What are gender issues in A Doll's House that can be seen in societies all over the world?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The denial of a woman's voice is an aspect of A Doll's House that can be seen in different parts of the world.

As a woman, Nora's voice is silenced.  She experiences this in the world around her and in her own home. Socially, she is seen as less than a man in how she cannot conduct business without her husband's consent.  This dynamic is similar in her own home. Torvald holds power over her.  Her voice is denied in subtle and overt ways. When he refers to Nora in dismissive terms like "squirrel" or "spendthrift," it shows how Torvald views his wife in a trivial manner.  He sees her as simply part of a "doll's house," where her role is clearly defined: "Do I have to tell you that? Isn't it your duty to your husband and children?" Torvald views Nora's role as nothing more than domestic.

In many parts of the world today, gender roles are viewed in the same way. It is the reason for the disparity between the education levels of girls and boys.  The World Bank Organization noted how gender plays a defining role in access to education in different parts of the world:

Sixteen million girls between the ages six and 11 will never enter school compared to eight million boys. In South and West Asia, for example, 80 percent of out-of-school girls will never start compared to 16 percent of out-of-school boys. This means that approximately four million girls across the region will remain excluded from education.

In these settings, women have been defined by a duty to "husband and children."  Patriarchal attitudes like Torvald's is a major reason why so many girls do not have access to education.  These attitudes are the major reason why their voice is being denied.  

Nora comes to a realization that she has "another duty, just as sacred" when she confronts Torvald: "My duty to myself.”  This awakening forces her to leave him and find a new path for her life.  She recognizes the power of choice and the importance of her voice.  This is a realization that girls and women today should embrace as they battle similar situations to Nora's.