Subservience of Women in the Play
Ibsen uses a variety of symbols and metaphors throughout the play. With reference to at least three symbols, explore how Ibsen uses these techniques to highlight the subservience of women in the play. A dolls house was set in the Victorian era where it was mainly a patriarchal society where men were dominant and women or their wives had to serve the men and please them, depending on their needs. Societies expectations had played a major role where women are supposed to look presentable and appealing to their husbands, as well as obedient to their husbands so their reputation wouldn’t be damaged.
Ibsen had used in his play a variety of symbols and metaphors that would portray how women were like in the Victorian era. The symbolism of the plays title ‘A Dolls House’ plays a major role in highlighting the subservience of women in the play as it sets up the metaphor of the house being a dolls house. Its displayed in the quote “But our home has never been anything but a playroom, I’ve been your doll wife just as I used to be papas doll child” Usually when someone owns a doll house, there has to be an owner who controls all the dolls and items in the house.
In this case it is Torvald who controls the household and his wife Nora. Due to the patriarchal society that the play was set in; society had an expectation of Torvald being dominant and manipulative where he had the power of controlling all the finance and even Nora’s life when it came to making decisions. However, Nora had the capability of being in control but mostly controlling men, such as Dr Rank and her husband Torvald sexually and emotionally until Nora was able to get what she had desired.
The use of Nora’s sexuality and her manipulative skills had allowed the opportunity of Torvald into giving her some money without any hesitation which displayed how she was able to become dominant as she had gone against societies norms and was able to take control. The Dolls house also symbolizes repression where Nora had been restricted from enjoying her life as she had been set some rules given by Torvald such as, she is not allowed to eat macaroons since they would make her fat and unattractive.
This would’ve impacted Torvalds reputation outside the house as it was far more important for men to sustain their positive reputation. The sudden burst out of Nora’s truth about how she realized that she was being treated like a doll by both her husband and her father, shows that she is actually smart and observant. Unlike societies expectations that women weren’t smart enough to realize the truth. Throughout the whole play Torvald calls Nora with different pet names such as “little skylark” and “little bird”.
The significance of the pet names is that Torvald is dehumanizing her as he had compared to her to animals rather than nicknames that people can call each other. Typically, birds are considered to be delicate animals that needs to be taken care of as they would not be able to survive alone in the wild. In this case Nora is considered to be the bird who is delicate and taken control of by Torvald where Nora is being oppressed and controlled. In the Victorian era women were admired but not respected and that’s how Torvald is treating Nora.
Birds at some point migrate from one place to another to live in better conditions, this foreshadowed the fact that Nora will leave the house and leaving everyone behind her to live a better life after the truth was revealed about taking a loan out from Krogstad to pay for his medical trip. The repetition of the word “little” emphasized the fact that Torvald had asserted his power on Nora where he made her feel insignificant, not giving her the status of being a wife; where she is just a doll that he can use and get entertained by her actions.
The quote “It’s a sweet little bird, but it gets through terrible amount of money” Torvald has scolded Nora about how much money she had spent but when he used “It’s a sweet little bird” Torvald had mocked Nora as to how she used to spend so much money but then when he used “sweet little bird” he softening it and at the same time he taunted her making Nora feel irrelevant to him. This represents women in the Victorian era how they are insignificant compared to men in society where they only had to please and work for their husbands.
At the start of the play, Nora had entered trying to hide the Christmas tree away from from her children in the quote “Hide the Christmas tree… when it is dressed” The Christmas tree symbolizes life at the start of the play and then progresses till act 2 where it lost all of its decorations in a “disheveled” state. The Christmas tree also symbolized Nora’s position in the household where is trying to please Torvald and her children by making the place more attractive and decorating the Christmas tree.
In this quote Nora told the nurse not the bring her children in the sitting area until its fully decorated which depicts Nora’s secrecy and it isn’t her first time trying to hide something from people around her until its all managed. The same situation happens when Nora told her husband Torvald that no one can see her in her dress until the night of the dance. This again emphasized on how Nora is willing to hide information and things to impress her family and stand out.
This contrasts with Nora’s marriage as hiding secrets away from her family shows reveals that there are more secrets to be told. In act two of the play the Christmas tree is set differently which is represented in the stage setting “Christmas tree is in the corner by the piano, stripped out of its ornaments and with burnt down candle- ends on its disheveled branches” compared to the first act the Christmas tree wasn’t lively and full of life instead it was disheveled and worn down.
This quote had negative connotations as how to Nora’s mental state as she was slowly becoming worn out with the efforts she was putting to keep her family together, after seeing Krogtsad and learning that he wants to expose her secret to Torvald that will risk her marriage with him and her relationship with her family in the house. Moreover, at the end of the play Nora refuses to dress up to please her husband, similarly to how the Christmas tree was in act 2 because she did not want to keep her act going on around Torvald and that includes dressing up in beautiful dresses so Torvalds image would stay positive around the people he knows.
This emphasizes on how women in the Victorian era and in the play were forced to comply the men’s desires and keep up with fashion so their reputations wouldn’t be effected. To conclude, the symbols used in the play portrayed how women were subservience in the play and the Victorian era where it was a patriarchal society with men dominating women.