What kind of rights did Henrik Ibsen have in mind when he remarked that his play A Doll's House is more about human rights than women's rights?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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When Henrik Ibsen attended a meeting of the Norwegian Association for Women's Rights, Ibsen announced that he "must disclaim the honour of having consciously worked for women's rights...to me it has been a question of human rights" (Literary Analysis, Ravenscroft).

When Ibsen made this statement he was referring to the fact that it did not make sense to him to separate the rights of women from the rights entitled to all human beings. Ibsen believed that all human beings were entitled to earn enough money to make a living and take control of their own financial situations. For instance in A Doll's House, Ibsen used Christine's poverty to denounce society's control over what sort of jobs women should be entitled to, such as low paying teaching, domestic, and clerical positions(Act I). Ibsen also used Nora's difficulty in being able to acquire a loan to denounce the financial restrictions that his society placed on women(Act 1). He believed women were capable of making their own financial decisions and caring for their own financial well-being.

Beyond finances, Ibsen believed that like all human beings, women were entitled to the right of an education and the right to have and share their own thoughts and opinions. Ibsen used Nora's protests of being uneducated and against having to adopt first her father's opinions and then her husband's to show just how imprisoned women were in his society(Act III).

Henrik Ibsen saw society treating women as less than human beings and it disturbed him greatly. He saw no need to distinguish between the rights of men vs. women because both sexes were equally human beings and both should be treated with regards to their basic human rights.


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