Gender Roles In Ibsen’s A Doll’s House

856 words - 3 pages

Henrik Ibsen’s famous play A Doll’s House was first published in 1879 and contains elements and characters that appear to support feminism, and drew attention from the women’s rights movement. However, Ibsen himself said that he was not a feminist; rather, his play is about the human nature in general, and is not specifically about women’s rights. Over the years, this was the view that most scholars used to interpret the play, but more recently scholars have produced an opposing argument. Margaret Stetz, one such scholar, writes that “To call Ibsen a feminist playwright or to describe A Doll’s House as a drama in favor of women’s rights is no longer controversial” (150). The most obvious example of Ibsen’s view on gender roles is the relationship between Nora and Helmer and, more specifically, Nora’s self-discovery at the end of the play. Other characters, however, such as Mrs. Linde and Krogstad, as well as Anne-Marie, play a part in defining gender roles in A Doll’s House. In this essay, I will discuss the ways in which Ibsen represents gender roles in A Doll’s House through the characters in his play and the differing views about feminism and gender roles in the play.
At the beginning of the play, Nora and Helmer’s relationship appears to be a typical marriage in the 1800s. Helmer, as the man, is the head of the house and Nora is portrayed as the naïve, “spendthrift” wife who has no dealings with the financial situation of the family. However, as the story evolves, a different side of Nora emerges. She attempts to conform to society’s views of gender roles in order to keep her “beautiful and happy home” and fears that telling her husband about what she did will “completely upset the balance of [their] relationship” (891). Nora then confesses to her friend Mrs. Linde that it was she who procured a loan that allowed the family to travel to Italy, and that she has been working to pay it off. Nora says to Mrs. Linde that working and earning money “was like being a man” (Kennedy and Gioia 891). This implies that Nora also has narrow views about gender roles. At this point, she does not see working and earning money to support her family as something that a woman could do; it is a man’s job to provide for the family. However, Nora only holds to this view because of the way she has been treated by the men in her life. In the final scene between Nora and Helmer, Nora says, “I’ve been your doll-wife, the same way that I was...

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