Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen has been known for his approach of interpersonal relationships and for being a decisive contribution to the modern-realistic movement in literature back in the 1860’s.
Ibsen represents the traditional roles of husband and wife in A Doll’s House, a close view into Nora and Torvald Helmer’s married life and their essential differences when it comes to personal interests and money. Nora is repressed and must abide by her dominant husband as well by the social establishing of duties she must follow as a wife, mostly characterized by dependence and disadvantage.
Conceptually, it is a struggle between security, independence and deliverance. It is highly pioneering as it explores marriage, considered an intimately private institution yet at the same time subject to wide social scrutiny. It focuses on themes concerning class and gender relations in a naturalist language, as well as interpersonal interactions and stereotypical characteristics of the time it was written.
A Doll’s House relies on symbolism and metaphors shifting from general social apprehensions to the seclusion of an individual (Nora). It is a modern realistic play loosely on women’s rights. It addresses recurrent belief in male’s power, control and dominance as well as husband’s superiority over wives, mostly when it comes to monetary possession; evident in constant metaphors and references to frail creatures to signify Nora, such as ‘little skylark’, ‘little squirrel’ and ‘featherhead’, alongside other deprecating terms as ‘spendthrift’; emphasizing women’s gender inferiority.
Nora’s decision and ‘door slam’ in the play took the lead in a movement and debate over women’s civil liberties, and also raised awareness on strict male ideologies, giving a chance to women to stand before a male-favoring context and accomplishing sole identity instead of living in the shadow of a male figure. It may seem as an early feministic work, as it obviously privileges women in its content and message, but A Doll’s House is beyond feminism and common gender issues, as it questions and tackles what is pushing it forward concerning social customs and the idea of love. It also allows the reader to go over personal subjugations, not exactly those under gender, but other personal restrictions which one must liberate from, which also bind and limit one’s existence just like Nora’s in the play.
Ibsen’s play was innovative and on its time. The use of symbolism is at its qualified best, and effectively conveys Ibsen’s vision of what women had to put up with their husbands at a time when wives’ roles were not functional but mostly served as luxury.