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What do you think Ibsen meant when he wrote that A Doll's House is more about human...

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sjs0116 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted November 24, 2008 at 7:38 AM via web

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What do you think Ibsen meant when he wrote that A Doll's House is more about human rights than women’s rights?

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playsthething | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted November 24, 2008 at 10:46 AM (Answer #2)

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I think that Ibsen was using Nora almost as an "everyman" - not just representative of all women, but representative of all humans.  The issues she grapples with are not just about female.  Her search for identity is one we all go through.  Both men and women have to figure out how to separate themselves from their parents' identities, as well as making sure that their identity doesn't disappear into their spouses.  

The other themes in the play are also universal, and not just about women towards the end of the 19th century.  One of the big ones, in my mind, is the conflict between appearance and reality.  What we see on the surface is not always the truth of the matter.  In Torvald we see a devoted husband and in Nora we see a childish wife.  But, in reality, Torvald is controlling, maintaining a position of superiority over Nora.  And, in contrast, we see Nora as capable of taking steps to save her husband's life, and hiding the ramifications of those steps for many years. Krogstad also offers some contradictions.  On the surface, he is seen as morally corrupt, but as the play unfolds, the audience discovers his quite ethical center.  

Of course, the theme of appearance vs. reality is really just a manifestation of the overarching theme of identity.  Who we are and who we present ourselves to be are often in conflict.  Resolving that conflict leads us to the development of a mature and cohesive identity.

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kdavis112291 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 6, 2009 at 12:16 PM (Answer #5)

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When Ibsen said that the play "A Dolls House" is more about human rights than it is womens rights, he meant that womens rights are human rights.  There is no such thing as womens rights, nor mens rights, there are simply rights, that apply to both men AND women, not exclusively to one or the other.  Every once in a while, we forget this, and try to strip these rights from each other, only to find ourselves creating a monster we cannot control.  That is why Ibsen wrote about human rights, to remind the world that we all are born with, and will die with, the same rights as the man to our left, and the women to our right.

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chelsyank | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 6, 2009 at 3:27 PM (Answer #7)

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Ibsen talks about more than just women's rights in the play. Everybody has rights in the world and although the play specifically forcuses on the rights of women, there is a much bigger picture to be seen. Torvald gets deprived of his rights too. By society's rule, Torvald cannot show weakness. He has succumbed to the way society wants him to be, thus stripping him of his rights and individuality.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 4, 2009 at 8:19 PM (Answer #3)

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In his observation, Ibsen elevates Nora and her struggles even further and imbues them with the greatest degree of respect. Terminology does matter. The term "women's rights" is in itself dismissive, serving to segregate a particular group of people from the mainstream of humanity. Nora deserved dignity and freedom, not because she was a woman but because she was a human being. The social inequity in the play did not result from men denying rights to women, but from one group of human beings denying power to another group of human beings. The distinction is an important one, important enough for Ibsen to point it out.

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madelinecelley | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 6, 2009 at 9:31 AM (Answer #4)

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Ibsen's statement about human rights vs. women's rights is fitting.  By saying that the play is about human rights, he explains that women (and men) should not be separated by their gender, but thought of as similarly human. Although A Doll's House is centered around a woman, Nora, it also explores ideas of humanism through its male characters, like Krogstad.  In a way, when Ibsen said the play was not about women's rights, he marked women as equal to men because he did not place them in a separate group.

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alexlstein3 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 6, 2009 at 2:55 PM (Answer #6)

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Not only are women's rights in question, but other male's rights can be called to question.  Of course, Nora and Kristine have their rights taken away; the entire story focuses around them.  Also, men's rights in the story have been taken away, starting with Krogstad.  These rights seem awfully specific to gender.  These are rights that apply to humans.

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allennatalie3 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 6, 2009 at 4:24 PM (Answer #8)

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A Doll's House is a good example of how different things were in the 19th century, for both women and men. Ibsen says that the play is more about human rights than women's rights because then, the two things were totally different.  I think that Ibsen was trying to get the point across that women deserve the same rights that men do, and therefore, women's rights and human rights are the same thing.

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kaylee123 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 6, 2009 at 6:19 PM (Answer #9)

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When Ibsen said that "A Doll's House" is more about human rights than women's rights, I think he is making it known that Nora, although a woman, can also represent men and struggles they face.  In this play, Ibsen has chosen Nora to be the character whose rights are the most deprived but any character, man or woman, could have played this role.  In the late 19th century both men and women had to face the restrictions society put on people.  Each character has a struggle of their own that can be connected to society and its ways.  For example, Kristine Linde had to marry a man she did not love because he had the money she needed to support her family.  In addition, Torvald has to constantly be in power and act strong even though in the end we see that he is not when Nora leaves him.  The restrictions that Nora face are the most obvious and therefore overshadow the men characters and their restrictions.  Clearly, Ibsen was making a point about both men and women's rights, not one or the other.  

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jcelniker13 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 6, 2009 at 7:33 PM (Answer #10)

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The obvious comparisons between Nora and Krogstad throughout the play prove that Ibsen believed that men and women could fall victim to societal pressures.  This weakness illustrated through both the protagonist and the antagonist - between a woman and a man - levels the playing field of the sexes. An equilibrium of human imperfection causes us to sympathize and relate to the hero and the villain through the same pathos; therefore, we see their struggle for rights as a singular human struggle and not as a divided entity.  The highlight of the conflict is based upon Nora, but that does not mean that Ibsen's piece should hold its everlasting feminist label.  Perhaps it should be seen only as humane.

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allennatalie3 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 7, 2009 at 12:16 PM (Answer #11)

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In A Doll's House, Nora can represent the struggles that women faced.  She also can represent the fact that back then, women's rights were considered to be very different from men's rights.  Women were supposed to take care of the house and the children, and do whatever their husbands told the to do. However, Nora soon makes it known that she is not who her husband thought she was.  As she gradually changes, Nora's decision to leave Torvald and her children put the statement out into the world that women have rights too, even to be as happy as men.

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allennatalie3 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 7, 2009 at 12:25 PM (Answer #12)

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Men's rights must be looked at in A Doll's House, as well as women's rights.  Ibsen shows that not only women are thought to be what society makes them out to be.  Men, for example, were expected to go out into the world and support themselves and their family.  Therefore, the more money made the better as they were expected to move up in the social and political rankings, and as they were promoted in their jobs.  Also, Krogstad is an example of how not being able to measure up to the social expectations can make you do anything, especially fall into illegal activities, trying to be like other men in society.  Ibsen showcases this idea well through the character Krogstad in A Doll's House.

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jtrama | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 7, 2009 at 2:55 PM (Answer #13)

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By saying that "A Dolls House" is more about human rights than women's rights, Ibsen is saying that ideas behind the play apply to both men and women eventhough he primarily uses Nora to drive home his point. There is no reason, in any society, that should different sexes should be held to different standard because in reality we all bring the same value to the world

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jryan15 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 7, 2009 at 3:58 PM (Answer #14)

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I believe that when Ibsen states the play A Doll's House is not solely about women's rights, but about human rights in general he is trying to say that not only is Nora a women fighting for her rights, but she is also a human. Men and women are both equal and therefore the rights given to men should be given to women. I think saying that the play is about human rights not women's rights is an even more provocative statement for the Victorian time period because it is saying that not only do women deserve more rights, but that they are completely equal to men.

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taytang | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 7, 2009 at 6:42 PM (Answer #15)

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Yes, it's true. Identity is often times lost within the constucts of societal pressure. However, Nora's character in A Doll's House was detrimental towards Ibsen's overall theme. First of all, Nora transcended from one form of selfish immaturity into another. In the begining of the book she has very codependent and childish qualities. However, at the end of the book, Nora chooses to run from her motherly and societal responsibilities which makes her just as selfish and immature. Nora fails to inspire confidence even in her defining act. When Nora chooses to save Torvald by undermining his control, she does it illegally and without common sense. Her inability to gage the seriousness of her legal situation is also proof that she is not prepared to face the harshness of reality. Up until the very end Nora was still relying on other people for help. She relied on the death of Rank, Torvald's magnanimity, and Kristine's ability to persuade Krogstad. Although Nora is trying to become independent, she still has a long ways to go.

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anastaciaid | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 7, 2009 at 7:30 PM (Answer #16)

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Ibsen's A Doll's Houseis definetly about human rights. Torvald and Nora have been raised with the proprities that society has set out for males and females, husbands and wives. Torvald has conformed as much as Nora has to the unspoken law of what a husban must and must not do and what a wife can and cannot do. Torvald can only pamper and provide for Nora as well as benefit from her features. Nora must be obedient, respectful and abide by Torvald's own rules and standards. Now that I think about it, the real Nora has been contained by three laws; a written law, societies law, and her husband's law. She has no rights and the consequences of breaking these law can be seen in Krogstad's character. He broke the written law and society has shunned him according to their law. Krogstad is anxious to regain, what he believes, are the rights he once had. While Nora soon realizes that the life she is living will give her no rights and therefore must break away. As for Torvald, his shocking powerlessness to stop Nora and her strong words towards him really made him step back and reflect on what guides his decisions because he too has been denied the right to do what he wants.

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sammcgee | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 7, 2009 at 8:30 PM (Answer #17)

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I feel like Ibsen wasn't focusing so much on women's rights of the time frame back then, but more on the individuality and freedom that human beings must live with and control within themselves in order to be properly functioning members of society.  For Nora's whole life, she had been treated as a doll, and I would argue that Kristine was treated the same way, and we saw that the two of them had some stark contrasts and similarities.  But many of their traits have been forced upon them by society and their upbringings as "dolls."  Ibsen simply used two female characters to show this because in the time-period it was written in the audience would be able to relate better to their plights.  But his message transcends gender; he is trying to promote individuality and the "gift of freedom" that people ought to give one-another

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jomabo | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted October 7, 2009 at 8:40 PM (Answer #18)

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By stating that the play is more about human rights than women's rights I believe Ibsen is furthering his notions on equality for all.  Obviously the play focuses mainly on the struggles of women during this period, yet I think that Ibsen is trying to reveal that women are in fact humans and therefore it is a struggle for all human rights. Also the play does show struggles not only of women. For example, Krogstad struggles with the fact that he could not have married Kristine because of the pressures of society that made Kristine marry a wealthier man. Therefore, Ibsen tries to reveal many struggles that humans face in his play.

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dannyclarke1 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 7, 2009 at 8:52 PM (Answer #19)

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Although many critics characterize Henrik Ibsen as a feminist, he considers himself an activist for mankind.  Throughout the Victorian period, females were subservient and were not allowed the same rights as their male conterparts.  For example, women were prohibited from taking out loans without a male's consent.  Therefore, Ibsen play A Doll’s House was understandably very controversial because it challenged the mores of the times and it told the story of a women’s resistance to society’s rules of women’s role in life. Through Nora, Ibsen was not only encouraging women to speak up for rights, but he was encouraging all people limited by society to speak up for themselves.

 

 

 

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 8, 2009 at 5:03 PM (Answer #20)

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Nora's struggles are no different than those experienced by all human beings. Period. Which is interesting considering that Ibsen was not writing in a historical period that would have matched our own schema of life. Hence, he was quite futuristic and daring in stating that women were no different than males when it came to selflesness, sacrifice, and duty- in fact, I think Ibsen placed women at an even higher echelon. In a different country, or society, this may have been banned or seen as too controversial. Yet, he managed to fliter the theme in with such care and charisma that the public of his time was able to accept and understand his work.

 

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fallynn | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 8, 2009 at 7:40 PM (Answer #21)

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Well I think that automatically everyone sees Nora as the only victim in the story and therefore see the story as a dig at societies treatment towards woman back in that time. However, Nora is not the only victim, maybe more of a victim than the others, but not the only. All the characters suffer something, and are overcome by some challenge. I think that Ibsen meant that he was trying to focus on the rights of all because let's face it society does not only criple and poison woman it attacks everyone.

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alisonparker | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 3, 2010 at 6:50 PM (Answer #22)

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I disagree. Ibsen definitely wrote for a female audience, to perhaps prompt a female awakening.  The conflict is directly aimed at victorian women.  It is likely that there were women in the audience who were in relationships similar to Torvald and Nora's.

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alisonparker | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 3, 2010 at 6:52 PM (Answer #23)

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The struggle Nora faces cannot be applied to men and women, because in Victorian times, the men were the leaders of relationships, never the women.  The play helps the audience realize that women can be strong an independent, which the men already were. Therefore the play is applied to women and not men.

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alisonparker | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 3, 2010 at 6:55 PM (Answer #24)

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In saying that A Doll's House is more about human rights than women's rights, Ibsen points out that women should be thought of as people, just as men are.  He means to say that men and women are each human, and have equal rights.

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sawyer6938 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 4, 2010 at 2:33 PM (Answer #25)

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Ibsen once wrote that "A Doll's House" is more about human rights than women’s rights. What do you think he meant by that?

Ibsen once wrote that "A Doll's House" is more about human rights than women’s rights. What do you think he meant by that? 

Although Ibsen used Nora, a female character, to show the need for independence, this message can be implied to both genders. Kristine is an example of a woman who is already independent. Ibsen used both independent and dependent female characters in the play to show that both genders need human rights.

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joy14 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 4, 2010 at 2:50 PM (Answer #26)

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Ibsen once wrote that "A Doll's House" is more about human rights than women’s rights. What do you think he meant by that?

Ibsen once wrote that "A Doll's House" is more about human rights than women’s rights. What do you think he meant by that? 

Ibsen meant that feminism is not the single issue he is proposing.  Torvald and Krogstad also have rights, and Ms. Lynde as well, who is not discriminated against in a feminist way.  Torvald should have equal rights to Nora; as a result, he has perogatives to be upset with Nora for her forgery.  However, Nora should not be incapable of standing up for herself when Torvald mistreats her in a sexist way.  Therefore, Ibsen is saying the play is about all people's rights, not just Nora's. 

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ree0028 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 4, 2010 at 8:09 PM (Answer #27)

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I believe that when Isben referred to A Doll's House as being more about human rights than women's rights he was talking about the children specifically. Throughout the play it is apparent that the mother figure is not seen as a necessity, which in most cases very well is one. Children have the right to a family, which the Helmer's really do not posses, and have the right to happiness which they also do not acquire because the one person they really want in their life has just gotten up and left to find herself.

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kezendra | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 4, 2010 at 8:28 PM (Answer #28)

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I think Ibsen means that gender shouldn't be the major aspect to the rights we have as humans. Rights are determined by how a person acts in society. Rights are also established by their moral standing. Krogstad gave up his rights when he forged a document for his wife, because to him it was morally acceptable. Ibsen places his characters into different situations where they will either gain or lose rights. It just depends on how they view the situation morally.

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bananamenagerie | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 4, 2010 at 9:07 PM (Answer #29)

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Ibsen once wrote that "A Doll's House" is more about human rights than women’s rights. What do you think he meant by that?

Ibsen once wrote that "A Doll's House" is more about human rights than women’s rights. What do you think he meant by that? 

I agree with Ibsen in that this play is not for feminism. I believe that Nora's acts at the end, as she chooses to leave her husband and children behind to start over for herself is extremely anti-feminist. All of her acts through out the play are very one dementional thinking. She is mainly concerned with her self. Nora occasionally mentions her children, who are a direct extension of her and her manerisms. By choosing to leave, with out even attempting to fix the problems in her life she created, Ibsen is trying to show how easy it is to walk away when things get difficult in life, leaving others behind to pick up your broken pieces. Nora should have at least attempted to fix what was messed up for the sake of her children and stop being so selfish.

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klefty | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 4, 2010 at 9:36 PM (Answer #30)

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Truthfully, I don't believe that this play was specifically written just for the rights of women, because every character in this play strives for his/her individualization. I agree with previous posts about how Nora could be precepted as the most victimized character, but she is most definitely not the only. Most importantly, we should keep our minds open to the situations of the other characters, and that's what I think was intended by Ibsen in this play.

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alexandertom05 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 4, 2010 at 9:39 PM (Answer #31)

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If Ibsen wrote the play to advocate feminism, he would not have left her children alone with the incapable Torvald.  Frankly, Ibsen provides Rank with dialogue stating how Torvald cannot withstand "mending," or "the ugly."  Feminism clearly advocates the mother figure, not the leaving wife.  Ibsen, rather than pledge to the rights of women with "A Doll's House," writes to scope an entire spectrum of self-empowerment.  True, he casted his lead as a women but that has no reflection on the play's focus.  Remember, Nora, Krogstad, Kristine, and Rank have subtle journeys too - Torvald's static character leaves him, unquestionably, the same from beginning to end.  Again, had Ibsen wanted to promote women's rights, he would have created Krogstad, Rank, and Kristine as static characters versus flats or foils.

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jwengraf | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 5, 2010 at 6:02 AM (Answer #32)

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Even though the plot of the play focuses on Nora and her hardships, the play deals with an issue that affects men and women equally.  The idea that people should not be treated like dolls that can be used, controlled, and abused.  In the story, Nora is by far not the only doll.  Torvald is just as much a victim of being "played" with.  He is often seen by her as a tool that is easily manipulated.  It is evident by this fact that Ibsen was directing a message towards all people.

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bee3325 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 5, 2010 at 6:15 PM (Answer #33)

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Because feminism plays such an obvious, active role in the play, it can be easy to focus on women's rights and overlook the men in the play. However, the title of the play and the doll motif is clearly linked to human rights. Throughout the play, every character is used, manipulated, or treated like a doll. The different characters all pin themselves against each other and use each other. Ibsen turns each character into a "doll." However, I can't help but to think that by themselves, dolls are helpless, inactive, piles of plastic. An outside source (usually a five year old girl playing with her new Barbie) has to be present to give the dolls lives, personalities, and histories. So who is the omniscient power in "A Doll's House" that gives each character life? Who is in charge of giving us humans lives? And if some outside source or being is controlling our every move like a young child controls her dolls, what rights or capabilities do any of us have? Clearly Ibsen uses "A Doll's House" as a metaphor for human rights and personal control.

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bee3325 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 5, 2010 at 6:24 PM (Answer #34)

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While Nora is a woman, many of the conflicts she deals with throughout the play are problems that face both men and women and therefore, both men and women can relate to "A Doll's House." For example, Nora deals with the death of a parent, a loveless marriage, financial problems (and remember that at the time the play was written finances were a male-dominated realm), struggling to raise children, blackmail, death of a friend, and love triangles. All of these are issues that face people in both sexes, so while Nora's problems are easily evaluated using feminism, they can also be seen as basic human struggles.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 29, 2010 at 10:11 PM (Answer #35)

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Perhaps because I am a woman, I have always tapped into the women's rights angle more than any other. Perhaps because Nora is a main character and does something totally out of character for a woman of the time draws our attention to her, as well.

However, if we look at Krogstad, his rights are being trampled upon as well. He made a mistake in the past. He has lost his wife and is trying to turn himself around in order to provide for his children.

He is treated badly by Torvald because Torvald has issues of insecurity and superiority: he dislikes Krogstad because he acts too familiar (too friendly) because they have known each other from their younger years. This is no reason for Helmer to make the Krogstad's life more miserable than it is, and this is without knowing about the IOU.

Society is slow to give Krogstad a second chance, even though he is now doing everything the way he should. He loses his job when Nora puts in a good word for him because, once again, Torvald is skewed, off-center. He is not well adjusted, he is not kind-spirited. Krogstad seems malicious, but how do adults act when they must protect their children from starvation and poverty? He is desperate.

And we must not forget Kristine Linde. She has had a difficult life, one dedicated to the care of others. She has known lean years with too little to eat and not enough money to live comfortably. She has scraped by on her own, without receiving (it would seem) any charitable gestures from those who have more.

On that note, the Helmers are well-to-do, in general (although Nora is secretly paying off the IOU to Krogstad), but there is never a sense of charity or empathy for those who have less than they. Torvald cannot forgive Krogstad for who he is and has been, and doesn't seem to know or care enough for Dr. Rank to defy his friend's wishes and go to him as he is dying.

When Ibsen describes this as a human rights story, I think it is because there are several individuals in need that those living in comfort have no time for. Ibsen would certainly have been aware of a "woman's place" within society (and this play cause quite the stir when it was first performed on stage), however, he sees beyond that to the needs of fathers and widows, also. He makes a solid argument for showing more concrete concern and support for those in need by lifting up the problems of those less fortunate in the play.

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