Essay, Research Paper: Doll`s House And Women Rights

Literature: Shakespeare

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“A Doll House” is no more about women’s rights than Shakespeare’s
Richard II is about the divine right of kings, or Ghosts about syphilis. . . .
Its theme is the need of every individual to find out the kind of person he or
she is and to strive to become that person.” (Bloom 28) Ibsen portays this
behavior in A Doll House through one of the main characters, Nora Helmer, by
setting the scene in Norway in 1872. In the late 1800s, women did not play an
important role in society at all. Their job was mainly to cook, clean, sew, take
care of the children, and keep the house in order. They were treated as a
material possession rather than a human being that could think and act for
themselves and looked upon as a decorative member of the household. Women were
robbed of their true identity and at the end of the play, Nora leaves everything
behind to go out into the world to seek her identity. This behavior can be
traced back to the beginning of time when women were to stay home and gather
nuts and berries, while the men would go out and do the hunting and fishing. The
male always dominated over the women and it was not viewed as “unfair.” Male
children would go to school to get an education in history, mathematics,
science, english/writing, while the female would go to school to learn how to
cook, sew, clean, and do household chores. The male could then further advance
his education by attending a college or university, whereas no college would
accept a women student. “The history of mankind is a history of repeated
injuries and usurpations on the part of men toward woman, having in direct
object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.” (Declaration of
Sentiments) It was believed that women were the inferior gender and had to have
special attention given to them. This idea dates back to the Medieval Period in
history and is where the whole idea of chivalry came about and men having to
provide special care. One can see that the idea of male superiority can be
referenced back to very early on in civilization to the day A Doll House was
written. “Torvald: You stay right here and five me a reckoning. You understand
what you’ve done? Answer! You understand?” (Ibsen 187) Torvald says this to
Nora when he finds out that she took out a loan without his consent and forging
a signature. It is prevalent that Torvald is in a state of anger and he is
dominating the situation, letting Nora know who is in charge and not even
wanting an explanation to “why?” she took out a loan. Women were very
limited in their rights in 1872. Such rights included: women had to submit to
laws when they had no voice in their formation, married women had no property
rights, husbands had legal power over and responsibility for their wives to the
extent that they could imprison or beat them with impunity, divorce and child
custody laws favored men, giving no rights to women and when women did work they
were paid only a fraction of what men earned, women were not allowed to enter
professions such as medicine or law, and women were robbed of their
self-confidence and self-respect, and were made totally dependent on men.
(Declaration of Sentiments) Ibsen makes references to this using Christine Linde,
widow and a friend to Nora. Christine’s husband died and left her penniless
and being that her father passed away, she is able to apply for a position at he
the bank. This is the only exception society made in women holding a job outside
the household. It is apparent that women have come a long way since 1872,
gaining the right to vote in 1920 under the 19th amendment in the constitution,
gaining a right to an equal education, owning property, and having a job. These
were all results of the women’s rights movement amongst others. Throughout the
play, Nora plays the role of a typical women in the 1800s, staying by her
husband’s side, taking care of the children, and doing all the household
chores. She does, however, go behind Torvald’s back when she takes out the
loan. When she realizes that she is unfit to do anything in life and announces
her remedy-“I have to try to educate myself” (Ibsen 192) she walks out the
door and expresses a deal of feminism universally agreed-upon base for women’s
emancipation, telling Torvald that she no longer knows how to be his wife and no
longer knows who she is. (Eisenberg 32) It was uncommon for women to walk out on
their husband’s as they do today because they were taught since they were
little, to always please their husband and do everything in their power to
satisfy and make him happy. This does not include walking out on him and leaving
him with the children. Nora did not know any better because she came from being
treated like a material object in her own house by her father, to being treated
like one by Torvald. “You’re not the man I thought you were. Both you and my
father have both treated me like a doll.” (Ibsen 191) Therefore, her whole
life was based around other people making decisions for her and conformed to
their way of thinking until the end of the play, when she walks out and makes
her own decision. Nora shows her childish ways throughout the play by eating
macaroons, listening by Torvald’s door, and by playing with the children. It
is apparent that she is confused about marriage and her role as a woman in the
1800s. She does, however, make the right decision to leave although society
views this as an immoral thing to do. This was considered sinful and God would
punish you if you committed such an act of wrongdoing. In conclusion, I think
that women have made an incredible appearance and have play an immense role in
today’s society. Women are basically treated with equality today with men and
the times sure have changed. Ibsen’s play is a very good example of how life
was like for women in the past and they have obviously made progress since then.
I am very proud of what women have done for today’s society and I know that
they will continue fighting this neverending battle for equality until the very
end as Nora did.

Christina Katz English IV May 17, 1999 Senior Paper Works Cited Bloom,
Harold. “Ibsen, Henrik, 1828-1906-Criticism and Interpretation.” New York:
Chelsea House Publishers, 1999. Close Up Foundation “Declaration of
Sentiments, Seneca Falls, New York, 1848.”
1997 Eisenberg, Bonnie. “Legacy of ’98: A Short History of The Movement.”,html. 1997 Ibsen, Henirk. A Doll’s House and
Other Plays. New York: Penguin Books USA Inc., 1965.
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