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The Role of Woman and Gender Representation in A Doll's House

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Alessia Urbani

on 19 November 2014

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Transcript of The Role of Woman and Gender Representation in A Doll's House

The Role of Women and Gender Representation in A Doll's House
Choices of Female Characters
Torvald begins to engage in playful sexual advances towards Nora. When Nora refuses to accept it, Torvald says "Darling, you're joking, it's a game. Won't? Won't? I'm your husband." (Ibsen 82)

By telling Nora that it is her duty to oblige to her husband's sexual advances, it shows that he ultimately treats her as an object. This also belittles women, by making it clear that a man's wants and needs are above his wife's. Thus, showing a female characters confinement to social norms.
The Use of Pet Names and Their Degrading Effect
Often Torvald does not refer to his wife as Nora but instead uses Pet Names when speaking to her. When Nora asks her husband for money, he tells her,

"It costs a lot of pennies, to keep a little featherbrain" (Ibsen 5)
The definition of a featherbrain is a silly or absentminded person. By using this to describe Nora, he is degrading her worth. Not only this, but by the use of all of his pet names (Little squirrel,little lark, songbird etc...) he is treating his wife as though she is below him. Showing that her worth as a woman, specifically his wife is below that of her husbands'.
Forced Conformity to a "Man's World"
The female characters within this play are often forced to conform to the beliefs and values of men.

When Nora decides to have a serious conversation with her husband, she distinctively tells Torvald, "I was transferred from Daddy's care to your. You organised everything to suit yourself: your taste. So I shared your taste, or pretended to...You've done me great harm you and Daddy: you've blocked my life." (Ibsen 94)
When Nora is confronting Torvald, she makes it clear that the relationship between her and her father and her and her husband are almost identical. She is forced to conform to their beliefs and values and becomes unable to bring forth her own. Thus, reflecting the situation faced by many women of this era and showing the opression of female characters in this play and their expectations dictated by society.
When Nora begins to feel threatened by Krogstad, she begs Torvald to reinstate him with his position at the bank. But after consistent pleading, Torvald tells her

"It's because you plead for him that I can't help him. Everyone at the bank knows that I've sacked him. If it comes out that the new manager changes his mind when his wife demands it-" (Ibsen 49)
Helmer's dismissal of his wife's suggestions and concerns, shows that he values status above anything. Yet it also comments that what will taint his status is the fact that he is taking suggestions from a woman, specifically his wife. Helmer suggests that Nora is incapable of making sufficient decisions and suggestions because she is a wife and because she is a woman. This shows that women are portrayed as an inferior to men and because of that their ideas are dismissed due to gender.
Women are Forced to Sacrifice Their Lives for Their Families
All of the female characters in the play are seen making a tough decision that ultimately causes them to sacrifice themselves in order to serve their husband and/or children.
When Mrs. Linde and Nora are in conversation, Nora asks Mrs. Linde why she wed to someone she did not love. Mrs. Linde replies,

"My mother was still alive: bedridden, helpless. I'd two younger brothers to look after. When he proposed, how could I not accept? "
It is revealed in the play that Mrs. Linde's true love happened to be Krogstad. Yet, due to her situation, she married for money in order to support her family. This shows that as a woman, who wasn't to work for herself, had to sacrifice her own desires for the well-being of her family. Thus confining her to the values society.
After Nora believes she is poisoning her child, Nora asks Anne-Marie about the challenge about raising children.Then, she proceeds to ask Anne-Marie what it was like to foster her own child. Anne-Marie tells her,

"To get such a good position? A poor girl in trouble. He wasn't about to help."

This quote suggests that Anne-Marie was previously in the situation of being a single-mother. She was forced to sacrifice her child up for adoption in order to support herself financially and give her child a better life. Anne-Marie's position as a woman left her stranded with a child and unable to obtain an adequate job that would support them both or unable to care for the child. Either way, Anne-Marie was left helpless with a child because she was restricted due to her gender.
Mrs. Linde is discussing with Nora her rash decision of saving Torvald's life by taking the situation upon her own hands and borrowing money, Nora says "In any case, Torvald, a man, proud to be a man--how d'you imagine he'd feel if he knew he owed anything to me? It would break us apart. Our lovely home, our happiness--all gone" (Ibsen 17)
In the play, Nora comes to the conclusion that she wants something more with her life than to be just a wife. What Disney Princess wants more to be than her suitors wife?

Nora makes the comment that there is no difference of living with her father and living with Torvald. She is forced to conform to their beliefs and values and is being passed on like an object/doll/prize.What Disney Princess is being betrothed to a man her father decides and is treated like an object?
In the play, Nora recieves a letter, which becomes a pivotal point in Nora's independence. What other Disney Princess recieves a letter, which changes her life and causes her to grasp independence.

At the end of the play, Nora becomes independent and decides to take fate into her own matters. What Disney Princess decides she wants to be independent and in control of her own fate?
Nora is confined to the societal values that show she needs a man by her side in order to take care of her and to live. Later, she decides that this is not true for her. What Disney Princess decides that she does not need a man in order to rule?


Mulan and A Doll's House, also exemplify multiple other parallels:

Themes of Reputation:

Torvald is constantly worried about his wife's actions and how it will effect his reputation. He is more fixated on how he is viewed by others than Nora's feelings.

Mulan's family is constantly ridiculing Mulan for being different and the fact that she isn't the perfect suitor for marriage, her family thinks it will ruin their honor. The film is a constant battle wthin Mulan, considering she feels she will never be able to bring honor to her family.
Nora forges her father's signature on a contract.

Mulan forges a man's identity in order to take her father's place in the war.
Nora feels that she is poisoning her children and family.

Mulan feels that because she is not suitble for marraige that she is a dishonor to her family.

Both also feel empty inside. Nora needs to find herself as a person, rather than putting on an act. Mulan finds the same thing, not knowing who she truly is (Song Reflection)

Both characters feel that they are not suitable for marriage.
It is said in the play that Nora takes matters into her own hands and loans money in order to save her husbands life. What other Disney Princesses save the man's life.


By: Mikaela & Alessia
At the end of the play, Nora makes the decision that she wants to leave Torvald. While in the fight, Nora says to Torvald,
In the play
A Doll’s House
by Henrik Ibsen, the female characters are confined to the societal values of their era. The author portrays the women as inferior to men and shows that the role of a women is to sacrifice herself. Ibsen uses the role of female characters to comment that despite social expectations and other obstacles, that choice is essential for all human beings. By breaking free of societal norms and making personal choices, the female characters pose as an example for all people that true self-discovery cannot occur until one takes hold of their own fate. This role portrayed by women in the play can be seen through family sacrifices, the societal belittlement of women and the choices made by the female characters.

Princess Mia of Genovia
"I'll be shootin' for my own hand"
"It was the truth, I can't bring them up. I've someone else to bring uo first-myself. You can't help. I must do it myself. That's why I'm leaving you." (Ibsen 95)
"At last someone to work for, live for. A home. There it's all I want." (Page 77)
Disney Evolution
Disney Princesses, originally portrayed as helpless and inferior to men (Always needed saving)
Began making their own decisions, choosing their fate and breaking societal norms
"Gender identities are fundamental. When they are challenged they reveal all the oppressive structures that often exist in cultures that profess to essential identities. Thus the relationship between men and women in societies that undergo modernizing changes is thus maybe the most important theme for understanding such social transformations...That is why A Doll's House functions as such a clear expression of social and gender identities and of raising the issue of what freedom and independence imply." (Intercultural implications of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House: experiences with a production of Ibsen's play in Mozambique)

Ronning, Helge. "Intercultural implications of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House: experiences with a production of Ibsen's play in Mozambique." Forum for World Literature Studies 2.1 (2010): 75+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.
Because Nora is a woman, her decision to borrow money led to the illegal act of forgery. Ultimately, Nora had to either sacrifice her innocence or her husband. Nora chose to save her husband, but sacrificed her reputation and potentially her marriage. She committed a selfless act, but because she is a woman, she's confined to keep it to secrecy and she also becomes cornered by the payments considering she does not have a job. By the woman saving the man, the situation viewed unconventionally by society, Nora is confined and forced to keep it a secret in fear that it will ruin her husband's reputation.
Ultimately, Nora's decision, although heartbreaking to Torvald and most likely her children, chooses what is best for her. Up until this point she feels caged and trapped within her own marriage. By leaving her husband, Nora finally reveals the woman she really is and begins her journey of self discovery by choosing the path that is right for her and escaping society's expectations.
As Mrs. Linde and Krogstad are discussing the letter, the conversation begins to bring up the topic of their relationship. Mrs. Linde decides that she wants to pursue their relationship again, saying,
Originally, Mrs. Linde was forced to marry a man she did not love in order to financially provide for her family. Later on, Mrs. Linde became the primary provider, but because of her gender was unable to obtain well-paying jobs. Ultimately, she was unhappy and did not like living the life she had found herself in. At this moment, she is able to make her own choice and she begins to shape her future. Although her choice is completely opposite to what Nora wanted, thy both used their decisions to find happiness. Mrs. Linde made the choice that was right for her.
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