Considering A Doll’s House
Henrik Ibsen wrote A Doll’s House in 1879. Consider what the world was like at that time. What was different in society?
Life was different then, so much so that some people refused to perform the ending of A Doll’s House the way Ibsen had written it. For this reason, he wrote an alternate ending, but he admitted he hated it. The version of A Doll’s House in your book contains the original version.
A Doll’s House depicts a realistic life situation. It was one of the first plays to do so, since most plays of the time tended to romanticized life.
Nora and Torvald
“But our house has never been anything but a play-room. I have been your doll wife…” –Nora, A Doll’s House
The two main characters of A Doll’s House are Nora and Torvald. They have been married for several years and have three children. When the play begins, it looks like life is about to take a dramatic turn for the better. At least financially, their future looks bright. But all is not as it seems in this supposedly happy house. Nora is struggling with a secret. As is the way of secrets, eventually her husband finds out.
When you examine characters, you should consider their motivations. Why do they behave the way they behave? As you read the play, consider why Nora has done what she’s done. Is her motivation pure? Did she have good intentions?
Also consider the time period. Did Nora, as a woman in that time period, have many choices?
Then look at Torvald. What did society during that time period expect of him? What had he been raised to believe about his role in society? What is his motivation?
Understanding characters means examining all the information provided to you by the playwrights. You must take the clues they give you and then piece them together until you understand the characters.
Theme of A Doll’s House
Like The Glass Menagerie, the play A Doll’s House explores many complex themes and ideas. Ibsen’s play was ahead of its time in its treatment of women. When asked if he intended to support the cause of women’s rights, he replied that he was interested in human rights.
Some of the themes people have uncovered in this play include the following:
You should follow your heart
You cannot let society dictate your role
Everyone deserves independence
If you are unhappy, you should change your life
You have a responsibility to yourself
These are just a few ideas. You may see a completely different theme in the play.
Now, go read the following pages in your textbook:
Chapter 34–page 1277, 1342 through the middle of 1394
Note: In addition to reading the play, you may also want to watch it. The TCC Northwest library has copies of a production of A Doll’s House on DVD that can be checked out. Other TCC libraries may have copies as well.
Please let me know if you have questions.
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