Is A Doll’s House a play about feminism or humanism?

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e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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This play is commonly associated with feminism, but it can be more accurately described as a play about humanism as humanism relates to human dignity (regardless of gender) and identity.

Nora reaches a crisis point in her identity and in her dignity in this play, discovering the inadequacy of her role as mother and wife as it stands. She feels she must find a way to create her own identity, one that is worthy of respect. Living with Helmer, Nora has been patronized and belittled and her opinions have been fed to her by her husband.

When Nora realizes the inequity of her situation, she also recognizes her own self worth.

However, though Nora rebels against Helmer's patronizing attitude and claims a new identity in the end, she is only one of two female characters in the play.

Mrs. Linde is quite opposite of Nora in her relationship to the standards of femininity. Mrs. Linde embraces her role as caretaker, expressing a lack of fulfillment when she has no one to look after. She also works, gaining a position at the bank. She is not subject ot the same assumptions of weakness that hamper Nora. 

Seeing that each female character relates to the notions of feminism and to accepted social roles differently, we can hardly argue that this play is a one-sided promotion for the progressive values of feminism. Rather, the play expresses a consistent view on the value of dignity in one's character and the need for identity to be founded on positive choices, which defines humanism. 

Mrs. Linde chooses her path. Nora chooses her path as well, in the end.