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The Role of Women in A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

“A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen is one of the most influential plays of Victorian times which not only opened new dimensions to the English Drama but also left an indelible impact on the future writers and dramatists at large. The theme of the play seems to revolt against the prevailing social norms, values, and conventions related to domestic life where men and women act and react as spouses according to the customs of Victorian times. All the Victorian writers, poets, and novelists depicted a traditional state of affairs where a woman used to be the symbol of exemplary sacrifice, unabated love for the members of the family, and unconditional adoration for her home. The plays were written by Jane Austen, George Eliot, the Bronte sisters, Dickens, Thackeray and others reveal the generosity and compassion of women in a sublime and stunning way. Especially, Eliot’s Maggie Tulliver sacrificed her life in order to save her brother who had turned her out of the house and had announced her banishment at her estate. But Ibsen has portrayed a new picture of the woman of his times. He has shown how a complying and loving wife can stand up against the humiliating attitude of her husband by costing her own comforts and breaking the strong ties of long-term matrimonial life as well as ignoring her responsibilities as a mother of three children for the sake of her prestige and ego.

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The nineteenth-century woman, not only in England or Europe but also all over the globe at large, maintained great attachment with her home and could seldom think of part with it in life. There was no concept of raising a voice in favor of her rights and against the male dominance and exploitation of the delicate sex. During and before the Victorian age, there was no concept of feminism either in literature or in society and Ibsen’s play served as the first step towards this direction which inspired women to organize in a systematic way to combat the challenges of unequal opportunities of growth against male dominating social set up. The story of the play “A Doll’s House” is an extremely controversial one that narrates the tale of Nora and Torvald Helmer, who is leading a happy and satisfied life in the company of one another. Since Nora has got a forgery in a bank document through Krogstad, his financial career is in serious jeopardy. Nora does not want to disclose that the forgery has been made to save Torvald’s life; she makes lame excuses to save Krogstad’s skin and career. On finding his professional life at stake, Krogstad drops a letter in Torvald’s mailbox, which he reads though Nora has tried to evade it many times. The letter irritates him too much to tolerate and he rebukes his wife declaring her a liar and dishonest. Meanwhile, Krogstad’s second note by the suggestion of Kristine, he revises his decision and expresses his apologies to Nora, who in return refuses to accept his apologies and announces to leave the “doll’s house” where she serves as mere a toy. It is the turning point of the play which provides the women with the courage to perform something great to evade the humiliating behavior of husbands and other male individuals of society. The idea of the feminist perspective is also the outcome of the story and theme of the Doll’s House. Social groups have been divided into different classes in respect of socio-economic status, different occupations, and professions, age, gender, and religion. Social inequalities are found in all fields of life and in all the institutions prevailing in a society. In this pretext, the Feminist perspective theory came into existence. The idea of division of labor on the basis of gender gave birth to feminism. It was a strong voice against the inequalities between men and women in respect of social status, division of power as well as work and gender discrimination.

Feminists characterize women as alienated especially in capitalism, though radical feminists state alienation exists in all economic systems existing in the contemporary world. Women in different parts of the world, whether developing or developed, contain a rich and long-term history of struggle against male domination and exploitation. They have strived in an organized way, on their own behalf against exploitation and diminishing circumstances. In the nineteenth century, women writers, novelists, and poets were discouraged while producing their works. Even, Mary Evans Ann had to name her George Eliot to hide and conceal her feminine identity. Though Victorian literature contained the works of female writers, the atmosphere was not appreciable at all. The share of women in social construction was not acknowledged, and they were stated as mere submissive and complying creatures, although they worked in fields, in hospitals, teaching institutes, and other professions. Ibsen’s works “A Doll’s House influenced in mobilizing women movements a lot at a moment when the male domination was oppressive and tyrannical. At first, Elizabeth Stanton in the 19th century and Emma Goldman at the beginning of the 20th century raised her voice in the United States for women’s rights. Other feminist theorists including Patricia Hill Collins and others launched a campaign for their rights in the latter half of the 20th century and demanded that women too should have been the same rights as had been delegated to men. Eisenstein has described the radical feminist theory in these words: “Historically, radical feminism started with the assumption that the sexes are adversarially poised, that men have power over women and that society and its various social relationships can be best understood in terms of their relationship to that situation” (Eisenstein 1983). All such facts have also been revealed while portraying Nora’s character and her sympathies to save her ailing husband, who on his convalescence declares his wife guilty of committing a crime and exercising dishonesty. The play urged the womenfolk to break the shackles of the tyrannical behavior of men towards them and lead an isolated life rather than becoming prey to their prejudiced and unjust behavior.

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