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A Doll House by Henrik Isben

Updated on February 10, 2011


    Although Henrick Isben wrote A Doll’s House in 1879, the issues he raises are as relevant today as more than a century ago. The play is recognized as the first work in feminist genre that exposes the inequities of respectable society. Isben depicts complete mastery over social drama that exposes the problems inherent in middle marriage of his day.

     Nora, the central character is the “doll” we find in the title. Her very existence is doll like in simplicity but she gradually recognizes the inequities in her life as the narrative advances. The character thus goes on to acquire deeper proportions. Nora amuses her husband with her simplicity. She dances for him and plays games like little squirrel in return for the favors Torvald bestows on her. However, her simple life of innocence is disturbed by her forged loan documents in possession of Torvald. She eventually realizes the inherent difficulty in carrying on with her sacrificing ways for the sake of Torvald. This is when she begins discovering herself. “It's perfectly true, Torvald. When I was at home with Papa he told me his opinion about everything, and so I had the same opinions; and if I differed from him I concealed the fact, because he would not have liked it. He called me his doll child, and he played with me just as I used to play with my dolls. And when I came to live with you...I was simply transferred from Papa's hands to yours. You arranged everything according to your taste, and so I got the same tastes as you-or else I pretended to.” (Ibsen, 1879, p. 195)

     Nora cogitates on her status – she has been a doll to her father, and to her husband. She is teaching her children the same. She must come of her own. This is the realization that is the climax of the story.

     There are other characters in the play that undergo their personal difficulties and address their issues in their own ways. Krogstad appears a villain but eventually turns out not to be a bad person after all. “”for the last year and a half I have not had a hand in anything dishonorable...I want to get on, I tell you”” (Ibsen, 1879, p. 168). Mrs Linde, Nora’s friend desires to make her life more meaningful. “I want to be a mother to someone, and your children need a mother. We two need each other. Nils, I have faith in your real character-I can dare anything with you” (Ibsen, 1879, p. 178). The relationship between Nora and Torvald is excellent yet Nora is financially dependent on her and has to keep him in good humor.

     Torvald is an honorable person in society who is highly conscious of his reputation. Therefore, Nora cannot reveal to him that she has taken a loan without her knowledge. Torvald is strict with money and won’t easily give her money but she has her own ways of getting what she wants out of him.

     The play exposes the ultimate gender inequity. A female is shown dependant either on father or on husband. She has to remain committed to the dominant patriarchal ideology. She has no voice but is not expected to shown her stifled voice or oppression. The solution to Isben finds for the inequity is no solution rather it is rebellion if that could be called a solution. Nora’s and Torvald’s marriage collapse because Nora cannot continue to play the silly girl she is not. Nora decides to leave Torvald. In other words, Nora has discovered her true identity. She has now the opportunity to explore a meaningful existence for her.


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    • A_K profile imageAUTHOR

      Ajit Kumar Jha 

      8 years ago from Delhi

      Thank you so much!

    • rhensley11 profile image


      8 years ago from Lexington, KY

      I love fiction, however I have always obtained it in small bits and pieces. This review definitely makes me want to read The Doll House. Thank you for such an insightful description. This sounds like a book I would love to have in my own collection.


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