In Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House, how does his presentation of the female characters further his purposes?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his play A Doll's House, Henrik Ibsen uses his women characters, Christine and Nora, to portay the imprisonment of women in his contemporary society, especially with respect to the different social classes.

Ibsen portrays Nora's friend, Christine Linde, as being very rundown. Christine has aged a great deal in the past ten years, and she is a poor widow who has had to labor very hard over the years to help her dying mother and to help bring up her young brothers. Ibsen portrays Christine as a woman who has struggled to survive in society(Act I). Like many women of Christine's station, society granted her the freedom to work, but only in low-paying domestic jobs or clerical positions(eNotes). Christine describes the past years of her life as having been "one long working-day, with no rest" (Act I).

In contrast, Nora is portrayed as being happy for the past eight years while Christine has been miserable. While Nora and her husband struggled financially in the beginning of their marriage, Nora has never really known want, need, stress, or misery the way that Christine has known it. However, as the play progresses, Nora begins to realize that her marriage has felt like a prison, that her husband has not treated her with the respect she wants, and that she was never truly happy, "only merry" (Act III).

Ibsen uses the contrast of the two women to portray women in Ibsen's period of society. While women in Christine's lower economic society were granted a few freedoms to be employed, because the money they made was so poor, life felt like imprisonment for women like Christine. In contrast, women in Nora's middle class society could only be provided for through marriage, and women were subjected to being treated by there husbands as personal property. Thus, marriage was also a form of imprisonment.