A Feminist Reading of Henrik Ibsens A Dolls House
Chronicling womens struggles for acceptance and equal status in society as depicted in modern literature: Ibsens views on feminism in A Dolls House
History bears testimony to the struggles women have had to undergo in trying to realize their rights to freedom and equality of status in society. In all ancient societies girls and women were kept under male subjugation. Unfortunately discrimination on the basis of gender is prevalent in many cultures and societies till this present day.
Women??™s desire to equality of social status, right to knowledge and education, right to equal opportunities, right to religion and right to expression have met with stiff resistance over the ages. That progress has been made in these areas in the past decades is not due to the munificence of men but because of technological advancements which required a larger work force and the demand for more skilled labor.
This is the first in a series of articles on womens issues as mirrored in literary works of contemporary writers and their treatment of these issues. This article deals with the case of Nora Torvald and through her character Ibsen??™s strong views on feminism and feminist issues. The focus is on bringing out the enduring quality and strength of these apparently frail women protagonists and their contribution to the greater cause of womens emancipation world over.
A Doll??™s House by Henrik Ibsen
In Henrik Ibsen??™s A Doll??™s House Nora Helmer was under the illusion that her marriage was perfect and that she was an ideal wife and mother. She was happy in the knowledge that she could please Torvald, her husband, with her pretty tricks and that Torvald being the champion of honor and would lay down his life in order to protect her and his family. Her illusion was broken when she was confronted by the reality of her situation.
Krogstad, the anti hero in the play, had written to Torvald and informed him all about Nora??™s fraudulent transaction with him. She did not comprehend at first why Torvald refused to see reason and accused her of being just as corrupt as Krogstad. She had hoped deep down and also feared that Torvald would take the entire blame and his status as the Bank Manager would be compromised.
Unfolding of Nora Helmers Character
As soon as the tarantella dance was over and the Helmers returned home, Nora wanted Torvald to read the letter and get the whole thing over and done with. Her final piece of fantasy was shattered when Torvald, instead of putting himself out for her, rounded off on her and accused her of being a hypocrite and a liar. She had contemplated on a course of action and Torvald??™s unjust accusations only helped to steel her resolve to execute her plan.
Nora had been living a life of subterfuge and make belief with Torvald only to maintain peace in the family. She was aware of the male ego and did not want Torvald to feel threatened so she played dumb most of the time. The fact was that not only was she more capable than him but was also more than a match for him intellectually. She was the one who had bailed the family out of financial crisis during Torvald??™s illness.
Strength of a Woman
Nora had given her love to Torvald and their children unconditionally. She had been hoping that Torvald would emerge as a saviour and take the blame upon himself in order to protect her good name but in that her wishful thinking proved futile. Nora was perhaps hoping for the best but in her inimitable style she also had a plan in place. She had decided to go away so that Torvald would not have to share in the ignominy.
Nora deals with reality firmly and takes ownership of her ignorance and inexperience in the ways of the world and resolves to enlighten herself to prevent recurrence of such an occurrence. When reminded of her duty towards her children, religion and family she realized that she needed to fulfill her duty towards herself first and took the courageous step of giving up her family and moving out of her comfort zone to face a harsh world, all alone.
Influence of Society on Ibsen??™s Views on Feminism
The character of Nora Torvald was based on the real life personality of Ibsen??™s friend, Laura Keeler, who had to face a similar situation. The treatment meted out to his friend, who was disgraced in public and confined to an asylum, moved Ibsen deeply. As a reaction to this dishonorable treatment of society towards his friend, Ibsen portrayed Nora as being strong enough to break this social bias and charter her own course of life.