Objectifying the Doll in a House of Men

Objectifying the Doll in a House of Men

For thousands of years, doll's have been a toy played with little girls for their amusement. It is interesting, then, that within the past few centuries men have begun to call women their "dolls". Is this merely an innocent pet name, or does it represent the ideology that men hold regarding women, dismissing them as mere toys for their amusement? In A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen uses symbolism to establish the consistent underlying theme as the oppression and objectification of women in the 1800s.

The title “A Doll’s House” is the first sign of thematic significance used in the play. Nora mentions doll’s houses a few times early in the play such as when she buys toy dolls for her daughter and mentions that the fact they were cheap did not matter since they would most likely break soon. This is an interesting parallel as it suggests that Nora is raising her daughter to experience a future life similar to her own, and foreshadows Nora leaving her husband and family at the end of the play. When Nora refers to her children, she calls them her “little dollies.” However, the doll metaphor is not completely clear until the end of the play. Nora argues to Torvald that both he and her father treated her like a doll, and uses this as one of the reasons as to why she has become dissatisfied and troubled with their marriage.

At the beginning of the play, Nora and her husband Torvald have a discussion about Nora’s spending habits. Torvald begins using nicknames for Nora such as “my little squirrel” and “my little skylark”. The pet names for her often begin with "little," which belittles Nora and emphasizes her treatment like a child who isn’t taken seriously and not considered an equal. Torvald maintains complete control over Nora and uses her dependence on him to his advantage. He focuses on money and materialistic aspects rather than people, to the point that his sense of masculinity has a direct correlation with his financial stability and independence.


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