Gender Inequality in the Henrik Ibsen`s Play “A Doll`s House”
GenderInequality in the Henrik Ibsen’s Play “A Doll’s House”
Inthe Henrik Ibsen’s play “A Doll’s House” women and men areportrayed as unequal in that women are given degraded, disparaged anddisgraced roles in virtually all the social and economic levels inthe community. The play depicts inequalities between sexes in thenineteenth century including the ways in which the inequalitiesimpacted on the individuals’ lives in the play (Holledge 43).Inequality is derived from their perceived differences in diverseroles as constructed by the society. The play portrays theprotagonist character referred to as Nora who according to the playis like a doll subjects to constant manipulation by her husband,Torvald Helmer. In the play, Nora borrowed money from Krogstad, afriend to the family, and kept it secret because Torvald was theproud male who would not want it to appear that a woman had assistedhim (Holledge 2015). Krogstad lost his job after disagreementsbetween him and Torvald thus revealing the secret to Torvald afterlosing her job because Nora could not convince Torvald to keep him.The conflict between Nora and Torvald culminated to a divorce.Throughout the play, women are treated as inferior to men and thusunequal in almost all engagements between men and women. Women, inIbsen’s society, have been treated as inferior and thus unequal tomen in decision making, responsibilities, positions, dignity amongother variables (Beauvoir & Malovany 14). Uneven perceptions andtreatment of various individuals in the play based on their genderdemonstrate the fact that women are unequal to men. This essay seeksto analyze the use of roles of various characters to demonstrate thetheme of gender inequality throughout the play “A Doll’s House”by Henrik Ibsen.
Accordingto the play “A Doll’s House,” women and men are not regarded aslegally or socially equal since the roles played by variouscharacters as well as their status in the Ibsen’s society showsthat men are more superior to women. This assertion can be confirmedby the inequality that is demonstrated in the family of Torvald andNora Helmer that serves as the protagonist family in the play(Holledge 43). In this family, Torvald is the sole decision maker andhas the power to judge the entire situations while Nora does not havethe opportunity to express her ideas or opinion in almost all thecases. Torvald dictates how family funds are going to spend, holdsthe mailbox key, and controls all the events in the family (Ibsen49). On the other hand, Nora is like a plaything in that there isnothing that is left for her to control. In most cases, she is equalto her children when it comes to decision making. This incidence isdemonstrated by the fact that Torvald calls Nora his little“squirrel,” “spendthrift,” “songbird,” “lark” andthus confirming the fact that he does not respect his spouse ortreats her with dignity (Ibsen 8). Addressing Nora using pet names,further constitute degrading effect which shows that they are notequal as a couple, but their relationship is like that of a man andhis pet. Additionally, Torvald calls her spouse “featherbrain”meaning that she is an absentminded or silly person (Holledge 43).This name further damages her reputation thus treating her spouse asif she is beneath him and unworthy of being treated equally.
Thelevel of degradation is realized when Nora decided to questionTorvald by engaging him in a serious conversation. She said that “Iwas moved from Daddy`s care to yours” demonstrating that she hasbeen held like a child all along being denied the opportunity to makeher decision right from her Father’s home and now as Torvalds’swife (Ibsen 94). The information that Nora is passing across is thefact that the society has been oppressive to women for a long timeand there has been no objection to the exploitations. Nora wasprepared to challenge the community by making a historic decisionhoping that the society would identify the misconceptions and addressthem. Nora had gathered enough courage and was ready to sacrifice herfamily yet it was the most valuable responsibility for her. Accordingto Nora, her values and dreams have been shattered because she liveda suppressed life when she was under the care of her father and nowthat she is married to a man who just like his father struggle todiminish her dreams. Accordingly, Nora is passed on the way anobject, prize or a doll could be passed from one individual toanother without influencing their life in any way (Holledge 2015).The reason is that his father exploited her because she was a womanand thus dehumanized her and now his husband continues theinjustices. This statement shows that Nora was respected neither byher father and nor by her husband.
Torvaldalso demand that Nora should not take macaroon because according toTorvald they will damage her teeth (Holledge 2015). Nora has to takethem when Torvald is absent meaning that she is capable of making herdecision but has been intimidated by Torvald. This act showed thatNora is held hostage in that she is not allowed to make her decisionincluding simple decision. Nora is imprisoned and confined where sheis not given the opportunity to be herself (Beauvoir & Malovany39). Torvald is the most dominant partner in the marriage in that heissued declarations and disdains to Nora because Nora is economicallydisadvantaged. Correspondingly, Nora says that “You and Daddy havedone me great harm” showing that she has been blocked from reachingher potential despite her immense abilities as a woman (Ibsen 93).
Besides,Torvald position himself such that he is the only member who couldprovide finances to his family (Beauvoir & Malovany 84). He couldno attest to the fact that his spouse Nora can help him financiallywhen he encounters challenges. For this reason, Nora had to hide thedetails of her loan and resolved to pay in secret in a way thatTorvald would not know. This incidence shows that the society couldnot allow women to obtain loans without approval from their husbands(Ibsen 17). Here, Nora is repressed because she cannot be trustedwith a loan and thus she hides the details of the loan to ensure thatit is not revealed. This arrangement is a depiction of inequalitybecause Nora is portrayed as an individual who has no freedom tohandle finances without Torvald’s approval (Holledge 2015). Assuch, she is vulnerable to blackmail which culminated to a conflictbetween Krogstad her and made her lose a family.
WhenTorvald initiated sexual advances to Nora, she refused to concede,making Torvald assert that he is her husband and thus entitled tohave sex when he wished (Ibsen 82). Torvald belittled women becausehe believed that Nora is obliged to accept the advances whether sheis prepared or not. It also demonstrated that women’s wants arebelow men’s desires and hence they are not equal at any given time(Holledge 2015). According to this incidence, women are confined incertain specific social norms that they must adhere to at all cost.Torvald dismissed Nora’s suggestions assuming that his status willbe tainted if he is considered to have taken his spouse’s decision.According to Torvald, Nora is a woman, and there was no way she wouldmake the logical decision that was worth of being considered(Beauvoir & Malovany 84). Essentially, women were depicted asinferior not because they were inferior but because their ideas weresuppressed and dismissed based on their gender.
Mrs.Linde revealed that she married another man who could support herfamily despite the fact that Krogstad was his loving man. Mrs. Lindeasserted that “I`d like two younger brothers to look after. When heproposed, how could I not accept?”(Ibsen 54). Consequently, Mrs.Linde married a man she did not love so that she can be supportedtogether with the family showed that women were so inferior that theycould not make their decision. Instead, they followed other people’sdecision even if it meant preceding their desires. Accepting that thesociety’s decision was superior to her decision, further confirmedthe fact that women are inferior and restricted from making valuableself-decision (Holledge 43).
WhenAnne-Marie and Nora were having a conversation regarding raising achild, Anne-Marie asserted that she could have been able to raise herchild but was forced to take her child to be adopted so that shecould raise money to afford her child a better life (Ibsen 48).Consequently, her gender makes her restricted and thus could not getthe opportunities that would allow her to raise her child under hercare. Ironically, Anne-Marie considered her poorly paying job ablessing and thus sees herself as having committed an unpardonablesin by having the child before she was married (Holledge 43). In thissociety, giving birth to a child before one would get married leadsto stigmatization because such a child is regarded as illegitimate.Her fear showed that women had no power to make their personaldecision including personal decisions, such as when to get children(Beauvoir & Malovany 54). Moreover, the women that managed to getsuch children were not allowed to have equal opportunities to men,and thus they would get the lowly paying job that could not sustainthemselves and their children.
Menin the play “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen are demonstratedas ambitious, superior and self-directed. They are also depicted asindividuals who can play more than one role and succeed. They arecapable of providing for the families, and at the same time desire towork and achieve higher status (Ibsen 11). For instance, Torvald isan established decision maker who was capable of dictating who theyare going to work together. One the other hand, women are depicted aslow achievers, dependent and subjective. For instance, when Nora’sborrowing plan was revealed, Torvalds’s concern was centered on thefuture of his reputation. Nora had spent much of their marriage lifepaying the loan on herself so that the information could not berevealed (Beauvoir & Malovany 47). Her inability to pay the loanto its completion demonstrated that women cannot be successful infinancial matters in their lives.
Krogstadwas determined to regain his position and achieve success in that hewas ready to do anything to make sure he is reinstated to hisoriginal position after being dismissed. He also positioned himselfwith an aim of getting a higher paying job in the bank. Consequently,men are aggressive, determined and committed while women would onlyaccept what has been offered (Banyard 25). For instance, Mrs. Lindeought to have been employed and working instead of marrying aninfluential person so that he can be supported. Similarly, Anne-Marieworked in a career where she made very little money to support herand the family. Besides, Women are thus demonstrated as uncommitted,irresolute and undetermined because they cannot and are not supposedto question the society or dispute their positions (Holledge 43). Menare thus unequal to women in all the spheres of their life, andaccording to the Ibsen, they are to stay in this condition until theydecide to object.
Torvald,Dr. Rank, and Krogstad do not take women with the seriousness itdeserved but instead treated them as minors. Torvald, Dr. Rank, andKrogstad dismissed Nora as a child. Similarly, Nora does not appearto be frustrated by the way she is portrayed (Ibsen 24). In fact, shealso refers to herself as little one who will not disobey her husbandat all costs. Nevertheless, her reactions at the end of the play showthat she was not entirely in consensus with the position that sheoccupied or the status as at that time. Nora is not completelycontented by the limited and restricted position in which thecommunity has placed her. Despite the fact that the society throughits defined roles set women as inferior to men, Nora’s behavior atthe end of the play showed that such placement is unsustainable,unjustifiable and unmanageable (Banyard 28). She lived in thatposition, possibly because she did not want to abandon her childrenor her husband because they were the only individuals that shetreasured. Ibsen uses Nora as a character symbolizing defiance thatdelivers her from being dominated by men for an extended period. Conversely, she later found that she had to sacrifice by leaving hercomfort zone to confront reality by abandoning her children and herhusband (Ibsen 23). Consequently, she was not inferior but had beenmade inferior demonstrating the fact that gender roles as defined bythe Ibsen‘s community were temporary and could be changed. However,it took sacrifice to achieve this change.
Inthe play “A Doll’s House” women are not equal to men. Throughvarious roles given to characters, it is evidence that women’sroles are inferior to those of men. Through Ibsen protagonist family,women have been depicted as inferior to men in many ways. Some ofthese ways include the fact that Nora borrowed money in secret andproceeded to repay in secret showing women are not supposed toborrow. Correspondingly, Nora has been subjected to mistreatment byhis husband Torvald by being called pet names, subjected to forcedsexual advancement, being belittled and could not be allowed topossess keys that could open the mailbox among other inequalities.Correspondingly, Mrs. Linde could not be allowed to make the decisionon the person she preferred to marry but she is forced to marry awealthy man so that her family can be supported. Anne-Marie alsoworked on the poorly paying job and was forced to take her child tobe adopted so that she could work and afford her child the basicnecessities of life. The society also seemed to alienate her becauseshe had given birth to a child before being married. Men are depictedas aggressive, determined and committed while women are portrayed asuncommitted, irresolute and undetermined and thus they are unequal tomen. The theme of inequality is one of the most prevalent themes inthe in the Henrik Ibsen’s play “A Doll’s House,”demonstrating the fact that it dominated the nineteenth-centurysociety. Most of the individuals in the society including womenbelieved that women are unequal to men and thus women could not makesignificant decisions and would perform the inferior and low-leveltask. Conversely, the play also demonstrated that women couldovercome these degraded roles because Nora was able to make thedecision leaving her family to move away from these mistreatments.The play remains relevant to the contemporary society because itsensitizes women to think about the inequalities that exist in thesociety and find ways of overcoming them. Accordingly, “A Doll’sHouse” by Henrik Ibsen is one of the most influential, remarkableand groundbreaking plays that have been written.
Banyard,Kat. TheEquality Illusion: The Truth about Women and Men Today.London, Faber and Faber, 2013. Print.
Beauvoir,Simone, Constance Borde, and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier. TheSecond Sex.2014. Internet resource.
Holledge,J. AGlobal Doll`s House: Ibsen and Distant Visions:Palgrave, 2015. Print.
Ibsen,Henrik. ADoll`s House.2014. Internet resource.
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