Themes And Symbols In Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House

1482 words - 6 pages

“I’ve been your doll-wife here, just as at home I was Papa’a doll-child” (Ibsen 1491). Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House tells a story of scandal and deceit set in the Victorian era. Nora Helmer is married to Torvald Helmer and she feels more like his toy than his wife. Nora had to have Torvald to be able to do anything, because of when she lived. Nora borrows money behind her husband’s back (which is illegal at this time) and tries to cover up everything she has done. Ibsen employs the use of many themes and symbols in his A Doll House to show the reader just how Nora was a doll-child who evolved into a doll-wife.

The central theme of A Doll House is a true marriage us a joining of equals. The entire play centers in on the crumbling of a marriage that is just the opposite of this. At the beginning of the play both of the Helmers seem happy with their marriage. Though, as the play moves along the imbalance becomes more and more apparent. By the end of the story, the marriage falls apart because of a complete lack of understanding between Torvald and Nora. Together in wedlock, the two cannot realize who they are as individuals. They can only see themselves as part of the marriage.

Another very important theme in this play is the home. From the very beginning of the play home is a place of comfort, joy, and shelter. The idea of home is woven into the idea of a happy family, which the Helmers seem to be. Towards the end of the play, the happiness in the Helmer household changes and the imbalance of power becomes a major issue. At this point, the seemingly happy home is revealed as just people putting on an act for each other and the outside world. The Helmers put up a façade, a doll's house, as a way of hiding the tension between themselves.

In the end it is revealed to the reader that the Helmer home is really more like a prison than a comforting, joyfilled shelter.

There are two other major themes in this play, femininity and masculinity. Nora has often been given the title of one of modern drama’s first feminist heroines. She breaks away from a dominating and opressive marriage. Ibsen, denied that he had intentionally written a feminist play and preferred to think of it as humanist. This said though, the traditional roles of women and the price of them breaking tradition is a constant thread throughout the play. The men of this play, in many ways, are just as trapped by gender roles as the women. An example of this is the job that Torvald Helmer holds at the bank, chief. The men must be providers and alone must support the entire household. At the end of this play these traditional ideas are put to the test, when Nora leaves and Torvald must care for the children and be their provider.

Ibsen also employs the use of many smaller themes within his play, A Doll House. Respect and reputation, love, lies and deceit, and money are just a few of these smaller themes. Respect and reputation are something that the men of this play are obsessed...

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