The themes and messages existent in Henrick Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House have inspired controversy, discussion and extensive thought into aspects of individuality and marriage. The play, produced in 1879, was a three-act story that follows the life of a married woman as she tries to ‘find herself’ amidst society’s strict regulations. The play itself was based on the true events surrounding the life of one of Ibsen’s friends, who underwent even more traumatic events than her counterpart in the play. A Doll’s House is well known as an inspiration to women’s individuality, independence and general rights, though Ibsen does not address women’s rights issues directly.
A Doll’s House begins with Nora Helmer, a married woman who is treated as inferior by her husband. However, despite how her husband would object, she is secretly enjoying employment as a housekeeper and writer, exalting in an independence traditionally attributed only to men. Her employment, however, is to pay back a debt she owes to a lawyer, Krogstad, who later blackmails her into aiding him in keeping his job. By act two, Nora and her working widowed friend, Christine, attempt to convince Nora’s husband to hire back Krogstad. He denies, and Krogstad later arrives with a letter for Nora’s husband about her forgery crime. A distressed Nora tries to distract her husband and considers suicide, rather than have her husband know her crime. Eventually, Nora’s husband reads of her crime and all but disowns his wife, until Krogstad regret his actions. Nora is left with the realization that there is no real love in her marriage, and Nora leaves him to live on her own.
The issues in A Doll’s House mainly surround the difficulty of women to be independent, self-sustaining members of society. They cannot easily make money the way men can, so when difficulties strike they are helpless to fight back. When Nora leaves her husband, the idea of a woman living on her own is so foreign that her husband cannot even fathom it. If women deviate from ‘traditional’ gender roles at all, they are labeled as insane or immoral, though this can be far from the case.
There is also an issue of unequal gender roles. Nora has committed a similar crime to Krogstad, but because she is a woman, any crime she commits – regardless of its standard severity – is treated as dramatically more criminal. Ibsen mainly uses the play to address women’s societal oppression and the unfair standards that surround their lifestyle choices (or lack thereof).