Gender Roles in “A Doll House” by Henrik Ibsen

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Gender Roles in “A Doll House” by Henrik Ibsen

This essay will explore the theme of gender roles in Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.” It will analyze how the play critiques the traditional roles of men and women in 19th-century society, focusing on the characters of Nora and Torvald. The piece will discuss how Nora’s journey challenges societal expectations and the concept of the “ideal” woman. It will also consider the play’s historical context and its lasting impact on discussions of gender and feminism. Additionally, PapersOwl presents more free essays samples linked to Gender.

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In Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House. Ibsen forces its readers and audience to question the different gender roles the two important characters have which are by society and how they were treated during the time of the 19th century. Gender has played a big role in history, literature and in people lives. There are expectations each gender has throughout their lives. The unique play which realistically tackles the issue of the woman question, double standards in gender roles, and money.

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The play A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen portrays these roles drastically- especially in the first act.

The story A Doll’s House was written by Henrik Ibsen and was published on December 4, 1879 and the story was written in Norway during the same year. During the time of the 19th century men and women had different roles. Ibsen was writing during the time when women were enslaved in their gender roles and where men were enforced by dominant culture. In the play the women are expected to fulfil the role of angel of the house which the women is expected to perform role by being there for her husband and staying faithful, Nora is taking a big responsibility and thats what makes her marriage survive.

Women’s roles back in the 19th century are different from now whether it was if you were married or was as an individual. Women back then who were known as individuals had to choose whether to marry or not. The unmarried women were considered dependent on their fathers which meant that the fathers had to bring the food and money to their homes. Women had to adhere their father’s wishes because that’s what they had to do. Unmarried women were not able to work unless their financial status was a crisis at home.

Men’s role during the 19th century were considered very differently from the women during this time. The men of the house were basically the ones who were in charge of everything. The men were required to work hard every single day to support their family. Most men had jobs who were farmers, craftsmen, and metalworkers. Men were also supposed to participate in government activities no matter what. Most of the men were superior to women, and many women had to do what their husbands would tell them to do. Men in this century were considered the breadwinners of the family.

Gender has played a major role in our history, literature, and many lives around the world. There are several expectations each gender role is expected to do during their marriage is what is said or many people say. The unique play which dramatically tackles the issue of the woman question, double standards in gender roles, and money. The play A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen portrays these roles drastically especially in the first act. The way Torvald Helmer treats his wife and how Nora Treats Torvald. In A Doll’s House play the women are expected to fulfil the role of ‘women of the house’ which expects a woman to perform a good role of women by doing what they husband tells the wife to do. This can mean by staying faithful or doing what he says. The character that Nora survives her relationship with Torvald by taking a submissive role.

Ibsen displayed the role of women very clear in this play. In the play the character Nora is the female protagonist which plays a big role in this story. Torvald treats Nora like his little doll almost like his plaything because he hold the power in the house. In the beginning of the play or even during the play Torvald calls Nora his wife by animal names. HELMER: “”Is it my little squirrel bustling about? (Ibsen) Often Torvald in the play he does does not refer to his wife as Nora but instead uses pet names when speaking to her. He probably uses pet names to show that he really loves her. In the quote he is constantly referring to Nora with pet names, Helmer seems to dehumanize his wife mostly throughout the play. Torvald treats Nora as his little doll or also has his plaything. While Nora treats him as the man of the house who has the authority to do anything he wants since he provides food and everything they need in the house. Nora does not reply or deny Torvald because women during the 19th century had to listen to their husbands even at the expenses of their dignity.This calling names of his also gives us the idea that he is degrading the worth of Nora his wife.

Another quote on the way that Nora was treated during this play was when she decides to finally have a serious conversation with her husband. I was transferred from Daddy’s care to yours. You organized 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). This quote is very eye opening to Nora and to the reader. This quote is referring to Nora confronting Torvald, she makes it clear that in the relationship between her, her husband, and her father are almost identical. Nora was treated the same way with her father and now she is being treated the same way with her husband. ora is forced to conform to their beliefs and values and becomes unable to bring forth her own. Reflecting the situation faced by many women of this era and showing the oppression of female characters in this play and their expectations dictated by society. Nora mostly feels like she as no power in her marriage.

In the 19th century, many occupations were separated between males and females. In the 19th century, men were required to work hard every day to support their family. Most men were farmers, craftsmen, and metalworkers. Men were also supposed to participate in government activities. During this time we can say that men have the most power because they had to bring the money home to feed their children and wife. They made sure that women did what they were suppose to do, in other words they were superior to women. The men were the breadwinners of the family since they were in charge of bringing everything to their homes. Men during the 19th century had more power than women. Men were allowed to vote, work at any job they wanted to, men also had higher educations. But most importantly men had complete control over their marriage and wife.

In the play A Doll’s House there are quotes that make Mr. Torvald stand out because of how powerful he is Torvald Helmer is the stereotypical Nineteenth-century husband, as he is a controlling husband to Nora. This can go back to the 19th century because men back then had most of the power. Men were allowed to do anything they’d like. The first quote is when Torvald starts to 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) 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 and doesn’t care how he feels. Torvald is just worried about working and money he doesn’t seem to care about his wife at all and treats her however he wants.

The female character of Nora, has the sacrifice to be accepted by the society, or even to be able to live her lives reasonably. This relates back to the 19th century because women had a specific role they had to fill that their husband told them. They had to look just like that and act just like the way they were told. This was to raise the children in a certain way, and keep up the house in a perfect way. Many women during this era tried to fulfil the position of the perfect housewife . Women had to be the picture of perfection in their house and as a wife to give a good first impression. All of this can reflect back to the 19th century because Nora was not able to do anything except be home and be with her children and that’s what a typical wife would do during this time. Torvald himself was one of those men that had complete power in the relationship and men had that power back then, even then many women.

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Gender Roles In "A Doll House" by Henrik Ibsen. (2020, Mar 10). Retrieved from