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Analysis of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House: Feminist or Humanist?

Henrik Ibsen’s effectively identified play, A Doll’s House, has lengthy been considered a predominantly feminist perform. The play focuses on the seemingly pleased Helmers, Nora and Torvald, who appear to have an perfect life. Nora is charming, sweet, and stunningly beautiful, and Torvald is a wealthy and profitable banker. Of course, the couple has gone via hard instances in the past in their initial year of marriage, the couple was quite poor and struggling to make ends meet when Torvald fell ill. Nora confesses that they necessary to travel to Italy to give Torvald time to recuperate, and in order to finance such a trip, she was forced to take out a loan from 1 of Torvald’s coworkers, telling her husband the income was from her father. However, when Nora speaks of these difficult instances, it seems to merely emphasize the good fortune the couple has fallen into now. Wealthy, attractive, and prominent, the Helmers seem to be the best family members. However the old adage holds correct: appearances are deceiving. As Nora reveals much more about how she has been secretly operating to pay off the loan to Krogstad, Torvald’s coworker, it becomes clear that there is a excellent deal of tension under the calm surface of the couple’s home life. This tension mounts as Torvald tells Nora that he wants to fire Krogstad from the bank, and Krogstad subsequently threatens to reveal Nora’s lies to her husband if she does not find a way to save his job. The play’s action escalates, lastly culminating in Torvald’s discovery of a letter Krogstad has written, revealing the truth about Nora’s loan. Upon understanding that his wife has deceived him, Torvald becomes irate, and is right away concerned with preserving his own image—even though Nora’s deception enabled Torvald’s recovery, for which he would presumably be grateful. At this point, Nora’s transformation from a silly, childish girl to an intelligent, independent lady is total. She realizes that Torvald saw her only as a doll and leaves him.

Audiences and critics have a quantity of varying reactions to Ibsen’s A Doll’s Property, but the most shared conception of the play is that it is, with no a doubt, a feminist text. In her post entitled “The Doll Residence Backlash: Criticism, Feminism, and Ibsen,” Joan Templeton discusses the many approaches in which A Doll’s Home is indeed a play that addresses the problem of feminism and women’s rights. She states that:

When Nora discovers that she has duties higher than these of a ‘wife and mother,’ obligations she names as ‘duties to myself,’ she is voicing the most fundamental of feminist principles: that women no less than males possess a moral and intellectual nature and have not only a right but a duty to create it (Templeton 32).

Templeton argues that Nora’s really transformation from childlike and naive to motivated and powerful-willed is in its really essence feminist in addition, the feminism of the play is prevalent regardless of whether or not Ibsen intended it to be so. And it seems fairly probable that Ibsen did not in fact intend A Doll’s Property to be study as strongly feminist, stating at a banquet given to him by the Norwegian Women’s Rights League that he “must disclaim the honor of getting worked consciously for the women’s rights movement…my task has been the description of humanity”(Templeton 28). Upon reading such a statement, it appears clear that Ibsen did not write A Doll’s Residence with the intention of penning a landmark feminist work.

Following that logic, there are a quantity of other critics who strongly disagree with Templeton’s assertion that Nora (and consequently the play as a whole) is inherently feminist. British play critic Michael Billington is one particular who disagrees with this interpretation of the play as feminist. Upon seeing a production of A Doll’s Property at the Southwark Playhouse in London, Billington writes that, “Far from a straightforward feminist clarion contact, the play becomes a complex study of two men and women who both have to reconstruct their identities” (Guardian Unlimited). Here, Billington changes the concentrate from the character of Nora, who is the central tenet of Templeton’s argument, to the dynamics of the partnership in between Nora and Torvald. In this way, the concentrate becomes less about Nora struggling with her sense of self, and a lot more about the identities of both characters. Similarly, in a rebuttal of Templeton’s essay on feminism in A Doll’s Residence, Michael Werth Gelber writes, “In the dollhouse of Torvald and Nora, both husband and wife endure from arrested improvement, which neither may ultimately outgrow” (Gelber 361). Billington and Gelber, along with numerous others, seem to study Ibsen’s classic as humanist rather than feminist, arguing that Ibsen’s message was not that women should strive to discover themselves, but that all men and women need to engage in a search for accurate identity.

A Doll’s Home was written and published in 1879, and as such, Ibsen was certainly aware of the prevailing attitudes concerning females. Prior to the 20th century, ladies have been anticipated to obey their husbands and concern themselves only with matters of frivolity and entertainment. In fact, years earlier United States President Thomas Jefferson summed up the attitude of the time when he addressed the situation of ladies and literacy, saying that, “Female education need to concentrate on ornaments and the amusements of life…dancing, drawing, and music” ( Ladies have been not anticipated to educate themselves or turn into independent, which ensured complete reliance on their husbands. These widespread beliefs were certainly identified to Ibsen, and even though he claims that his objective was never ever to contact consideration to women’s concerns, the notion of feminism played at least a subconscious part in the writing of A Doll’s House. At the very same Norwegian Women’s Rights League banquet exactly where he claimed that addressing women’s rights was not his intention, Ibsen states, “I am not even quite clear as to just what this women’s rights movement genuinely is…It is the girls who shall resolve the human problem” (Gelber 361). Though Ibsen claims that he is unaware of the women’s rights movement, he places the responsibility of dealing with the human rights movements in the hands of females, showing that at the extremely least, he has a deep respect for and confidence in females.

A Doll’s Home features a protagonist who is meant to be an instance to females and humans alike, displaying the significance of discovering a sense of self and a true identity. Girls and men, each then and now, can look to Nora to see the approaches in which one truly need to find his/herself. When Nora finally realizes that she is only a doll to Torvald, she says, “I’ve been performing tricks for you, Torvald. That’s how I’ve survived. You wanted it like that…It’s due to the fact of you I’ve produced nothing of my life” (Ibsen). Despite the fact that relationships resembling Torvald’s hold over Nora have been a lot far more common in the 1870s, they are not obsolete even right now. Even so, dominance now can happen each techniques in some relationships, females handle the males just as males manage the girls in other individuals. In this way, the feminist and humanist themes of A Doll’s Residence nevertheless apply to modern day occasions.

It is tough to say with absolute certainty what Ibsen actually intended when he wrote A Doll’s House. Did he imply for Nora to turn out to be a groundbreaking figure in female literature? Or was she basically a character who realized that her only obligations and duties were to herself, regardless of her gender? A closer appear at the play only appears to confuse the matter. For example, a single can examine her comments to Mrs. Linde on what it indicates to Nora to be “free.” She says, “Free. To be totally free, absolutely free of charge. To invest time playing with the kids. To have a clean, beautiful residence, the way Torvald likes it” (Ibsen). A supporter of reading the text as humanist rather than feminist might argue that this is hardly the sort of statement a female activist would make. But proponents of the play as a feminist text would probably refute this claim, saying that this statement precedes the point in the play exactly where Nora makes her astounding transformation, and that this comment comes from an altogether various character: one particular who has not yet found the true responsibilities of womanhood.

Soon after what seemed like endless exploration of the play, I found it extremely tough to come to a concrete conclusion on whether or not this text is humanist or feminist. But probably that isn’t what is important. Probably Ibsen didn’t intend the play to be study definitively as 1 or the other, but to be read by every single individual reader in whichever way he/she wanted to study it- feminist, humanist, neither, or both. Both readings of the play are equally valid, equally supportable, and equally fascinating. And far more importantly, neither detracts from the sheer mastery of Ibsen’s use of language and general writing style. A Doll’s House, whether or not it be feminist, humanist, or even communist, is a play that encourages growth, self-empowerment, and independence.

Operates Cited

Billington, Michael. “A Doll’s Property.” Guardian Unlimited 8 Nov. 2003.

Gelber, Michael Welth. Ibsen and Feminism. PLMA, Vol. 104, No. three. Could 1989. p. 360-362.

Reflecting on Race, Class, and Feminism. 26 Nov. 2003.

Templeton, Jean. The Dollhouse Backlash: Feminism, Criticism, and Ibsen. PMLA, Vol.104, No. 1. Jan. 1989. p. 28-40.
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