What is the lesson of the play "A Doll's House"?

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One of the main themes of A Doll's House is the subordination of women. In the Victorian society depicted in the play, women like Nora are treated as second-class citizens. They are confined to the home, where they are expected to take care of their husbands and children. The repressive nature of this society is further revealed when Nora discloses how she had to break the law and transgress prevailing mores in order to achieve some measure of freedom.

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Henrik Ibsen wrote plays that dealt with many taboo subjects of the time, including the place of women in society, venereal disease, marriage, and double standards; A Doll's House features all of these issues. The key lesson expressed in A Doll's House is ultimately that rigid gender roles stifle truth, individuality, and personal fulfillment.

A Doll's House examines the marriage of Nora and Torvald Helmer, and the audience watches as Nora, once content with her superficially perfect life, begins to resent the limitations of the Victorian society in which she lives. Nora faces many double-standards related to gender—for example, she is unable to borrow money (even to save her husband's life). The fragility of her position is made even more clear to her when she is blackmailed, and Nora ultimately must confront the inequality in her marriage, which she now finds intolerable.

One of the strongest moments in the play also expresses one of the key lessons in A Doll's House. This pivotal scene occurs when Torvald tells Nora that she shouldn't expect a man to sacrifice his honor for the sake of his wife. She responds that "millions of women have." This exchange highlights the hypocrisy inherent in the social expectations of men and women, which required women to always put a husband's needs above their own. The suggestion in 1879 that marriage should be a partnership and that a woman—like a man—had the right to value her own needs in order to be a more complete person demonstrates the extent to which Ibsen was ahead of his time.

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A Doll's House is a play about a woman, Nora, who struggles in an oppressive marriage to a controlling husband. Because her husband, Torvald, treats her as a possession, Nora eventually leaves her husband and children to start a new life and find herself. One of the themes of this play involves the role of a woman in a marriage and how that role defines them. Nora struggles to balance her desire to be a good wife against her wish to be true to herself and her own desires and needs. She comes to the realization that her husband is clueless as to who she really is as a person because he only sees her as a wife and mother—not as an individual. In the end, Nora can take no more of this and decides to leave her entire life behind.

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What is the main theme of 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 European society were very much subordinate to men. They were treated as second-class citizens, denied the same rights and opportunities as their menfolk.

Such treatment extended even to middle-class women like Nora. They were essentially confined to the home, where they were always expected to put the needs of their husbands and children first. And that's precisely what Nora does, at least until the end of the play when she decides to leave Torvald and the children, closing the door behind her.

To make matters worse, Nora's husband, Torvald, infantilizes her, treating her as if she were nothing more than a child needing protection from the outside world. Torvald even regularly calls Nora by childish pet names, such as "my squirrel," which are as demeaning as they are condescending. All in all, Nora's treatment by a patriarchal society and its representatives is pretty horrendous, and it's no wonder that successive generations of women have been able to identify with her.

It says a lot about the myriad restrictions placed on women in Nora's society that she can only gain some measure of freedom by breaking the law and transgressing the bounds of what's considered acceptable behavior for a woman. She does the former by making a fraudulent loan application by forging her father's signature, all without her husband's knowledge. Ironically, she only did this for the benefit of Torvald's health, a clear sign of how hard it is for a woman in Nora's situation to break free from the mindset induced by the patriarchy.

Nevertheless, by the standards of the time, Nora's criminal actions constitute a rare opportunity for her to exercise some initiative. And now that she's exercised some freedom, she's acquired something of a taste for it; and so one shouldn't be too surprised that she goes one better and takes the fateful step of leaving Torvald and their children.

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What is the theme of A Doll's House?

One theme of this play is that society expects women to relinquish any hope of independence and, instead, to sacrifice themselves for others (whether it be for their children, their husbands, or even their own parents). Near the end of the play, it is revealed that Mrs. Linde, Nora's friend, felt compelled to abandon Krogstad, the man she really loved, so that she could marry someone richer who could support her mother and siblings. She could not follow her own heart, her own desires, and marry the man she wanted, because she recognized her social obligation to save her family.

Further, Nora also realizes that she has lived her entire life as someone else's "doll:" first her father's and then her husband, Torvald's. Like "hundreds of thousands of women" who have been compelled to give up their own integrity, she had given up her own, until Torvald's behavior finally revealed the truth to her. He only loves her when she is his "doll;" when she acts according to her own will and volition, as she does when she takes out the loan from Krogstad because she wants to save her husband's life, he cannot abide her behavior, despite her altruistic and loving rationale. Once Nora realizes the truth and sees her life for what it's been, she can no longer remain a doll and will not force her children to be her dolls either, and so she abandons her family to find herself.

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What is the theme of A Doll's House?

There is not just one theme for the play The Doll's House. It is a complex story about the complicated financial and personal problems of married couple.

One theme of the play is perception vs. reality. Torvald perceives Nora to be a silly woman who only thinks about spending money and being pretty. In reality, she is a shrewd schemer who does what she has to do to protect her family. Likewise, Dr. Rank seems to be only a very good friend to both Torvald and Nora, when in reality he is deeply in love with Nora.

Another theme that goes along with the first is truth vs. lies. Nora's lies, though meant for good, only cause her heartache and disappointment.

There are other themes, but I won't list them all for you here. You can read an excellent article here at eNotes at the link in the resources section.

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What is the theme of A Doll's House?

One major theme of the play is that women must be the social and legal equals of men; otherwise, not only their independence but also the happiness of all is compromised. Torvald does not see his wife, Nora, as his equal. One indicator of this is the nicknames that he has for her: "the squirrel," "little lark," and so on. By the end of the play, Nora has realized—based on Torvald's horrific response to the knowledge that she took out a loan and forged her father's signature to do so—that her life has been without meaning and that she does not truly know who she is. She says,

I passed from father's hands into yours. You arranged everything according to your taste; and I got the same tastes as you; or I pretended to—I don't know which—both ways, perhaps; sometimes one and sometimes the other. When I look back on it now, I seem to have been living here like a beggar, from hand to mouth. I lived by performing tricks for you, Torvald. But you would have it so. You and father have done me a great wrong. It is your fault that my life has come to nothing.

As a result of Nora's feeling that she's never really had a life or identity that belongs to her, she abandons her family: her husband and children. This is a pretty shocking turn of events, one that absolutely astonishes Torvald, especially because he claims that he has forgiven her for her "want of principle" (which he obviously only does because Krogstad has forgiven the debt). Society's refusal to allow women their own identities and legal decisions has resulted in the unhappiness of an entire family, and this could have been avoided if Nora had been treated as an equal with rights and ideas of her own.

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