What was the literary climate, especially the literary movement, from which Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House arose?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Henrik Ibsen wrote during the Realism literary movement. Realism strives to portray the reality of life, especially of the middle class. Realism was particularly a rebellion against the Romantic movement (Campbell, "Realism in American Literature, 1860-1890"). In contrast to Realism, Romanticism focused on the individual rather than society (Rahn, "Romanticism"). Romanticism particularly placed more values on emotions, expressly "melancholy" emotions, than on reason or rationality (Rahn). In rebellion of Romanticism, Realism was derived from science, history, and rational philosophy (Campbell).

At the same time as the Realism literary movement, the feminist movement was gaining some ground. The feminist movement provided the social climate, which influenced the literary climate under which Ibsen wrote. The championing of women's rights for equality can actually be traced as far back as the French Revolution when the philosopher Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet published his essay in 1790 entitled "the admission of women to the rights of citizenship," which was widely rejected by his peers (Landes, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "The History of Feminism"). However, in Norway in the 1800s, the idea of women's rights was a hot topic well before Ibsen published A Doll's House in 1879. In 1814, Norway gained freedom from Danish rule, which, like France, called to mind the questions of freedom and equality in all of its citizens, even women ("Historical Context"). By the mid-1800s, women were actually forced to enter the workforce due to poverty, and Norway's government had to pass laws protecting women in the work place. Lower class women were permitted to work low-paying jobs, such as domestic service, clerical work, and teaching. However, middle class women, such as Nora in Ibsen's play, were not permitted to work and still forced to remain at home. Also, by the mid-1800s, women were granted the legal right to inherit. In addition, three years before Ibsen published his play, women had gained access to the university ("Historical Context").

Therefore, at the time that Ibsen wrote, the literary climate was influenced by social activism that was revealing longstanding social injustices. This climate coincided with the Realism literary movement.