Do you see Ibsen's A Doll's House as primarily about the struggle between the needs of the individual and the needs of society or about the conflict between women's roles in the family and in the...
Do you see Ibsen's A Doll's House as primarily about the struggle between the needs of the individual and the needs of society or about the conflict between women's roles in the family and in the larger society?
These notions are not mutually exclusive. Society's needs, or expectations, for Nora are foisted upon her due to her gender. For years, she was unable to see how society's expectations constricted her as a human being. She does not really understand who she is or what her own expectations are because she has simply acted according to the expectations of others, including those of her husband, Torvald.
I think it is helpful, too, to regard the family as a microcosm, or a small sample, of society. At this time, women were only expected to be wives and mothers. They were imagined as nurturing, and as desiring nothing more than to care for their husbands and children. Middle-class women like Nora might entertain themselves by decorating their homes, and would also be expected to manage servants. From the outside, her life looks pleasant, comfortable, and privileged; in some ways, it is, but there is also no exteriority. Nora is not expected to go outside of this house.
The expectations imposed on Nora from within her own family are also those imposed by society. By leaving Torvald to discover who she is, Nora is doing something extremely rebellious, something that would generally be frowned upon. By having his female hero act in such a radical manner, Ibsen communicates his own dissatisfaction with bourgeois ideas about marriage and family, which are especially restrictive for women, and thereby limit the possibilities for society as a whole.