How can Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House be described as a social drama?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House can be considered a social drama because it deals with the social injustices of Ibsen's time that he was aware of; namely, it deals with the treatment of women.

It has been stated that Ibsen never considered himself to be a feminist. His intention for writing the play was not really to "champion women's rights" ("A Doll's House: Introduction"). Instead, he only meant to portray the reality of society as he was aware of it. He knew that women were being treated unjustly; moreover, he knew that "Helmer's demeaning treatment of Nora was a common problem" ("Introduction").

We see the unjust treatment of women in several places in the play. One such example relates to the rights for women to work and in what conditions. We learn that poor Christine has nearly been working herself into an early grave. As Nora points out, Christine looks so altered from stress and exhaustion that Nora barely recognizes her. She looks "a little paler ... a little thinner...[and] a little older" (I). Christine herself points out that her past three years "have seemed like one long working-day, with no rest" (I). Like all lower class women, Christine was permitted to work, but only in low-paying jobs, such as domestic labor, teaching, and working as a clerk ("Historical Context"). Middle class women, like Nora, were not permitted to work and were confined to the home; hence, work conditions for women is one social injustice that Ibsen points out in his play.