How relevent is A Doll's House today?
I have to write a research paper and I need to build an argument on whether or not the concerns in A Doll's House either being timeless and universal or that the issues being addressed by the play are historical and not contemporary.
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For the most part, the main issues of the play are not as relevant today as they were when the play was written. These issues include women's isolation, domestic drudgery, and the tendency of men to infantilize and condescend to their wives. Nora's decision to leave her husband had a devastating impact in an age when a woman's choice to do so would be seen as socially unacceptable and very risky and courageous.
But today, women work outside the hoe and are not as likely to feel imprisoned in their homes or bored by household chores. And the choice to leave an unhappy marriage would be seen as positive, even triumphant, not the shocking action it is in the play.
Certainly the subject matter is no so relevant, as discussed in the previous answer. But, you could make an argument that the themes are not. The struggle to communicate, whether between husband and wife, or between friends, is still something human beings wrangle with today. Also, the theme of self-exploration/self-discovery is still relevant. Taking the time and taking the risk to find out who you are are and what your values are is still an important idea to pass on to an audience. The Realists' purpose in writing plays was to change society. While the changes in a woman's place in society has changed from when Ibsen first wrote the play, society could benefit from seeing and contemplating the play's themes of communication and self-exploration. Having an audience consider the ways they treat the people around them is probably always a good thing!
Henrik Ibsen of Norway invented a new kind of drama, recreating himself from 1877 on with such plays as The Pillars of Society (1877), A Doll’s House (1879), and Ghosts (1881), which very slowly made their way onto mainstream stages. No respectable theater would touch these plays because they all attacked pillars of middle-class life—marriage, family, church—as oppressive, hypocritical, and life-crushing. A Doll’s House is about a woman who comes to realize that no one has ever taken her seriously as a person; she ends the play by leaving her husband and children in an effort to find herself. Years later, when a women’s rights organization in Norway gave Ibsen an award, he said that his interest was not specifically in women’s rights but in human rights.
In all of his plays, characters struggle to free themselves from the "dead hand of the past"—that is, from tradition, custom, conventionality, and respectability, all of which stifle and kill the present moment. Torvald and Nora are equally victims of this dead hand of the past, reacting to environmental pressures that help to make them what they are—symbolized by the stuffy Victorian drawing room in which the action takes place.
As Ibsen grew older he, like Mark Twain, became increasingly skeptical of humans’ ability to transcend their environment and training. In this play he still believes that they can, which is one reason for its impact in its own day and on the modern stage.
Ibsen created modern drama by changing its content, bringing onto the stage contemporary issues including the oppression of women, corrupt politics and journalism, and even venereal disease.
Ibsen used for his new kind of drama the conventional formula of the well-made play which was current all over Europe in his day. The well-made play begins with a late point of attack, just before the crisis, and then fills in the background that explains the crisis, so that we move backwards in knowledge as we move forwards in time; we always receive the last piece of necessary information just before the climax occurs. A Doll’s House is a perfect illustration of the formula of the well-made play, climaxing on the night of a holiday party in which Nora has danced the tarantella, by which time the audience perfectly understands all that has led up to the moment when Nora walks out the door.
Ibsen revolutionized drama’s content but kept its form. For modern audiences, the form of drama makes Ibsen’s plays seem sometimes a bit creaky, too full of coincidence and perhaps too theatrical to be entirely like real life. It is not only relevant, but A Doll's House paints a dark picture of many contemporary families today.
While there is little doubt that the issue of women's rights has been largely acknowledged in many parts of the worlds, I still think that the play speaks to a large number of women who have not experienced the modern articulation of women's identity. One reality with the more globalized world and the increase of information technology is the understanding that there are more narratives and experiences of individuals. This awareness has developed the understanding that the Western and liberalized values of freedom of articulation and thought and the notion of empowerment identity that was taken for commonplace as accepted is not as embraced as once thought. The fact that individuals are more aware of other people's predicaments makes works like Ibsen's more meaningful and more relevant for what was previously taken for granted and understood is not done so as readily in other parts of the world. As long as this is present, "the fight goes on, the cause endures, and the dream shall never die." It is in this spirit that one can make a valid argument that Ibsen's work and the exploration of the relationship between Nora and Torvald, and the empowerment of the former has meaning, if not more, today than when it was written.
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