A Doll's House

Gender and Theatricality in A Doll's House

The play A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen, offers a critique of the superficial marriage between Nora and Torvald Helmer. Written in 1879, the play describes the problems which ensue after Nora secretly and illegally takes out a loan from a local bank in order to save Torvald’s life. Throughout the play, the delicate relationship between Nora and Torvald is based largely upon the enactment of conventional gender roles. For example, Torvald plays the part of the masculine hero, vowing always to shield his helpless wife from harm, while Nora plays the submissive wife who relies upon her husband’s opinions as her own. Through the performances of these roles, A Doll’s House challenges the traditional notion of gender, implying that gender is not the result of biology but is instead a part one plays in order to fulfill the demands of society.

At the time A Doll’s House was written, the patriarchal society of the nineteenth century dictated the social standards for both men and women. Men were seen as leaders; they ran businesses and governments, made the important decisions, and served as the protectors of the weaker members of society, the women and children. Throughout the play, Torvald appears to take on the characteristics of...

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