The play “A doll’s house” is written by Henrik Ibsen and was adapted into a film in 1973. It deals with gender discrimination in the Victorian age. It highlights specifically the paths women of the West have treaded to find respect and equality. Ibsen makes it possible to imagine the barbarities that existed within the law and society of those times. Through the years, controversial writings like these, have intentionally or unintentionally forced women to rise up and reclaim their rightful legal and civil rights.
In the Victorian Period law dictated that property; children and income belonged solely to men. Divorce or Separation was unthinkable. Women who worked were frowned upon by society. Their status was equivalent to the slaves, criminals or the insane. The main role of a woman was to reproduce children, keep the house clean, and feed the children while their husbands worked.
It is sad that although women in the developed world have found equal rights in this century through various equal rights acts and amendments however the women of the developing world still lack basic rights and struggle everyday between gender power relationships.
The entire film takes place at Mr. and Mrs. Torvald Helmer’s Apartment. The film is set in Norway in the late 1800’s during Christmas time. This one room shows various shades of hypocrisy, discrimination, arrogance and dishonesty exhibited by society. The room is a microscopic vision of the world. It shows the plight and suffering of every woman in every household all around the world. The fact that Nora does not leave the room throughout the film shows how she is entrapped in this Victorian Doll House.
The protagonist of the film is Nora, a Victorian middle class woman. She is ruled by her husband and complete oblivious to her state of unfulfillment. She is thrown into a difficult situation and to protect her husband and family commits forgery. Unaware of the legal consequences she tries dishonestly to obtain a loan. She sits on a puffy pink cloud thinking that her special status would always protect her and her kids in the eye of the state. However, the law expects her to know better.
The hypocrisy of the system hits Nora and she tries to break out of her Victorian Doll like shell. She desires a life less frivolous, so she decides to work independently and earn money. She starts enjoying this new found freedom. Her relationship with her husband also spirals downwards and sows the seed of doubt and self reflection.
Ibsen broke boundaries when he ended the original play with Nora rebelling against her husband, her father and ultimately the patriarchal society. However, the controversial ending caused shock and disagreement and forced him to change the ending. He later on lived to regret the change.
The theme of the play made audiences agree that women should get equal pay for equal work; equal rights to enjoy an independent self sufficient life; rights to child custody and divorce; equal stature in legal matters; Equal access to knowledge. It is unfortunate that Victorian times were so suffocating that Nora had to leave her husband or she would continue to be treated as nothing more than a mere rag doll. She was just an inanimate object, dispensable by others and deserved no respect, rights or esteem.
Works Cited Page:
Johnston, Ian. (July 2000). On Ibsen's A Doll's House. Johnstonia. Retrieved April 3rd 200. http://www.mala.bc.ca/~johnstoi/introser/ibsen.htm
Gillis, G. J. and Westhagen, Jen. SparkNote on A Doll’s House. 2 Apr. 2007 <http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/dollhouse/>.