Gender Roles in A Doll House
Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House is a three act play filled with secrets, blackmail, and heartbreak. The plot involves a faltering marriage built on a happy facade, but no true love. Nora, the wife in the marriage, is repeatedly referred to by her husband as a “twittering lark” (1.1). Just like any other late nineteenth century wife, she is dependent on her husband to survive. The male dominance of society in this time period stops Nora from having a job or any other privilege outside of housework and childcare. The cause of Nora’s loss of faith in her marriage is tied to her inferior treatment and expectations, when compared to those of her husband.
The play opens with a cheerful scene. Nora Helmer is talking with her husband Torvald about all of the things she has purchased for Christmas. Readers learn that Torvald has just been accepted to receive a higher paying job at the bank. The family appears to be well off, financially sound, and happy. However, as the play develops, a secret emerges that Nora borrowed money to help her husband get better when he was sick. Forging her father’s signature as a co-signer, she is soon caught and blackmailed by the man who loaned her the money. When her secret is discovered by her husband, he explodes in a fury of anger. Shortly thereafter, the loaner claims that he “had a happy development in his life” (3.1) and has decided to pardon the debt. Nora, however, is not as joyful as her husband upon receiving the news.
However, Nora does declare that she has learned something from the ordeal. Speaking to Torvald, she claims that “right from [their] first acquaintance, [she and her husband have] never exchanged a serious word on any serious thing” (3.1). She finally sees that their entire marriage was built on false ground. She has never been taken seriously, and only been treated like a “doll” who has “lived by doing tricks for [her husband]” (3.1). The male-dominant society has finally driven...