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An Interpretation of A Dolls house-Compared to 50's to the present -Are we better off -you decide

"A Doll's House" is classified under the "second phase" of Henrik Ibsen's career. It was
during this period, which he made the transition from mythical and historical dramas to
plays dealing with social problems. It was the first in a series investigating the
tensions of family life. Written during the Victorian era, the controversial play
featuring a female protagonist seeking individuality stirred up more

controversy than any of his other works. In contrast to many dramas of Scandinavia in that
time which depicted the role of women as the comforter, helper, and supporter of man, "A
Doll's House" introduced

woman as having her own purposs and goals. The heroine, Nora Helmer, progresses during the
course of the play eventually to realize that she must discontinue the role of a doll and
seek out her


David Thomas describes the initial image of Nora as that of a doll wife who revels in the
thought of luxuries that can now be afforded, who is become with flirtation, and engages
in childlike acts

of disobedience (259). This inferior role from which Nora progressed is extremely
important. Ibsen in his "A Doll's House" depicts the role of women as subordinate in order
to emphasize the need to reform their

role in society.

Definite characteristics of the women's subordinate role in a relationship are emphasized
through Nora's contradicting actions. Her infatuation with luxuries such as expensive
Christmas gifts contradicts her resourcefulness in scrounging and buying cheap clothing;
her defiance of Torvald by eating forbidden Macaroons contradicts the submission of her
opinions, including the decision of which dance outfit to wear, to her husband; and Nora's
flirtatious nature contradicts her devotion to her husband. These occurrences

emphasize the facets of a relationship in which women play a dependent role: finance,
power, and love. Ibsen attracts our attention to these examples to highlight the overall
subordinate role that a woman plays

compared to that of her husband. The two sides of Nora contrast each other greatly and
accentuate the fact that she is lacking in independence of will.

The mere fact that Nora's well-intentioned action is considered illegal reflects woman's
subordinate position in society; but it is her actions that provide the insight to this
position. It can be

suggested that women have the power to choose which rules to follow at home, but not in
the business world, thus again indicating her subordinate ness. Nora does not at first
realize that the rules outside

the household apply to her. This is evident in Nora's meeting with Krogstad regarding her
borrowed money. In her opinion it was no crime for a woman to do everything possible to
save her husband's life. She

also believes that her act will be overlooked because of her desperate situation. She
fails to see that the law does not take into account the motivation behind her forgery.
Marianne Sturman submits that this

meeting with Krogstad was her first confrontation with the reality of a "lawful society"
and she deals with it by attempting to distract herself with her Christmas decorations
(16). Thus her first encounter

with rules outside of her "doll's house" results in the realization of her naivety and
inexperience with the real world due to her subordinate role in society.

The character of Nora is not only important in describing to role of women, but also in
emphasizing the impact of this role on a woman. Nora's child-like manner, evident through
her minor acts of

disobedience and lack of responsibility compiled with her lack of sophistication further
emphasize the subordinate role of woman. By the end of the play this is evident as she
eventually sees herself as an

ignorant person, and unfit mother, nd essentially her husband's wife. Edmond Gosse
highlights the point that "Her insipidity, her dollishness, come from the incessant
repression of her family life (721)." Nora has been spoonfed everything she has needed in
life. Never having to think has caused her to become dependent on others. This dependency
has given way to subordinateness, one that has grown

into a social standing. Not only a position in society, but a state of mind is created.
When circumstances suddenly place Nora in a responsible position, and demand from her a
moral judgment, she has none to give. She cannot possibly comprehend the severity of her
decision to borrow money illegally. Their supposed inferiority has created a class of
ignorant women who cannot take action let alone accept the consequences of their actions.

"A Doll's House" is also a prediction of change from this subordinate roll. According to
Ibsen in his play, women will eventually progress and understand her position. Bernard
Shaw notes that when Nora's husband inadvertently deems her unfit in her role as a mother,
she begins to realize that her actions consisting of playing with her children happily or
dressing them nicely does not necessarily make her a suitable parent (226). She needs to
be more to her children than an empty figurehead. From this point, when

Torvald is making a speech about the effects of a deceitful mother, until the final scene,
Nora progressively confronts the realities of the real world and realizes her subordinate
position. Although she is progressively understanding this position, she still clings to
the hope that her husband will come to her protection and defend her from the outside
world once her crime is out in the open. After she reveals the "dastardly deed" to her
husband, he becomes understandably agitated; in his frustration he shares the outside
world with her, the ignorance of the serious business world, and destroys her innocence
and self-esteem. This disillusion marks the final destructive blow to her doll's house.
Their ideal home including their marriage and

parenting has been a fabrication for the sake of society. Nora's decision to leave this
false life behind and discover for herself what is real is directly symbolic of woman's
ultimate realization. Although she becomes aware of her supposed subordinate ness, it is
not because of this that she has the desire to take action. Nora is tterly confused, as
suggested by Harold Clurman, "She is groping sadly in a maze of confused feeling toward a
way of life and a destiny of which she is most uncertain (256)." The one thing she is
aware of is her ignorance, and her desire to go out into the world is not to "prove
herself" but to discover and educate herself. She must strive to find her individuality.

That the perception of woman is inaccurate is also supported by the role of Torvald. Woman
is believed to be subordinate to the domineering husband. Instead of being the strong
supporter and protector of his family, Nora's husband is a mean and cowardly man. Worried
about his reputation he cares little about his wife's feelings and fails to notice many of
her needs. The popular impression of man is discarded in favor of a more realistic view,
thus illustrating society's distorted views. Ibsen, through this controversial play, has
an impact upon society's view of the subordinate position of women. By describing this
role of woman, discussing its effects, and predicting a change in contemporary views, he
stressed the importance of woman's realization f this believed inferiority. Woman should
no longer be seen as the shadow of man, but a person in herself, with her own triumphs and
tragedies. The exploration of Nora reveals that she is dependant upon her husband and
displays no independent standing. Her progression of understanding suggests woman's future
ability to comprehend their plight. Her state of shocked awareness at the end of the play
is representative of the awakening of society to the changing view of the role of woman.
"A Doll's House" magnificently illustrates the need for and a prediction of this change.

You have read below this line already
Women have always played a major role in families, but the idea that they have a life
cycle apart from their roles as wife and mother is relatively recent, and still not widely
accepted in our culture. The expectation has been that women would take care of the needs
of others, first men, then children, then the elderly. Until very recently "human
development or culture" referred to male development, while woman's development as defined
by the men in their lives. They went from being daughter, to wife, to mother, their status
defined by the male in the relationship and their role by their position in the family's
life cycle. Rarely, has it been accepted that women have a right to a life for themselves
(Kessler; 1994).

Woman's roles throughout the life cycle in their families and at work have changed
dramatically in recent years. Since 1980 childbearing has fallen below replacement levels,
as many woman are electing not to have children or to postpone childbearing in order to
pursue career aspirations. Many more women are concentrating on jobs and education. Women
are exposed to higher rates of change and instability in their lives than men
(Doherenwend, 1973) and because of their greater emotional involvement in the lives of
those around them, are more vulnerable to the life cycle stresses. Compared to men, they
are more responsive to feel responsible for a wider network of people. Their role overload
is exacerbated when unpredictable stresses, such as illness, divorce, or unemployment,
occur. This means they are doubly stressed-both exposed to more network stressed and more
emotionally responsive to them (Gove, 1972). Kessler and McLeod (1984) found women to be
much more emotionally affected than men by the death of a loved one and other network
events. It is said by many of these references, "adherence to the traditional family roles
not only oppresses women, but can have a pernicious effect on all family members, on
marriage relationships, and on family functioning"(Cohler & Lieberman, 1980).

In recent years women have been marrying later and less often and having fewer children.
They are divorcing more-current estimates are that 50% of all marriages will end in
divorce (Glick 1984)-and those with the most education and income are the most likely to
divorce and the least likely to remarry. By contrast, the wealthier men are and the more
educated they are, the more likely they are to stay married or to remarry quickly. Women
are likely to move down to the poverty level after divorce, experiencing and average 73%
decline in their standards of living.

Traditionally, women have been held responsible for the maintenance of family
relationships and for all-family caretaking-for their husbands, their children, their
parents, their husbands' parents, and any other sick or dependant family members. Even
now, almost 1/5 of women 55-59 are providing in-home care for an elderly relative. Usually
one daughter or a daughter-in-law has the primary care of an elderly woman. Clearly
caretaking to the very old (who are mostly women) is primarily a women's issue.
Increasingly younger women are in the labor force and thus unavailable for caretaking
without extreme difficulty. Presently more than half of all women between the ages of 45
and 64 are in the labor force, most of them working full time. Increasingly with more and
more four-generation families, the caregivers themselves are elderly and struggling with
declining functioning. Today's middle-aged women are caught in a "dependency squeeze"
between their parents and their children (Baruch & Barnett, 1993; Belle, 1982; Brody,
1981; Lang & Brody, 1993).

The laws which regulate social services to support families are determined primarily by
men and do not support the women who bear the burden of family responsibilities but do not
wield power. Contrary to the claim that government services sap the strength of family
supports, the failure to provide public services to families will most likely exacerbate
intergenerational conflicts, turning family members against each other. The overwhelming
majority of lawmakers in our society is male. Their record on legislation in support of
family caretaking is poor. This is a critical issue for divorced women, mothers of
children, minorities women, the elderly and other groups who do not have the power to make
the laws and thus get doubly burdened- with the responsibility and without the resources
to take care of their families.

There has always been a "his" or "hers" versions of human development or culture, although
until recently only the former was described in the literature. Female development was
seen as from a perspective and involved learning to become an adaptive helpmate to foster
male development. Basically, whatever the male tells her. Most male theoreticians such as
Frued, Kohlberg, and Piaget tended to ignore female development. Only within the last
10-12 years female development described in literature at all (Gilligan, 1992). While
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