The Awakening of Nora in Ibsen's A Doll's House
The status of women in the 1800's, when A Doll's House was written, was that of a second-class citizen. Women did not have the right to vote, own property, or make legal transactions. The role of women was restricted to that of a housewife. In A Doll's House, Ibsen does a wonderful job of presenting the character of Nora as person who goes though an awakening about her life. In the beginning, she concerns herself only with being a perfect wife and mother according to the social norms of the time. Later, she realizes that she cannot continue just being her husband's shadow. Eventually, she decides that she has duties to herself that are above of those of being a wife. She confronts the fact that she's not complete being the way that her husband, society and the church want for her to be.
Ibsen exposes the fact that Nora's self image has been molded by the men of her life. First, she is a doll-child ... then a doll-bride. She's a little play toy for the men - a beautiful possession to show off to their friends. This presents the reality of women in the 1800's. Women were often treated as objects by men.
Little girls were raised to be good mothers and wives. They were taught their role was to make their families happy even if they were not happy themselves. In the play, Nora mentions the way she was treated when she was living at home in her father's house. She is raised no to have her own identity.
Nora: Yes, it's true now, Torvald. When I lived at home with Papa, he told me all his opinions, so I had the same ones too; or if they were different I hid them, since he wouldn't have care for that. He used to call me his doll-child, and he played with me the way I played with my dolls. Then I came into your house - (11. 589-594)
When Nora grows up, she gets married and goes from her father hands to that of her husband's who treats he in a similar way as her father did (11. 596-597.) She becomes the perfect wife and mother. She pleases her husband in every way possible. She doesn't contradict his opinion. She still doesn't have an identity and is just the wife of Tovald Helmer. She builds her entire world around him and believes he is her hero who will always protect her as if she were a delicate flower. She puts her children and husband before herself. She believes, she only has value if she is a "good mother and wife." For the happiness of her family, she would risk anything. Towards this goal, she takes the chance of borrowing money without the consent of a man and forges her father's signature to save her husband's life. She only wants to protect the beautiful home they have together.
Nora:... - Torvald, with all his masculine pride - how painfully humiliating for him if found out he was in debt to me. That would just ruin our relationship. Our beautiful, happy home would never be the same. ...