Henrik Ibsen Questions and Answers

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In A Doll's House, does the author sympathize with the male characters of Helmer, Dr. Rank and Krogstad?

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A Doll's House is about, not only the rights of women to be heard but, in Ibsen's own words, "human" rights. Ibsen uses Christmas - an important family time -  to highlight social problems that dogged society and how breaking free from the constraints placed on individuals was a brave and even dangerous thing to do.  

Stereotypes are cleverly used to portray the "norms" and Ibsen shows how Torvald is as much constrained by what is expected of him as anyone. Torvald's realization, at the end, that he is wrong and not wronged, when he finally asks for forgiveness, shows that Ibsen does sympathize with him and the fact that society dictates to him. Nora's rejection implies however that , whilst Torvald is to be pitied, it does not excuse his behavior nor his treatment of others, including his inability to forgive Krogstad or provide him with a second chance. It is also questionable whether Torvald pleads with his wife to stay because he will change or because then he can continue with his charade and be the perfect husband, caring for his "little squirrel." 

The theme of appearance versus reality is very real throughout A Doll's House and everyone is, in fact, deceiving everyone else. Dr Rank is unable to reveal the feeling he has for Nora  until he can no longer retain his composure. Krogstad finds it difficult to trust others and as such comes across as a cynical character, easy to dislike. Even, Mrs Linde, Nora's old friend has been deceiving herself for years marrying for the good of her family.

It seems everyone has had to make sacrifices and, even though the women have suffered personal hardship, the men has suffered psychologically, unable to establish a personal identity true to themselves due to the demands society has placed on them.  


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