Societal Views of Women in the Victorian Era in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House
A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen, creates a peephole into the lives of a family in the Victorian Era. The play portrays a female viewpoint in a male-dominated society. The values of the society are described using the actions of a woman, Nora, who rebels against the injustices inflicted upon her gender. Women’s equality with men was not recognized by society in the late 1800’s. Rather, a woman was considered a doll, a child, and a servant. Nora’s alienation reveals society’s assumptions and values about gender.
A woman was considered by society to be a doll because she was expected to be subordinate to her husband’s whims. Referring to a ball that she would attend, Nora asks her husband, Torvald, if he would “take me in hand and decide what I shall go as and what sort of dress I should wear” (26). Nora relies completely on how her husband would dress her, just like a doll. Just as Nora is treated as a doll, she interacts with her children as such. She doesn’t raise them, she merely “play[s] and romp[s] with the children” (13). She tells Torvald, “our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll wife, just as at home I was Papa’s doll child; and here the children have been my dolls” (67). In this conversation, she shows her alienation as a woman in society by expressing discontent with her role in life.
In addition to being treated like a doll, Nora is also regarded as a small child. Victorian society looks upon women’s intelligence as no better than a child’s. Torvald tells her, “You talk like a child. You don’t understand the conditions of the world in which you live” (69). Yet, he does nothing to rectify the situation. While Nora says she is unlike a child, she displays her childish tendencies by repeating “impossible” (Ibsen 28, 29) when she is confronted with the possibility that she might have to face punishment for forging her father’s name. She alludes to a child’s character when she says, “everything I think of seems so silly and insignificant” (26). Torvald replies with a condescending statement: “Does my little Nora acknowledge that at last?” (26). Torvald expects only childish talk from her. He even tells her she is “little,” like a child, and although he expects nothing more than child’s talk from her, he does expect to be obeyed.
Nora plays the part of a slave in her subservience to her husband, for she is supposed to
abide by his rules and be dependent on him. She is not supposed to think for herself and repeatedly told so by those around her. When speaking about Nora...