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Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House Essay

1313 words - 6 pages

How did Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House show the effects societal roles had on the men and women of the 19th century?

The effects of the societal roles in men and women from the 19th century are displayed through the actions and morals of the characters in Henrik Ibsen’s play, A Doll’s House. The play demonstrates through its main characters the demanding norms of society. When one does not abide the Victorian society norms they are shunned, pitied and left with almost nothing. Ibsen’s humanistic side is seen through this play as he creates realistic problems for fictional people to suffer through So, the effects of societal roles are seen in the character of Nora Helmer, who is the obedient, naïve wife that finds her true self and decides to rebel against societal prospects. It is also observed in Torvald Helmer, who displays the qualities of the stereotypical male of the Victorian era and this display of societal norms affects Nils Krogstad, who went from accepting the social order to rebelling against for the sake of his family. Each of these characters helps understand the concept of societal expectations and struggles to achieve them.

Effect on Nora by the Societal Roles
First, Nora Helmer is the figurative wife that all men of the 19th century want and work hard to get. She has the childish, naïve personality that helps her get along with her children and adapt to the Victorian society. The society’s demands are a routine to her as she mentions to Christine Linde, “Free. To be free, absolutely free. To spend time playing with the children. To have a clean, beautiful house, the way Torvald likes it” (Ibsen, Act 1). At the time of this play Queen Victoria is in rule, symbolizing the roles of a woman revolving around motherhood and domesticity. Nora shows that she accepts these roles of a wife and a mother, until she walks onto a path of self-discovery and began to deny those same expectations of society. She understands that to have the respect of anyone, she must be married and reach motherhood as she has already. As the play progresses, Nora realizes that Torvald is not in love with her and restricts her from expressing herself in any manner, making it seem “a little like being with [her] papa” (Ibsen, Act 2). This restriction is obvious to occur because she is a female in the Victorian era where marriages are based on society’s expectations and women were expected to follow their husband’s wishes. It was not just Torvald, who restricted her, but society as well but she was able to prove what critics have said:
“…a woman was inferior to a man in all ways except the unique one that counted most [to a man]: her femininity. Her place was in the home, on a veritable pedestal if one could be afforded, and emphatically not in the world of affairs” (Altick, 54)
Thus, Nora uncovers how society does view woman of reality.

The Effect of Societal Roles on Males such as Torvald
The males of the 19th century grow up around the single...

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