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ENGL 103-Woman Question In Henrik Ibsen

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You are asked to write a research-based term paper discussing one play in great detail. You must use academic (or secondary) sources as well as primary sources, such as the playwright’s letters and diaries, or other writings, or historical documents.


Born in the year 1928, Henrik Johan Ibsen is a celebrated Norwegian playwright, port and theatre director. He is considered to be one of the most influential playwrights of the nineteenth century. He is further known to have introduced the concept of modernism in the theatre and is referred to as the father of realism ( A Doll’s House is one of the most important plays that had been composed by the playwright. The play is considered to be significant due to the portrayal of the lives of the married women in the late nineteenth century. The following paper sheds light on the feminism as is demonstrated through one of the most celebrated novels of Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House. The essay opens with a discussion on the woman question as is demonstrated through the play, A Doll’s House. The essay nears a conclusion with the discussion on the socio-political changes that were faced by the nineteenth century which have been mentioned within the play, A Doll’s House by Henrick Ibsen.

The play, A Doll’s House, is set in the Victorian era and depicts a time when the women of the house is known to have been treated like dolls in the house holds. The women in the Victorian era had been subjected to the patriarchy in every single sphere of their lives. The female members of the household are observed to have been dealing with the dominance that is demonstrated by their male counterparts. The men of the household are depicted to have been considering their wives to be gullible and not to have a brain of their own. The men are observed to have been comparing them with the playthings. The playwright through the play attempts to reveal the treatment of the married women as well as the unmarried daughters at the hands of their husbands and their fathers respectively. The play states that the women members within the family were treated as dolls and were not allowed the freedom to deal with their own lives as per their own wishes. The female members of the house were expected to have been leading their lives according to the track that have been set by the men. 


The play opens with Nora, the female lead of the play entering the room with the Christmas gifts and the other materials that would help in decorating the Christmas tree. She is greeted with a rebuke on the part of her husband who is playful in his rebuke towards her and addresses her as his “little squirrel”. The comparison of Nora to a squirrel by none other than her husband sets the tone of the play at the very opening of the play. The husband is further observed to be reflecting back to the Christmas celebrations of the past year when Nora had been struggling to make the gifts on her own since they had been running short of finances. This is followed by the arrival of the guests who are seen to have been visiting for different purposes altogether.

The lady who had been visiting the house, Kristine, seeks employment from Torvald, the husband of Nora, who holds a responsible position at the bank. Nora reveals that she had been facing troubles on her family front too due to the illness on the part of her husband. She reveals that she had received the required amount from an “admirer”. In actuality she had received the money by forging the signature of her father since the women in the nineteenth century had no rights to withdraw or deposit finances to the banks without the supportive signature of their husbands or their fathers (?AFAK).  Nora had done this act of forging and Krogstad, a lower level employee at her husband’s bank had knowledge of this misdoing. Krogstad is observed to have been manipulating Nora and asking her to talk to her husband and help in saving the job of Krogstad who is likely to be fired by Torvald. 


The second act of the play reveals the helpless condition that is faced by Nora. She faces a confession of love form one of her dear friends, Dr. Rank, who is revealed to be fighting the terminal stage of tuberculosis and is extremely likely to breathe his last in a very short time in the future. Krogstad has already been fired by Torvald leading to a desperation on his part to regain the job with a promotion. He is seen to visit the Helmer household to relay the information to Nora that he has already dropped in a mail to Torvald’s mail box revealing the secret that he had been holding regarding the forgery that was committed by Nora. This leads Nora to tense a great deal and she has no other option but to call Kristine for assistance. At the end of the act, Nora is also observed to have been contemplating on taking her own life in order to save her husband from humiliation. This reveals the fact that the female members of the family have no rights to take measures even if it means a betterment of their own families (Nygaard). The nineteenth century women are revealed to be oppressed under their male counterparts and are often observed to give in to the pressures inflicted upon them by the then patriarchal societal norms. 


The third act of the play opens with the declaration by Kristine that she had agreed to marriage with her presently deceased husband in order to take proper care of her siblings and her sick mother. She further states that she had been in love with Krogstad and believes that he has stooped down to resorting to the unethical means due to the devastation that he had faced when Kristine had left his side to marry someone else. She promises to talk to Krogstad and help Nora in this situation. In this section, the reader of the play comes across a strong female character in the play who refuses to be molded into the norms that have been put forth by the society (Ridge). The play proceeds to reveal the return of the Helmers from the party when Dr. Rank visits them to offer them a final goodbye as he is pretty sure of his death. The couple enters home and Torvald reaches out to the mailbox to receive his mail. He reads the letter that was dropped in by Krogstad and starts berating Nora and even calls her immoral and dishonest besides rendering her unfit for raising their children into proper human beings. Torvald decides that they would have the appearance of a married couple after the revelation of the misdeed on the part of Nora. The couple is interrupted by a maid who comes into deliver a letter to Nora from Krogstad which Torvald insists on reading. The letter states that Krogstad is willing to take back the letter from Torvald and return the bond of incrimination as well. This gets Torvald exulting as he has been saved from the disrespect that he would otherwise have to face and he is observed to forgive Nora. He further goes on to explain that the forgiveness on the part of the husband makes him love his wife even more since it serves as a reminder of the total dependence of his wife. 


Nora somehow finds it difficult to accept and states that she has contradicting thoughts. She reveals that she is betrayed by the response of Torvald towards the situation created by Krogstad and refuses to be treated like a doll. She further states “We must come to a final settlement, Torvald. During eight whole years. . . we have never exchanged one serious word about serious things” (Ibsen). The play ends with Nora leaving the house and slamming the door behind her which reveals that she is not going to return to the family. This baffles Torvald and he is observed to have broken down at the turn of the events. This activity on the part of Nora reveals that the women of the nineteenth century had been rising to the revolt against the patriarchy and the rules that the patriarchy has imposed upon the women (Wang). The activities that are undertaken by the character of Kristine during the play reveals the changes in the psychology of the women who have been living in the nineteenth century and their acceptance of the fact that they are capable and have rights to take decisions of their own.

In lieu of the above discussion, it might be put forth that the play in discussion explores the treatment that is meted out to the women and the changes in their psychology in a proper manner. The play states that the women members within the family were treated as dolls and were not allowed the freedom to deal with their own lives as per their own wishes. The play further attempts a discussion on the overall changes that were being observed in the socio-political factors that are evident in the nineteenth century. 


References "Catalog Record: Letters Of Henrik Ibsen | Hathi Trust Digital Library." N.p., 2019. Web. 19 Mar. 2019.

Ibsen, Henrik. "A Doll House - Vancouver Public Library." BiblioCommons. N.p., 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2019.

Nygaard, Jon. “The Wilder the Starting Point: Some Critical Remarks to Michael Meyer’s Ibsen: A Biography.” Scandinavian Studies, vol. 86, no. 1, Spring 2014, pp. 72–97. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1353/scd.2014.0011.

Ridge, Emily. “The Problem of the Woman’s Bag from the New Woman to Modernism.” Modernism/Modernity, vol. 21, no. 3, Sept. 2014, pp. 757–780. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1353/mod.2014.0070.

?AFAK, Zafer. “Nora’s Metamorphosis in a Doll’s House and Miss Vivie as a Paragon of the Modern Woman in Mrs. Warren’s Profession.” Journal of Academic Studies, vol. 16, no. 62, Aug. 2014, pp. 125–146. EBSCOhost,

Wang, Quan. “Before Marriage, Within Marriage, and After Marriage—Kristine Linde in A DOLL HOUSE.” Explicator, vol. 74, no. 2, Apr. 2016, pp. 69–73. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/00144940.2016.1169494.


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