit. In this essay I will examine how Ibsen explores the key areas in which the characters Nora and Mrs. Linde were representative of how women were exploited and trapped in key areas such as finance, work, and the dominance of the patriarchal society.In 'A Doll's House', Ibsen uses the character of Nora to represent middle-class women in the late 1800s. She is portrayed as a heroine who eventually slams the door, both literally and figuratively, on her Doll's House and marriage at the end of the play. She defies gender roles and the social conventions of her time by walking out on her husband, which was virtually unheard of during her time. The events transpire over the course of three days, during which Ibsen is consistently and subtly pointing out the flaws in the very foundation of patriarchal 19th century marriage, where women essentially had no rights. The play also focuses on the relationship between two other characters, Mrs. Linde and Krogstad, to show what a true marriage is should be based on.The image of the patriarch is established at the start of the play, which opens with a detailed scene of a classic 19th century middle class house and a seemingly happy married couple, that engages in friendly banter and call each other pet names. Torvald addresses Nora with such names as "my little squirrel", "my precious little singing bird", and "my little lark" which initially may seem like harmless diminutive endearments but are in fact Torvald's way of subtly degrading Nora. The possessive "my" gives him a sense of ownership over her, while the use of the word "little" patronizes her and he demeans her further by continually comparing her to small animals. The audience recognize themselves in this scene, seeing reflections of their own marriage with the hardworking husband and the dutiful wife, in a typical looking middle-class living room. They would also find this patronizing exchange between Nora and Torvald to be charming and perfectly natural, a reflection of their own relationships. Ibsen's intent is to subtly use language to mislead his audience into thinking that this play will be about a typical marriage and family not unlike the ones they had themselves, and then gradually undermine this by showing how women are treated in male-dominated marriages.[2: Act I p2][3: Act I p27][4: Act I p1]The themes of money and work are dominant in the play. Middle-class women weren't expected to work, and had to rely on their father or husband to live. This meant they didn't have the independence that men had to govern their own lives and also denied them the power that money brings - we see this quite clearly in Nora's...

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