Did Henrik Ibsen say whether A Doll's House is a feminist play?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is said that, when asked, Henrik Ibsen denied that A Doll's House was a feminist play; instead, he asserted it was a humanist play.

Humanism, a social movement developed during the Renaissance, thought it necessary to re-introduce ancient Greek and Roman culture and philosophies into civilization. Humanists promoted a return to studying ancient Greek and Roman texts, and from these texts, they developed philosophies that endorsed fully participating in life, appreciating life's luxuries and beauties, and engaging in "rich and varied human relationships" ("Renaissance Humanism," The History Guide). Humanists especially endorsed individualism through promoting the pursuit of individual liberties, and rejected any form of oppression, especially the oppression that is a direct result of social class systems ("Renaissance Humanism").

Ibsen saw his play, as well as his works in general, as humanist rather than feminist because his themes did not pertain just to women. While the two lead female characters are certainly oppressed, even male characters, like Krogstad, deal with social injustice. Krogstad, similarly to Nora, once committed a fraud to save his wife's life, just as Nora forged her father's signature on a loan to save her husband's life. As a result of Krogstad's "indiscretion," society treated him as an outcast, forcing him to earn a living in any way he can to provide for his sons. As Krogstad says to Nora in the opening act, "The law cares nothing about motives," which Nora notes is extremely unjust. As a result of unjust law and unjust society, Krogstad has had to fight for years to regain his reputation, which drove him to threaten Nora with blackmail.

Since Ibsen does not distinguish between male and female victims, arguing instead that both sexes are victims of society, his play is really a humanist play promoting the need for individuality and freedom from oppression, not a feminist play.