Novel On Feminism: 'A Doll's House'
|✅ Paper Type: Free Essay||✅ Subject: English Literature|
|✅ Wordcount: 1807 words||✅ Published: 4th May 2017|
In the 19th century , the society was patriarchal, dominated by men, and women were deprived of all rights. The society was constructed and conducted in a way that women were completely dependent on men in all cultural domains- familial, religious , political, economic ,social , legal and artistic. This is the background ,in which Henrick Ibsen’s play “A DOLL’S HOUSE”, is written. Ibsen was inspired to write this play by a real incident that happened to his friend, Laura Petersen Kieler , a Norwegian journalist of whom he was very fond of. Ibsen created a female protagonist,Nora,who ,not only forsakes her husband and children, but also come out of traditional and conventional picture of women , breaks all the rules and restrictions of traditional and rigid society,which don’t allow for the women’s freedom and self-realization. This type of play was completly new at that time and female protagonist,Nora becomes the symbol and harbinger of the concept of ,”New Women” or ” Modern Women”. This term paper will show the situation of women in the society. It will also illustrate how “A DOLL’S HOUSE” is a feminist play, Ibsen’s engagement with Feminism and the emergence of “New Women” or “Modern Women”.
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Although, Feminism as a literary genre came in 1960s but we can trace its origin with the publication of Mary Wallstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rigths of Women” in 1792 AD. At that time ,it was in early phase and known as the “Women’s Rights Movement”. This movement was for women’s social equality rights in that oppressive patriarchal society. The bourgeois society was repressive and oppressive against anything which threatened its position of power. The political and spiritual liberty were kept at the background and economic freedom became the motivational forcefor an individual because in that bourgeois society, it provided a position status and once it was achieved , the imperative was to defend it. Thus a bourgeois individual becomes a defender of his status and betrayer of his own human values. Torvard Helmer , the male protagonist of the play, has accepted the premises of this type of society, unaware of the cost , he pays in human terms.
Ibsen criticizes the bourgeois society by creating the characters, who sustain in the society and revolt against it. The bourgeois family, the micro-society in perspective of bourgeois individual was dethroned by these characters from the center of the society. The status of an individual in a family reflects the position and order in the hierarchial system of society. This is why Torvard wants his supremacy in the family and his security depends on feeling superior. Ibsen saw that the bourgeois society needed some content which is a revolution of human spirit and claimed that the slogan of the French Revolution (1789) ” Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity”needed a reformulation. Every one has his own part in the construction or destruction of the society. He writes-“One never stands totally without share of responsibility or guilt in bourgeois society to which one belongs”(12,402).
Ibsen always believed, the truth as individual and subjective. That’s why , he lets Nora go out in the world and realize the self reassess the concepts and values of society. One can’t assess the society by living in the centre of the societyrather one must delve deep into liminal and marginalized domains of society. When one is in power , one can’t often evaluate it correctly. People at the margins at times better positioned to view the reality. Like in the Howthorne’s novel , “The Scarlet Letter”, when Hester Prynne is displaced to margin, she is able to assess the Puritan Society in a better way. Norasays in the play-” I must try to discover who is right, me or society”(283). As the play moves to its close, Nora becomes freer and truer than before and this validates her path. Ibsen’s plays reveal the vices and lies of the bourgeois society. Although his plays’s setting is Norwegian but the perspectives and ideas on the Vivtorian morality are so universal that they mirror the problems and pains of the whole world. This bourgeois society has problems with the phenomena like industrialisation, positivism,liberalism,secularization and political polarization and the like. The people were becoming aware of their rights and claim for them. In the play, Ibsen has depicted two kinds of women. On the one hand, Nora , who is determind to stand up as proud and independent individual, on the other hand self-secrificing Mrs Christine Linde , who finds life’s meaning in the service of others. These characters evaluate the inner-self and personal lives and this evaluation of inner lives becomes the revaluation of the society ,which has kept them under oppressive rules and restrictions. And thus, Ibsen chooses the women characters to lead the fight of the revolution of human spirits under the banner of truth and freedom.
There are many scenes in the play , which are anticipated by the other Feminist writers. Nora accuses on her father and her husband of treating her like a doll. A playmate. She could not get the real experience of life and so she can’t do anything in her life. It is similar to Wollstonecraft’s charges against men in her book called, “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” (1792) that women are brought up to be “pleasing
At the expense of every solid virtue ” as if they were “gentlel domestic brutes ‘. Her description of herself that she has been treated like a doll -wife ,doing tricks is an appropriate example of Margret Fuller’s charge that man ” wants no wife but a girl to play ball with”. She realizes that she can not do anything in her life while living with Torvard and declares that she will go out alone because ” I must educate myselfâ€¦â€¦. It’s something I must do by myself “, she is showing that there is a need for women’s emancipation from the 19th century restrictive society. Telling Torvard that she doesn’t know how to be a wife is reminiscent of Harriet Martineau in ” On Female Education” ,where Harriet Martineau argues the need for considering women as ” companion to men instead of playing things or servants”. When Nora realizes that the duties to self is higher than that of a wife and mother, she is restating the basic concept of Feminism stated in Wallstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” that women are no less than men possess a moral and intellectual nature have not only a right but duty to develop it :” the grand end of their exertion should be to unfold their own faculties”. The theme of “A Doll’s House” is the subjection of women by men. Nora is deprieved of all things which she should get. She couldn’t get much exposure at the father’s home. At Torvard’s home, she is manipulated by Torvard. She has to do what was told to do. She suppresses her own desires in fulfilling the wishes of first , her father, and then her husband. Nora says ” I could never act against your wishes”.
The relationship the husband and wife is not based on companionship. Torvard sees himself as the epitome of the traditional 19th century husband who has complete right over his wife. In the forgery incident , Nora neither sees forgery as shame nor to defame Torvard but she does it for love. Torvard ,who has the pride of being man, considers owing anything to anybody as humiliating and painful even to his own wife he doesn’t consider her as his equal. She has illusions that her marital life is happy but she has to face the reality. For this ,she decides to break the illusions and go to the world of truth and reality, and to realize herself and her values.Ibsen in his letter dated 3 January 1880, comments on the situation”The moment , she leaves her home , is the momenther life to beginâ€¦â€¦ In the play , there is big grown up child, Nora,who has to go out into the life to discover herself ” . Nora’s development can be seen as she is forced to give up the hope of ‘miracle’ that her husband will take the resposibility for her every action but Torvard is the slave of society, incapable of breaking the conventions. When Nora finds that,there is no way for ‘miracle’ to happen now, she decides to be true to herself. She stands against the traditional and conventional picture of women and becomes one of the Ibsen”s most liberated characters. Nora’s becoming of a liberated is not objective but subjective. She becomes her own , able to take her decesions independently . the other female character, Mrs Linde opposes by not being the representative of early moments of Feminism, but through a wise and loving heart. Mrs linde experiences the ‘miracle’ which Nora dreamed. When she becomes ready to give up the troublesome life and marry Krogstag, she experiences the ‘miracle’ , the sense of fulfillment. She says-“How different to work for,to live for , for a home to build’. On the other hand , Nora sees her sense of fulfillment when she leaves her husband, children and home and being self-dependent.
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Ibsen’s engagement with Feminism can be viewed from the speech for the workingmen in Trondheimin1885, he was very much concerned with “future state of workers and women” in the changing social condition of Europe. He said that he is very mainly concerned with human being in general. In his speech , he made at a bonquet given in his honour by the NorwegianWomen’s Rights League on 26 May 1898, he said-
“I am not a member of Women’s Rights League I have been more a poet and less a social philosopher. I am not even clear as to just what this women’s rights movement really is. To me it has seemed a problem of humanity in general.”
He was right in saying that he is concerned with whole humanity because women are also first and foremost human beings. In “A Doll’s House” , Nora says-“I am first and foremost a human being.” He also advocated for the recruitment of women as librarian, the right to vote and supported the petition of separate property right for married women. He was also in contact with three powerful female personalities- Suzannah Thoresen,his wife, Magdaline thoresen,his wife’s stepmother and Comilla Collect, the first significant feminist personalty.
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