Women’s Changing Roles in A Doll’s House
Throughout history, women have had a subservient role in society. Gender inequality has been existent for a very long time. Most communities were patriarchal. Women were expected to submit to the men. They were supposed to serve the needs of men and that of their family. Societies and families were ruled by men. Women had little to contribute in terms of how the society was ruled. However, the role of women has been constantly changing in the society. They have started taking more roles that belonged to the men. A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen explains and shows the manner in which the roles of women have evolved into a reversed one that has become dominant.
In Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, women have played many roles in their families and marriages through history. The dominant role among all of them is playing the submissive, attractive and attentive wife and mother. A woman was supposed to live and care for the needs of her husband and her immediate family. Henrik Ibsen explores the roles of men and women in society by showing the way a woman recollects her self-respect and power in a society that has been dominated by men. This is seen through Nora who is the main characters in A Doll’s House. She starts a search for a new self esteem and worth that she has never experienced before. These are the same steps that women have gone through in societies around the world. They have played the submissive role to their husbands. Their submissiveness has made them suffer because they do not pay attention to their own problems as women. They were only allowed to pay attention to the problems of their husbands and children (Ibsen 3).
A Doll’s House begins by showing the initial stages in the typical marriage of Torvald and Nora. Nora takes the role of a submissive wife. On the other hand, Torvald acts as a strong and dignified husband. He constantly refers to Nora using the names of birds that parallel Nora’s self image. The two play the role of the nineteenth century couple where the man was the head of the family unit (Ibsen 17). Torvald refers to Nora with names that make Nora appear as a weak person. This is especially when he refers to Nora as a Scatterbrain, lark twittering, squirrel sulking and his song bird (Ibsen 43). He also refers to her as his little spendthrift. All these references liken Nora to a child and show that the positions and roles that Torvald and Nora occupy in their marriage are not the same. Torvald takes the major role while Nora takes the minor role. The names that Torvald use to refer to Nora confuses her, scatters her mind and makes her unorganized to an point that she does not understand herself worth. The lack of self esteem in Nora is clearly seen when Nora hides the Macaroons, yet she likes it. She does not have the confidence to eat what she likes in public. This shows that she cannot stand for her own rights. Most of the women in society feared to stand up for their own rights because they were afraid of their husbands and the society. The inferior role played by Nora is important because she was oppressed by several tyrannical conventions. She shows that when the nineteenth century woman loved nothing else mattered. She had to sacrifice everything for her family including her self esteem and worth (Ibsen 48).
Nora’s character slowly changes from the character of a doll to seek for individuality and self confidence. Whenever Torvald is not in the vicinity, Nora tries to break free. She recognizes that she has been living her life as a lie. She starts to search for her self-identify by requesting Torvald to keep Krogsard as an employee at the bank. Her invitation and attendance to the party shows that she is breaking from her cage. She wants to dance wild at the Tarantella to show that she wants to own her self-recognition. She reveals her dire need for independence in her secret to Mrs. Linde who she considers as having experience in issues of independence. When Linde tells her that she knows little about the burdens of life, Nora responds to her in a sarcastic manner (Ibsen 31). When Linde tells her that she is a child, Nora tells her that she does not have act superior. She also shows the break to independence when Krogstad reveals to her about her terrible deed and tries to blackmail her. She turns to him with strength. When she realizes that her own responsibilities are essential, she closes the chapter on everything that happened to her back life including Torvald. She says, “…I've been your wife-doll here, just as at home I was Papa's doll-child.”(160) she cannot allow Torvald to manipulate her again and decides to follow her convictions and decide upon the things she considers important. As a woman, she has decided that to take responsibility of her own life and abandon the traditional roles that her society placed on her as a submissive wife (Ibsen 162).
In conclusion, A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen is a story that shows the difficulties that a woman goes through playing her roles as a wife in a male dominated world. It also shows the troubles that she goes through in search of her self-identity and self-worth. At last, Nora gains her independence and cannot allow anyone to manipulate her anymore. The story shows the change in the role of women from a subservient one to a dominant one in society.