What are some of the social and cultural contexts to keep in mind when reading A Doll's House?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

For me, the most important cultural contexts to keep in mind when reading Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House is the patriarchal norms and standards concerning female agency and the institution of marriage. More specifically, Ibsen provides poignant critique of the unfair standards that patriarchal society imposes upon women. Ibsen subverts and challenges these standards through Nora Helmer's voluntary dissolution of her unhappy relationship with her narrow minded husband Torvald.

Marriage was considerably different in the Nineteenth Century from how we perceive the institution today. Indeed, marriage was less about romantic love and more about making familial connections. Women in this time were viewed much like children; they were seen as less than men, and were ascribed to be moralistic compasses in the home, and charged with the rearing of culturally acceptable children. Therefore, while it may seem innocuous by today's standards, Ibsen's A Doll's House had radical implications upon its debut.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial