Feminism is the theme of the play. Ibsen aims at presenting the roleof a woman in a society that is male dominated, and how the womanlater rises against society’s standards on how a woman shouldbehave. The play is set during the nineteenth century in Norway. Itis a time when most women only stay at home to look after theirhouses, children and husbands. Husbands treated their wives aspossessions. This is perfectly illustrated in how the protagonist’shusband, Helmer, treats her. In the first act, Helmer refers to Noraas “my little lark twittering out there?” (Fjelde: line 4). Thechoice of words shows that Helmer views his wife as something he ownsand not as an equal partner in their marriage.
This is further enhanced by his lack of trust in her. Helmer directsNora on how to manage their finances, which insinuates that Nora isincapable of managing the household without the control of herhusband. Helmer says, “Nora no debts, never borrow… something offreedoms lost and something of beauty too from a home that’sfounded on borrowing and debt” (Fjelde: line 22). It is clear thathe has control over how money is used in their house, and hence alsocontrols Nora as she has to get consent from him on how to use money.The issue of money brings to light the issue of Nora’s loan. At thetime, society did not permit women to borrow money yet Nora faked herfather’s signature and took a loan. Although she did it with goodintentions to save her husband’s life, Helmer’s masculinity doesnot allow him to forgive Nora. It is at this point that Nora feelsliberated as she no longer cares about what society expects of her.
Critics argue that when writing the play, Ibsen was not focusing onthe issue of feminism. One of the critics is James McFarlane whoclaims that Ibsen did not intend to promote any feminist propagandathrough his play. According to McFarlane, the play is more than anissue of women hence, does not focus on the rights of women(Templeton 28). Another critic, R.M Adams argues that the play is arepresentation of a woman that demonstrates the desire to become aperson, meaning becoming someone that is not controlled by others.The critic argues that the theme does not relate to sexes (Templeton28). Similarly, another critic Najma Mahmood claims that the playdeals with a universal theme. That is the theme of the conflict amidthe person and society (Bhatnagar 189). Mahmood sees the play as arepresentation of the larger society’s desire to be freed from theconstraints of modern life.
I support Mahmood’s theme on the play being a representation of theconstraints of modern life and the desire to be freed from thisconstraints. From the play, there are numerous illustrations thatmost people do not have money, thus they have to spend the littlethey have wisely. When Nora states that “it’s the first Christmaswe haven’t had to economize”, it becomes clear that the familyhas not had much money before (Fjelde: line 11). The difficulties inlife are also expressed by Mrs. Linde as she explains to Nora “yes,so I had to scrape up a living with a little shop and a littleteaching and whatever else I could find” (Fjelde: line 144). It isobvious that life has been tough for Mrs. Linde. Apparently, thecharacters in the play desire to have more money to afford livingfreely, without having to worry about how much should be spent.
Bhatnagar, Manmohan K. FeministEnglish Literature. NewDelhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors,1999. Print.
Fjelde, Rolf. A Doll House, 1879.
Templeton, Joan. The Doll House Backlash: Criticism, Feminism, andIbsen. PMLA Modern Language Association 104.1(1989): 28-40.