A Doll’s House Play Analysis: Main Themes

In A Doll's House, society has a profound impact on the roles of men and women. The entire play depicts how women were treated during a time when there was a power imbalance between the sexes. The difficulties and hardships encountered are all brought to light in this intriguing piece that depicts the suffering of women at the period. Males are similarly constrained by Victorian society's expectations and set roles. This essay provides a detailed explanation of how gender roles work and how they influence the lives of men and women in the play. The character of Nora is a very good representation of gender roles in A Doll’s House. It is evident that throughout the play, the character is treated like a child. She is not viewed as a person, but rather as an object, a mere piece of property that can be owned. This is seen when Torvald refers to her as his personal pet, implying that she is not responsible enough. He does not trust her to keep money. The other characters of the play also do not take her seriously. Dr. Rank and Krogstad do not give her any respect whatsoever. Ibsen notes that the discrimination is so far stretched such that even Mrs. Linde, a woman, calls her a child (142).

Nora tries to deal with this harsh treatment by accepting her place in the society and branding herself little Nora. She decides to be a respectful wife and makes a vow never to disobey her husband. It, however, becomes evident that she is not entirely happy with her life as a woman. This is evident when she explains how she borrowed money for her trip to Italy. She clearly states that it felt good to have control of her money and it almost felt as if she was a man. Nora comes to regret the fact that she borrowed the money, but she remains discontented with the way the society treats her as a woman throughout the play (Törnqvist 279).

As the play comes to an end, Nora decides to take her stand as a firm, strong woman. She tells Torvald that he does not treat her as an independent individual who can make her decisions. She therefore decides to leave her life of marriage even though her husband promises her that he will change. The audience comes to realize that Nora is not fed up with the society, but rather her husband and the way he treats her as his wife. During that time, marriage was completely different and as such women faced very many restrictions on their right to do things. Permission had to be sought from their husbands implying that the decision- making process was entirely the man's role. Durbach observes that the cultural and legal view of married women at that time made it difficult for them to be treated and recognized as responsible people (75).

All women in A Doll’s House play a sacrificial role despite their economic classes in the society. The female characters in the play exemplify an aspect of assertion by sacrificing their integrity, something most of the men in the play would not dare do. They are not afraid of making serious decisions that would risk their future and status in the society. Unlike men, they have nothing to lose, since the society has already crowned them as dependents whose role is strictly marital. For instance, Mrs. Linde decides to leave her husband Krogstad and go for a richer man for the sake of her mother and two brothers (Ibsen 206). Her former husband is penniless and does not provide for their needs. She, therefore, focuses on what is important and is not afraid of what people would say about her. Anne Marie, the nanny, also makes a firm decision to abandon her only child and work for Nora. She admits that she had lived a life of poverty after being deceived and now she is lucky to have the job.

The traditional gender roles stipulated by the society also affect the male characters of the play. Their provisionary role is undisputed and at some point is viewed as a burden that must be carried by all men, whether or not they have families (Ibsen and Archer 218). The traditional ideologies do not give the male characters a chance to refute their roles. Torvald is an epitome of the male gender and their place in the Victorian society. Men were expected to exhibit stability, strength and logic reasoning. They were supposed to be in charge of their households and control the finances of the family.

The author uses the play to illustrate how gender roles were shaped by the society. Men also had some stipulated roles, not only at the family level but also to the entire community. They are depicted as responsible beings with the ability to reason and make sound decisions for their families. It was their responsibility to provide for their families and cater for the needs of their children. Men who were unable to do this were viewed as failures and disgrace to the society.

In the play, Krogstad and Torvald are depicted as ambitious men with goals of achieving a high status in the society. Their ability to provide for their families is also a great motivational factor for these two men. Respect, honor and pride are very important for the male characters in the Victorian society (Brunner 113). For instance, when Nora reveals that she had borrowed money for her trip to Italy, Torvald thinks of how people would see him after knowing this. His main concern in this situation is the reputation he has built for years. He is worried that this kind of information would tarnish his name and make him lose the respect he had worked so hard to earn. Krogstad, on the other hand, is also conscious of his status. Now that he is straight, he fixes his mind on achieving success with the hope that one day, he would take over as the bank’s manager from Torvald.

The role of men and women in the play are portrayed through the characters of Nora and Torvald. The existing stereotypes of the two sides are clearly outlined in the plot. The actions and decisions made by the characters in the play are essential elements in shaping their position in the Victorian society. The resolutions made by both genders are a clear demonstration of their strengths and weaknesses. Their impulse, logic, imagination and stability when dealing with life challenges shows the extent they are willing to go when it comes to obtaining their rights as individuals. Henrik Ibsen uses the play to show that there is no inferior gender and that both men and women are not perfect. Human beings are equal and should, therefore, be given an equal chance at everything in life. No one should have a predetermined life with restricted roles that would deter them from living comfortably.

Work Cited

Brunnemer, Kristin. "A Doll’s House." Human Sexuality (2009). Print.

Durbach, Errol. A doll's House: Ibsen's Myth of Transformation. No. 75. Twayne Pub, 1991.Print.

Ibsen, Henrik, and William Archer. A Doll's House: Play in 3 Acts. London, 1900. Print.

Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll's House: A Play in Three Acts. United States: World Classics Books, 2009.


Törnqvist, Egil. Ibsen: A Doll's House. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995. Print.

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