Introduction to A Doll's House

First performed in December 1879 at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll’s House was met with both incredible success and immediate criticism for its views on marriage and family, which were highly controversial at the time. The play follows Nora Helmer, a middle-class Norwegian housewife, as she confronts the consequences of an illegal loan she has taken out in order to save the life of her husband, Torvald. However, as she navigates strict gender roles and dismantles the illusions that plague her marriage, she realizes that she is no longer content to be anyone’s “doll wife.” Whereas critics claimed A Doll's House threatened to dismantle traditional values, fans found its realistic, complex depictions of individuals and families relatable, inspiring, and refreshing. Under pressure from his agent, who worried that German audiences would find the ending of the play too controversial, Ibsen was forced to pen an alternate ending that aligned more closely with the conventional morality of the time. Ibsen himself referred to this alternate ending as a "barabric outrage," and today, nearly all stage and film adaptations use his original ending.

A Brief Biography of Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906) is, without a doubt, the father of realist theater. The Norwegian playwright is considered the starting point for modern drama, particularly realism, which dominated the twentieth century. Rejecting the spectacular, sentimental, and over-the-top plays that marked the nineteenth-century stage, Ibsen turned his eye toward societal issues that marked the waning years of the Victorian era. Whether questioning the confines of marriage in A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler or the hypocrisy of politics in An Enemy of the People, Ibsen subverted social norms and their controlling institutions. Although many of his plays were criticized for their content at the time, Ibsen’s works helped lay the foundation for even more radical explorations in the following century.

Frequently Asked Questions about A Doll's House

A Doll's House

Krogstad's crime is ironic because it is, essentially, the same crime that Nora Helmer commits. Nora has committed a forgery, signing a contract with her father's name (as a woman at the time was...

Latest answer posted August 29, 2020, 11:40 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Doll's House

In the play, Nora is portrayed as a submissive housewife who is primarily concerned with pleasing her controlling, insensitive husband, Torvald Helmer. Torvald views and treats Nora like a doll and...

Latest answer posted August 29, 2020, 11:58 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Doll's House

In A Doll's House, Nora Helmer carries the heavy burden of a devastating secret, which is revealed to her domineering husband toward the end of the play. In act 1, Nora is visited by her former...

Latest answer posted August 29, 2020, 11:18 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Doll's House

Henrik Ibsen uses numerous literary devices in A Doll’s House. These include two types of comparisons, metaphor and simile. Throughout the play, he frequently employs dramatic irony. With this...

Latest answer posted April 19, 2021, 3:07 am (UTC)

3 educator answers

A Doll's House

Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House is written in the style called realism. Realism became popular in the nineteenth century, as a response to Romanticism. Romantic literature often tended to...

Latest answer posted August 29, 2020, 12:07 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Doll's House

More than anything else, Nora's fancy dress symbolizes her subordination to her husband, Torvald. This rather fetching Neapolitan fisher-girl's dress isn't something that Nora wears for herself but...

Latest answer posted August 29, 2020, 11:41 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Doll's House

Generally speaking, money in A Doll's House symbolizes power. He who has money—and in this society, wealth is invariably in the hands of men—also has power. Specifically, though, money symbolizes...

Latest answer posted August 29, 2020, 11:26 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Doll's House

There is much about the world and the way women are treated that has thankfully changed since Henrik Ibsen wrote A Doll's House in 1879. For starters, women can, in most countries, get legitimate...

Latest answer posted August 29, 2020, 11:48 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Doll's House

In A Doll’s House, the lamp represents both false security and the illumination of truth. In the play, Ibsen introduces the lamp as a prop that characters use as protection and as a device to...

Latest answer posted August 29, 2020, 2:43 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Doll's House

Nora leaves her husband because of the massive fight that occurs when he learns the truth about an illegal loan she had taken out years earlier. Nora's husband, Torvald Helmer, is absolutely livid...

Latest answer posted August 29, 2020, 11:17 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Doll's House

In A Doll's House, Torvald speaks the last line of the play as Nora leaves him. Ibsen's stage direction says that "a hope flashes across his mind." Torvald asks, "The most wonderful thing of all—?"...

Latest answer posted August 29, 2020, 11:38 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Doll's House

Although there are a couple of conflicts going on in this great play, one main conflict is between Nora and her husband, Torvald. Near the beginning of their marriage, Nora had taken out an illegal...

Latest answer posted August 29, 2020, 11:09 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Doll's House

Even if one accepts that Nora has made the right decision in walking out on her husband and children at the end of A Doll's House, it still wouldn't be appropriate to describe the famous closing of...

Latest answer posted August 29, 2020, 11:10 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Doll's House

Nora does not kill herself in A Doll's House, although she does at one point consider suicide. Rather, at the end of the play, having realized that her husband does not truly value her and that her...

Latest answer posted August 29, 2020, 12:24 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Doll's House

The irony in A Doll's House lies in the fact that, after having worked and made sacrifices for the sake of her husband's health, image, and believed happiness, Nora learns her husband is unwilling...

Latest answer posted August 29, 2020, 11:30 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Doll's House

Dr. Rank is a friend of the Helmers and visits them regularly. He pays particular attention to Nora, treating her with chivalrous courtesy and paying her frequent compliments. Nora seems to realize...

Latest answer posted August 29, 2020, 11:22 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Doll's House

A Doll's House was banned because of its intense social criticism of the inequalities that often existed within marriage and the way women were treated by men during the Victorian era. A Doll's...

Latest answer posted August 28, 2020, 11:30 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Doll's House

Overall, the plot of A Doll's House unfolds as the consequences of Nora Helmer having illegally borrowed money years earlier come to light. Nora took out a loan to pay for a trip to Italy that had...

Latest answer posted August 28, 2020, 11:10 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Doll's House

The title of Henrik Ibsen's celebrated play A Doll's House alludes to the way the domineering, insensitive Torvald Helmer treats his wife, Nora, who feels like she is playing the role of a doll in...

Latest answer posted August 28, 2020, 11:28 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Doll's House

There are many very important themes in Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, but arguably the most important theme of all is the subordination of women. At the time when Ibsen wrote the play, women in...

Latest answer posted August 28, 2020, 8:39 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer
Next

Summary