Why are there many references of fever or illness in Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House ?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The word fever is actually never directly mentioned in the play; however, there are many references to illness. In particular, Dr. Rank is very ill. Nora informs Christine that he has "consumption of the spine," which is a type of spinal tuberculosis, otherwise called Pott's disease. Nora further states that Dr. Rank's illness is the result of his father being an immoral and overly indulgent man; Dr. Rank's father's excesses were said to have weakened Dr. Rank's own immune system beginning in his childhood, as we see in Nora's lines:

His father was a horrible man who committed all sorts of excesses; and that is why his son was sickly from childhood. (II)

Dr. Rank's illness is mentioned in several places. Dr. Rank even confesses to Nora that he is aware that he will be dying soon, as we see in his line, "Lately I have been taking stock of my internal economy. Bankrupt! Probably within a month I shall lie rotting in the churchyard" (II).

Dr. Rank's illness is important to the play because it becomes a symbol of social injustice. Dr. Rank argues that it is unfair for a man to have to suffer because of "another man's sins," namely his father's. He asks, "Is there any justice in that?" (II). The injustice that Dr. Rank is suffering represents social injustice in general thereby paralleling the injustice Nora must suffer, as well as other women.