Share your feminist or anti-feminist view of A Doll's House, a play reflecting Ibsen's feminist conception.

Expert Answers
Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although Ibsen made it clear that he intended A Doll's House as a statement relating to human freedom and respect, the play is frequently examined in terms of feminist themes. Nora's life was one of social repression. The social structure into which she was born and continued to live did not recognize her intelligence or human dignity. She was, after all, only a woman, and as a result, she was denied legal rights and a voice in determining her own future. Torvald, her insensitive, selfish husband, played the role expected of him by society in that he supported the family and acted as the authority figure in their home. Nora left her father's home, where she held a subservient position, to marry and assume her next subservient position. In her roles as daughter, wife, and mother, Nora functioned as expected, compliant and powerless.

The social structure that marginalized Nora was both unjust and destructive. All that she could have accomplished and contributed as a real partner to her husband was lost, and all that she could have achieved in her own personal growth was stifled. Only by taking the extreme action of leaving her home and children, could Nora claim her own life and dignity. It was a choice she should not have been forced to make. The irony, of course, is that Torvald's "doll wife" had been, from the beginning of their marriage, a strong woman of courage who acted independently to save his life. Because of her position in society, she was forced to commit a crime to follow her conscience and save her husband, another choice that never should have been forced upon her. 

Ibsen was right. To reduce A Doll's House to a feminist statement does the play a disservice. Nora's story surpasses that. She was not a "brave, independent woman." She was a human being of intelligence, courage, and dignity.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When I read this story and each time I re-read it I do feel the sentiment of feminism being quenched and repressed. Truly, the novel is more than that, but in fact the main character was dealing with problems which only happened if you were a woman: Not being able to get a loan, depending on a husband, making decisions without a man's consent, negotiating with a man..All these were problematic because Nora was a woman- it was not "everyone's" freedom, but the freedom of this specific female in her society.

When she reacted in the end to her husband's hissy-fit the first thing that came to my mind was: HOW is she going to make IT, when the children will be taken away, and she won't ever be forgiven by her peers? It frightened me as much as it must have frightened the character, and it made me upset too. This is how the novel, to me, is a call towards women's rights.

friscoyank1 | Student

No reason justifys irrational descions, she did not think it over, she just took the "easy way out"

misosaki | Student

On a feiminist stand point, women can do anything that men can do. If a man can leave his spouse, then why can it not be the other way around? Nora left her responsibility as a mother; however, she made a valid point for leaving. Although 'finding herself' may not be a very good reason, it was enough for her to gain some confidence and leave Torvald. Clearly, he was what was holding her back all this time and once she finally realizes it, she can no longer take it anymore.

byoung773 | Student

Ibsen was writing in the Victorian era, woman had yet to reach a state of equailty among men. Symbolized by the christmas tree, I believe Ibsen communicates the ornamental quailty women possessed during that time period. Women were essentially "trophy wives" and served the purpode of keeping up appearances and social standing. They were ornaments with which men adorned their characters. Women as well as children were to abide by the mentality that they should "be seen and not heard."

kempf54321 | Student

Although it was not right for Nora to leave her children behind to go off and 'find herself', she left Torvald for a reason and it just goes to show that women can do anything that men do. By Nora making this decision, it finally shows her independence in a prominent way. Torvald's reaction is completely expected because he realizes that heis going to lose one of the best things he ever posessed, but he was too involved in himself and money to ever notice what was right n front of him. Nora should be allowed to define herself in any way that she chooses, but it is irresponsible for her to completely abandon her children because they rely on their mother for nuturing and comfort. Just because she wants to leave does not mean that she should, Nora needs to consider all the people in her life not just herself.

reidpilch | Student

I believe Ibsen wrote the play more as a commentary or criticism of the pressures and mores of Victorian society than as an outright feminist discourse.  The feminism that arises comes simply from Ibsen's protest of Victorian society.  To say that it was the sole or even the primary focus takes away from the plight of Dr. Rank, Korgstad, and even Torvald.  Each of these characters is, in some way, restrained or severely subjected to the unkind societal pressures of the time.  That said, Nora is, of course, faced with the most difficult and unpleasant situations because she is a woman. 

lafoss | Student

Ibsen is obviously trying to point out the problems with the treatment of women during this 19th century time period. He portrays Nora and Kristine as women who are tied down by controlling men and sexist laws. However, he takes the play to a new level by having Nora rebel by what may seem as simple as eating a macaroon and borrowing money, but in fact was jaw-dropping during his time.

ero-chibi-chan | Student

Ibsen does focus on the oppression of women aplenty. The only independent woman in the play is Kristine, who had to be a childless widow for that to work out. Nora, on the other hand, is forced to break the law to save her husband's life. However, Ibsen hints that men may also have rather empty lives since, even if they do love their wives, they may not be loved in return. An example is Kristine, a practical woman who admits to Nora that she did not love her husband and later to Krogstad that she only married her now-dead husband for his money so she could take care of her family. Men are also suffering in a society where money and status are the only criteria considered by women. Since women are forced to be completely dependent on their husbands. they can not afford to marry poor men. As such, poor men get very little choices about women and rich men mostly get gold diggers.

aoshields | Student

I think Isben focuses more on the restrictions of Victorian society, rather than the lack of women's rights. Although Isben makes several pointed remarks about the unfairness of the law in regards to women, he does not ignore the men in A Doll's House. Torvald will go to any length to keep up appearances; he will even continue living with Nora after she supposedly betrayed him. Society has forced him into the role of being an authoritarian, and fully in control of his household and affiars at all times.

teardrop | Student


epollock | Student

For me, it is more anti-social than it was anti-feminist. The setting of the family put too many burdens on them and they never did have a successful foundation for a successful family life. It was such a destructive society, that the play's outcome was a natural consequence of the horrible conditions the play's characters found themselves in.