A Doll's House: Feminism

Is Feminism really a theme in Ibsen’s, A Doll’s House ?

In Ibsen’s A Doll’s House someone reading the book might say that feminism is a large theme in the story. But is it? I would have to say that it is. Throughout the play there are many examples of Torvald treating Nora badly and in a way insulting her because she’s a woman. He calls her little pet names, and says that she’s frail. Nora also does things according to what Torvald wants. Everything thing is done by his standards. He also doesn’t allow her to have very much freedom. He doesn’t leave decisions to Nora. We see this when they talk about what Nora is going to where and do for the ball. He also puts her down a lot. He makes comments that suggest that Nora could never understand anything, just because she’s a woman. These examples show that feminism is a theme in the story.

Torvald treats Nora almost like a child. He never actually talks to her like an adult. Almost as if Torvald thought that Nora wasn’t intelligent, or mature enough to have a conversation that had to deal with serious matters. He also has a lot of pet names for her. Whenever Torvald speaks to Nora he usually calls her “my little squirrel”, and “little lark”. He also calls her a spendthrift whenever she asks for money. He never really calls her Nora unless he gets serious, but any other time he just call her one of her pet names. But he also never speaks to her about anything important. He only talks to her about spending and about things of leisure, like the ball.

Throughout the play Torvald continually says that Nora couldn’t possibly understand serious matters, because she’s a woman. When Torvald an Nora speak Torvald usually says something like, “That’s just like a woman”, which shows that Torvald believes that woman are not capable of understanding anything but spending money, taking care of their husband and their children. He even mentions this at the end of the book. Where he tells Nora that she has an obligation to take care of her husband and her children, and she shouldn’t think of anything else. He doesn’t give Nora any freedom to speak or even think for herself. Every time she does something she does it for Torvald, or she does it because that’s what Torvald wants her to do. Everything that Nora does, she does it the way she thinks that Torvald would like her to do it. Nora never really does anything for herself. Whenever she’s planning to do something she asks Torvald’s opinion, or she does things according to how she thinks he would like it to be done, or how he says they should be done. For example, when Nora is preparing for the ball, she asks Torvald what she should wear instead of deciding for herself. She also asks him what she should perform. Also when she is talking to Christina Linde about what she’s going to wear and what she will perform at the ball, she says, “Well if it pleases Torvald”, which shows that anything she does she does for Torvald and not herself. Also when speaking to Torvald she always speaks to him as perhaps a child would. She tries to just sound cheerful and simple. She never speaks to him in a serious tone. She always speaks to him as if she wants something.

But Torvald never treats Nora with any respect. He is always talking to her as if she doesn’t understand, and really takes her for granted. He treats her more like a possession than a person. This is where you see that Nora is like a doll. He has this rule that he set on Nora, where she can’t eat macaroons. Torvald says this because he wants his wife to have a good figure. Which means that Torvald doesn’t want Nora to get fat. Then he has her dancing around at the ball. To Torvald, Nora is like a pet that he’s taught to be obedient and to do tricks for him. This where feminism is evident in the play. This is where you see that Torvald thinks himself to be superior to Nora because he is a man, and Nora is a woman.

Some people may argue that feminism isn’t a theme in A Doll’s house, that theme is actually about human rights. In the story Nora had an oppressive father, and then later she went to her appearance oppressive husband Torvald. An argument could also be made that the roles could be reversed. A man could have been raised by a tyrant mother, then later on have married a tyrant wife. But I don’t think that’s true. There are just to many points to support the fact that feminism is a theme in Ibsen’s play. Just in the way that Torvald speaks to Nora. The names that he calls her. Also the fact that he never has a serious conversation with Nora because she’s a woman and she wouldn’t understand. He openly says this in the story, and because of that I believe that feminism is a very dominant theme in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.

Word Count: 877

Related Essays on Feminism