To what extent does gender predetermine the actions of the characters in A Dolls House?To what extent does gender predetermine the actions of the characters in A Dolls House?

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herappleness's profile pic

M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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I would add that gender more than anything tends to limit the actions of the character in a regular basis and this is the reason why Nora took had to take the roads and pains she took to be able to fulfill a diversity of roles  a) Entertainer, nurse, and wife   b) mother   c)daughter   d) lady of the house    e) lady of society

If Nora had not been born a female she would have been able to solve her financial problems with more ease than having to conduct hazy transactions with a stalker. All this, of course, is a consequence of her being considered an object of nurture rather than a first rate citizen.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Some, but not all, of Nora's and Torvald's actions are determined by the roles they are expected to play in society, based on their genders. Torvald provides for his wife and children and controls the money he earns, spending it as he sees fit. Nora is given an allowance to run the household, but Torvald remains the undisputed head of the family in all matters. These are the roles expected of him, and he plays them. However, Torvald acts again and again out of pride, arrogance, and selfishness, at Nora's expense; these actions result from his own self-centered personality rather than from social convention or gender roles. The best example of Torvald's failures as a husband is his response when he learns of Nora's forgery. His anger with her in her desperate situation shows his total regard for self.

Nora behaves as the subservient wife, just as she had played her role as a subservient daughter. When she must act to save her husband's life, she cannot do so openly because she is a woman. She is forced to lie in to obtain a bank loan, forging her father's signature since she could not borrow money herself. The manner in which Nora gets the money from the bank is forced upon her by her gender in her society, but the fact that she would take such a risk and make such a sacrifice is reflective of her own courage and unselfishness.

Nora's most courageous act is not one which was determined for her; it is, in fact, an act of defiance in the face of the role she is expected to play. She acts independently, again, when she leaves Torvald. She refuses to be trapped in marriage with a man who does not love or respect her. Nora's gender predetermined the role she was expected to play, but she refused to remain imprisoned by it.

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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I don't know if it's the same thing, but it's not so much gender as gender rolls.  Nora plays the roll of the perfect wife.  Her husband treats her like a child, a plaything --- not an equal.  He plays the role of the male, the dominant partner in the marriage, and acts as his society would expect him to.

Since the wife's role belongs to the female, and the husband's role the male, you could say that gender determines the actions.  But society's acceptance of the behavior that is associated with the husband/wife roll is really what predetermines actions.

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kaitlin44 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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I believe that one of Ibsen's points in A Doll's House was that gender roles may be set in society, but it is possible to break free of those roles. Even in society today, men are listened to and their opinions are appreciated more as a whole than those of women's. Throughout the play, Nora is always voicing her opinions, and Torvald is constantly replying with nicknames or treating Nora as if she were a child. So, Torvald is stuck in his gender role of being the macho man and head of the household. However, when Nora breaks from her role as the Barbie doll housewife and makes the decision to break away from Torvald's fairytale world, Torvald's weak personality is finally revealed, and he is shown as a true coward. Nora's role is torn away when Nora does what other women do not normally do: she finally demanded to be heard and walked away.

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haleymiller | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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The gender of each character in the play is very stereotypical except for those of Kristine and Krogstad. Kristine is the rising woman taking a man's job at the bank to earn herself some money. Krogstad is a man being ruined over and over again by woman. This is symbolic because these two characters end up being foil characters for Nora and Torvald who are the perfect husband and perfect wife archetypes.

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kezendra | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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The characters gender predetermines how they let society see them. Nora is the perfect female figure. She is beautiful, obedient and naive. Torvald plays the role of the overbearing male figure.

However, for certain characters, this rule doesn't apply. Kristine didn't follow societal norms, she ggot a job and cared for her family as the primary caregiver, more like a man than a woman.

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marmr | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

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i think the weak or strong actions in this play depends on the personality of the person himself not the gender .nora seems to be weak according to her personality not her gender of being a woman .as well as her weak personality changed at the end of the play to the opposite .she becomes strong when she decided to work .personality able to change but gender doesnot change.

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pappas92 | Student | eNotes Newbie

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I think the gender of males plays a huge part in this play. Men in the 19th century valued three basic things: beauty, value, and money. Torvald is the picture perfect 19th century man.  He expected everything to be beautiful. His wife had to always look nice, so she could not eat chocolate. The house had to always look put together. And status was so important to him. That is why he could not let Nora get caught. He could not risk his pride by letting society know that a mere women saved him. This ties in with money. Money gets you status, and his wife used money in a way that could have ruined his valued reputatuion in their community.

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tdigilio | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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gender plays a huge role in this play. Ibsen clearly experiments with the rights of women at the time the play was written and how they were treated. Nora, in this play, was a surprisingly strong character and even broke off with her independence at the end of the play. Ibsen was saying something strong about the rights of women in America, by the actions of his character Nora.

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molly311 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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Gender plays a major role throughout this play. The men are clearly more superior than the women during this time. Nora is seen merely as a trophy wife to Torvald, and she knows this. People constantly belittle Nora, which represents the way other dependent women were treated during the victorian period. Also, the presents and roles of society are gender specific.

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sammcgee | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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Personally, I found the whole play rather predictable, but not in a gender-related way.  Ibsen was famous for using a form of psychological-archetypes, but instead of tweaking their different forms to make them unique (but still applicable to general populations), he left them as bland, 2-dimensional, cardboard-cutout characters.  Rank's "big reveal" was his love for Nora, and that really was no surprise.  I felt like the play followed a very predictable, very overused pattern with no difference in actions between women and men.

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haleylo | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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Ibsen uses A Doll's House to prove that gender does not define a person.  Nora and Mrs. Linde both perform acts that would have been considered unladylike in Victorian times.  Dr. Rank is womanly in confessing his love for Nora.  The only actions that gender predetermines are the character's interactions with one another.  They try and act as they think the other person expects them too, but even within this societal constraint they break barriers.  Aside from Helmer, no one tries to upkeep appearances or bend to propriety.

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obrunacini | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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The women are supposed to be "dolled up" and ready to follow a male's instruction. For instance, Nora couldn't act like her true self because she was worried about what Torvald wanted or would think. Kristine was also dependent on Torvald for a job much like Nora was dependent on him for money. Both women are clearly being held back by the main man (Torvald) in the play.

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rpatrick3677 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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I think while gender is important in this story, it's not all it's hyped up to be. Nora is controlled because of her personality, not because of her gender. The weakest person in this story is Dr. Rank, but he's a male. I would also say one of the strongest people is Kristine, while the women are supposed to be weak.

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lafoss | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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This play reminds me of the movie The Stepford Wives. The women put on a perfect facade when in reality they are being tormented with the need to break free of the barriers that entrap them. Nora finally decides to do so, and it puts her jeopardy of losing everything, including her husband Torvald.

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