Themes in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House

Themes in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House (A KCSE Setbook)

Morality in A Doll’s House

Morality basically refers to what a society perceives as right and wrong. Henrick Ibsen satirizes morality in this society that by and large suffocates women’s efforts. Although Nora does what she considers her greatest achievement when she borrows money that she uses to save her husband, this is considered immoral because she is forced to forge her father’s signature because as woman she is forbidden from making such a transaction without the consent of a man. Even the beneficiary of this loan, Helmer Torvald, considers Nora’s actions unforgivable. Krogstard faces the wrath of society when he errs in judgement. Despite his efforts to make amends, Helmer Torvald makes sure he pays for his ‘immorality’ by firing him. Helmer says he cannot stand sharing a room with him while Dr. Rank says Krogstard is morally diseased.

Deception in A Doll’s House

In A Doll’s House, things often are not what they often seem to be.  At the beginning, Nora is presented as a spoilt nagging and materialistic house wife while the husband is the good hardworking, dutiful and responsible husband. At the end however, Nora is the caring and dutiful wife and mother whose weaknesses are borne out of societal transgressions. The husband on the other hand is an egocentric and selfish man. The same applies to Krogstard who is harshly judged by society because of a single mistake he made earlier in life after being betrayed by the love of his life. The false images first showcased by various characters is a result of lies and deceit.  For instance, Nora’s spoilt and materialistic demeanour is a façade aimed at getting enough funds from the husband she used to treat him. Yet she cannot openly tell him this. Mrs. Linde’s reason of betraying her lover, Krogstard, is out of the necessity to marry a rich man to fend for her family.

Sacrificial role of women in A Doll’s House

Although largely marginalized, women in this society sacrifice a lot for their families. Nora puts her integrity on line when she decides to take a loan without the consent of a man in order to take her husband for treatment in Italy. At some time, she has had to sacrifice being with her family during Christmas by locking herself to do some typesetting so as to earn that extra coin that would help service a loan that she used to take Helmer for treatment. Mrs. Linde sacrifices her love relationship with Krogstard to get married to a rich man so that she can get finances to cater for her sickly mother and young siblings. At the time, by her own confession, Krogstard’s prospects looked low. Hellen, Nora’s maid, had to leave her young child behind in order to work for Nora’s family.

Image and respect in A Doll’s House

Characters in the text care a lot about how they are perceived in society. Krostard’s image is heavily tainted after he forges someone’s signature. Although he works to make amends, he is fired later on when Helmer becomes bank manager. Helmer cannot consider forgiving Krogstard after his wife’s persuasion. This is because he feels people will say his wife swayed his judgement.

Money and Power in A Doll’s House

Money gives characters power to manipulate characters to their will. Nora has to know how to behave in order to make the husband happy in order to get money off him.  Mrs. Linde leaves the man he is in love with to marry a richer one in order to fend her for her family. With money that comes with his new position as bank manager, Tovald has the power to determine who works and where. He fires Krogstard and hires Mr. Linde in his stead. The fact that men have access to money makes them dominate women.

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