THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS
The major themes of A Doll's House recur in many of Ibsen's plays, including Hedda Gabler.
1. THE INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIETY
Ibsen felt strongly that society should reflect people's needs, not work against them. In A Doll's House, society's rules prevent the characters from seeing and expressing their true nature. When Krogstad tells Nora that the law takes no account of good motives, she cries, "Then they must be very bad laws!"
At the end of the play, she realizes she has existed in two households ruled by men and has accepted the church and society without ever questioning these institutions. In the third act, Nora separates herself from the "majority" and the books that support them. "But," she says, "I can't go on believing what the majority says, or what's written in books. I have to think over these things myself and try to understand them." The individual has triumphed over society, but at a heavy price that includes her children. When Nora walks out the door, she becomes a social outcast.
2. DUTY TO ONESELF
Ibsen seems to be saying that your greatest duty is to understand yourself. At the beginning of the play, Nora doesn't realize she has a self. She's playing a role. The purpose of her life is to please Torvald or her father, and to raise her children. But by the end of the play, she discovers that her "most sacred duty" is to herself. She leaves to find out who she is and what she thinks.
3. THE PLACE OF WOMEN
This was a major theme in late nineteenth-century literature and appeared in Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles, to name only a few.
Ibsen refused to be called a feminist, preferring to be known as a humanist. He had little patience with people, male or female, who didn't stand up for their rights and opinions.
Still, he argued that society's rules came from the traditionally male way of thinking. He saw the woman's world as...