29 Aug 2009

Sample Essay: The Role Of Women In A Doll's House

Ibsen, in the play A Doll’s House, makes several impressions about the perceptions of society and how women roles are defined at that time. From the play one can view what Ibsen believed about the roles of gender and pertaining equality between males and females. This is actually a play where one can observe how the gender status was at the time and Ibsen’s belief about this matter. Ibsen displayed the role of women very clearly in this play. As the play commences, Nora’s behavior is like that of most women of the time: she gave in to anything her husband said and took in all orders issued to her by the husband. In the beginning she was the ideal woman and wife according to the society and the husband. Her husband would insult her many times and even accused her of having too much sweets and gaining weight. In general we see the role of Nora being completely the opposite of Torvald.

In A Doll’s House, Ibsen paints a bleak picture of the sacrificial role held by women of different economic standards in his society. In general, the play’s female characters demonstrate Nora’s assertion that even though men refuse to sacrifice their integrity. In order to support her mother and two brothers, Mrs. Linde found it necessary to abandon Krogstad, her true but penniless love, and marry a richer man. These are some of the sacrifices that women have to undergo. The nanny had to abandon her own child to support herself by working as Nora’s children caretaker. As she tells Nora, the nanny considers herself fortunate to have found the job, since she was a poor girl who had been led astray. Ibsen’s concerns about the position of women in society are illuminated in A Doll’s House. He believed that women had a right to develop their own individuality, but in reality, their role was consistently self-sacrificial. Women were not considered as equal with men, either in relation to their husbands or the society at large, as is clear from Torvald’s horror of his employees thinking he has been influenced in a decision about Krogstad’s job Nora his wife.

Though Nora is financially advantaged in relation to the play’s other female characters, she on the other hand leads a complicated life because society dictates that Torvald be the marriage’s governing partner. Torvald issues pronouncements to Nora, and Nora must hide her loan from him because she knows Torvald could never accept the idea that his wife a woman, had helped save his life. Furthermore, she must work in secret to pay off her loan because it is illegal for a woman to obtain a loan without her husband’s permission. By motivating Nora’s deception, the attitudes of Torvald and the society at large leave Nora susceptible to Krogstad’s blackmail. Women could not conduct business or control their own money, for which they needed the authorization of the man who was portrayed as the owner of women. Furthermore, they were not educated for responsibility as it may be seen. Nora falls foul of both inequalities, by taking out a loan from the bank without the authority of Torvald the husband or the father, and by believing, out of ignorance of the world, that she could get away with forgery of a signature. The role of women is that of insubordination to men. Economic dependence contributes to this role.

In a sense, single women like Mrs. Linde seemed to be freer than the married ones. They earned their money and did not need to hand it to anyone and could do whatever they wished with it without any influence or control. Despite this freedom to earn and spent their money, the employment that women could get was limited and not well paying, as we see in Mrs. Linde’s case. The viable jobs were clerical work, teaching and domestic work. The work that women could do was only what was not termed to be interesting and hence it was left for women. It was not challenging and this is why intelligent women like Mrs. Linde we left ‘empty’ inside. This is another way to express the sacrificial role of women in this society. In this way marriage was seen a trap in another view. Though divorce was available, it carried such a major social stigma not just for the woman, but also for the husband and family, that few women took it as an option. This is why Torvald would rather have a pretext marriage, for the sake of communal image, than a divorce or separation. This is a display of the sacrificial role of women.

The female characters of Nora, Mrs. Linde and the Nurse all have to sacrifice themselves to be accepted by the society, or even to be able to live their lives reasonably. Nora not only sacrifices herself in borrowing money to save Torvald, but she loses the children she undoubtedly loves when she decides to move out of the marriage and pursue her own identity. Mrs. Linde sacrifices the true love of her life, Krogstad, and marries a man she does not love in order to support her needy relatives. The Nurse has to give up her own child to look after other people’s children, in order to attain some financial stability. In Ibsen’s time, women who had illegitimate babies were stigmatized, while the men responsible moved on with life without any prejudice. Nora’s abandonment of her children can also be interpreted as an act of self- sacrifice. Despite Nora’s great love for her children manifested by her interaction with them and her great fear of corrupting them, she chooses to abandon them. Nora strongly believes that the nanny would be a good mother and that leaving her children was in their best interest.

Nora, Torvald, and Dr. Rank each express the belief that a parent is obligated to be honest and upstanding, because a parent’s immorality is passed on to his or her children like a disease. In fact, Dr. Rank does have a disease that is the result of his father’s depravity. Dr. Rank implies that his father’s immorality with his many affairs with women, led him to contract a sexually transmitted disease that he passed on to his son, causing Dr. Rank to suffer for his father’s misconduct.

‘Because an atmosphere of lies like that infects and poisons the whole life of a home. In a house like that, every breath that the children take is filled with the germs of evil (pg.179)’.

Torvald quips the idea that the parents determine the moral character of the children when he tells Nora that young criminals had lying mothers. He also cannot allow Nora to continue relating with their children after he learns of her dishonesty for fear that she would corrupt the children. Mrs. Linde, on the other hand, abandoned her hopes of being with Krogstad and undertook years of labor in order to tend to her sick mother. Ibsen does not pass judgment on either woman’s decision, but he does use the idea of a child’s debt to her parent to demonstrate the complexity and reciprocal nature of familial obligations.

Women had a specific role they had to fill. They had to look just like that and act just like that. This was to raise the children in a certain way, and keep up the house in a perfect way. Many women tried to fill this position of the “perfect housewife”. Women balanced their ever so busy family lives as well as their social lives. They stayed home to take care of the kids, while the husbands took a break to meet friends over for tea or coffee. Women had to be the picture of perfection.

Nora had an overbearing father who told her what to do, what to wear and what to think. This is one of the ways that we are able to clearly observe the role of women in Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’. This way he is able to cut out the role of women as the respond to the attitude of men and the society at large. When she left his house for her husband’s house, she received the same treatment in exactly the same way except in the place of a father she now had a husband and she had wifely obligations to fulfill.  Nora is the kind of woman that does and says what she is instructed saying that she did not know who she was.  She was taught to obey the wishes of the men in her life as with many women throughout the society. .

The pet names used on Nora like “little skylark” and “featherbrain” signify that he takes Nora to be a lower person than himself. This is not the view of Torvald but one that signifies the mind of the society as far as the role of women is concerned. According to Torvald, Nora is not intelligent enough to reason like him. This is the same position that Nora assumes when she flirters the husband in order to get what she wants. Despite the fact that she’s just pretending in order to fit in Torvald’s façade, it seems to meet Torvald expectations on her. He treats Nora like a child to make her feel comfortable in her role as a helpless woman who needs a man to lean on. When Nora has to make her own decision, she does this in secret as we see in the loan forgery. The conversations between Nora and the husband are just about simple things that don’t have much impact in life. Nora’s talk about scientific investigations is just a big joke to Torvald (Frederick, 43).

This image seems as a uniformly accepted ideology of this community. The woman’s place is at home to pursue the role of obeying the husband and doing other duties that he finds fit for her. This is a model of a patriarchal society, where men rule the women. It is a case of a woman in a man’s world. Women are subjected into the role of oppression (Urban, 18). The society takes this position as a normative action. We find how hard it is for the women in Doll’s house to get out of this dilemma or even express their case. Women basically act in roles they do not have the chance to choose for themselves or influence in any manner.

In summation, the women in ‘A Doll’s House’ have a specific role to play within the society. One of the main roles that is well brought out in the play is the one of sacrificing for the family members. This is what makes Mrs. Linde get married at first to take care of her brothers and the sick mother. This was really a sacrifice. Getting married to a man she did not love was going out of her way. Nora’s departure from her marriage is a sacrifice because she had to leave her children. We can tell that Nora loved her children but she had to sacrifice and leave them. The other major role is the familial duty. This is squarely an expectation of the society. Nora’s departure is looked upon with a weird eye from the society because she is not expected to leave. Generally, women are taken to be inferior and are hence given the roles taken to be inferior.

Works Cited

Marker Frederick and Lise-Lone Marker, Ibsen’s Lively Art: A Performance Study of the Major Plays.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

William.Urban. Parallels in A Doll’s House. Festschrift in Honor of Charles Speel: Thomas  Sienkewicz and James  Betts. Monmouth College, Monmouth, Illinois, 1997

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