Who is the True Feminine Figure in Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’?

The Shattered Doll

Preface: This is a short academic and critical analysis done on the the representation of Feminism found in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. More specifically it was prompted to compare and contrast the portrayals of the two main female characters in accordance to my own definition of feminism. I decided that it would be appropriate to concentrate on freedom as it is a major theme of Ibsen’s play as well as being featured in both past and present movements of feminism. In order to answer the prompt in the way I was answering it I admittedly was more harsh on Christine’s character then I personally believed her to be. That said, I hope this encourages to seek out Ibsen’s short theater play/story if you haven’t and deepen the well of interpretations to those coming with their own opinion on the piece. Enjoy.

A doll house by nature represents a fabricated presentation of our reality. The façade of which a doll house creates hopes that the illusion will hold up despite the absent of animate life. In Henrik Ibsen’s historical stage play, A Doll’s House (1879), Ibsen insinuates how damaging it would be if a person where to find themselves within a counterfeit reality. Throughout the play’s reception, modern audiences have further connected the play’s message as being feminist due to the implication that housewives are exposed to such an artificial state of being. It is for the reason of escaping the “doll house” that Nora is the more empowering feminist character then her counterpart in Christine.

Feminism

What constitutes a character as being an empowering feminine character relies on the basis of freedom. Feminism at its core is about the mindset to be removed of socially constructed labels or ideals but exist as an individual; whom as such is found inherently equal to act upon one’s own discretion. In A Doll’s House, it could be said for both Nora and Christine that both display an admirable level of independence to varying degrees, but what truly separates the two is the fact that Nora displays the courage of choice.

Nora Helmer

Nora makes bold choices, the first being the pleading for a loan from Krogstad when she falls desperate to save her ill husband. The entire conflict of the stage play revolves around how this demonstrates Nora over-stepping her boundaries and that despite good intentions, Nora should not have seen herself able to make such a grand gesture. Yet, this could just be acknowledged as a caring act, while other proceeding decisions of Nora’s such as indulging in sweets behind Torvald’s back and attempting to conceal the letter could be illustrating an enticement to continue rebellious behavior. It is her final decision that sheds light to the audience that her motives are less about genuine concern or rebellion but rather a confused attempt to affirms one’s own self individuality. Nora decides to finally leave Torvald, and in their last encounter, Nora laments that she can not accept her old life and take care of her children, as she proclaims that,

“There is another task I must undertake first. I must try and educate myself”

Her task is to explore and better understand herself, feelings that through life she has been too mimetic to strong influencers in her life. Mirroring these influencers, Nora grows lost within herself, and question her identity to the point where she has to take a step back and reflect by herself. Nora has been the puppet to her father and her husband that the fact that she is able to discern that this is not exactly her. Nora’s final decision as the curtain draws cements that she has recognized the boundaries of her world, and is bold enough to escape beyond limitations set by another.

Christine Linde

What is interesting to note is how Nora’s reception is dependent on the perception of her foil in Christine Linde. Christine unlike Nora, does not reside in a doll house but a harsh reality. Nora has been sheltered up intil the point where she was driven to take action to save her husband, Kristine did not have the same fortune. Christine has suffered great misfortunes of taking care of her siblings after her father’s death, being widowed, and trying to find work to support herself. While Christine’s noble survival is admirable, none of it comes from her on volition. Christine has persevered through tough times, yet by the time the events of the play dawn to an end, Christine takes action, conceding into a doll house of her own. The tragic life events have taken their toll on Christine to her own confession, that

“Not even any sorrow or grief to live upon”

Numb to the pain, Christine recognizes how hollow her life has left her, and that is the dominant force as to why she gets together with Krogstad in the end. Christine’s regresses as a feminism figure as she eventually admits a desire for dependency and reconnects with Krogstad in a display of the overbearing adversity an individual has to overcome. Christine is also further damages her idol-ness by her sabotage of Nora’s antics. When Christine tells Krogstad not to take his letter back, despite her well intentions, she inadvertently attempts to get Nora to conform to a co-dependent existence.

A well-crafted doll house is a fine construction of an ideal lifestyle that is often only exists in a degree to serve the dolls which reside within it. Henrik Isben understood that people that lack independent agency morph into dolls themselves. It’s unclear whether Nora follows a similar trajectory as Christine, in that a woman or anyone for that matter will eventually lack support in their quest for individualized substantiation and sub-sequential fall back into the comfort of others influence. It is the hope that Nora represents, the idea that one can not only escape the imprisonment of false or unfulfilling reality, but also just maybe be able to succeed out their as well. It is the image of Nora’s hope and Christine’s despair that Ibsen captures the nature of survival in any reality fictitious or painfully honest that drives the human spirit to have agency and not end up inanimate like dolls.


Well There you have it some of my thoughts on Feminist ideals presented in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. If you liked this little discussion on Feminism I’d recommend checking other post such as this one on Female Directors who had a big 2017, my analysis of Cat Person the viral short story that heavily featured a female perspective on modern dating, or a little more on the goofier side of things my take on the forever growing Christmas Prince genre. As always thanks for stopping by, leave a comment on your favorite Doll House, Merry Christmas and I’ll see you at the movies.

Works Cited

Ibsen, Henrik. “A Doll’s House.” Edited by Martin Adamson and David Widger, Gutenberg, The Project Gutenberg, 13 Dec. 2008, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2542/2542-h/2542-h.htm.

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