Literary Analysis Essay on A Doll's House

Paper Type:  Literature review
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1734 Words
Date:  2022-10-16


A Doll's House is a play that is written by Henrik Ibsen. The story is about of a wife by the name Nora who hides her financial issues from her Husband Torvald and when the husband learns about it later becomes upset. Nora also becomes angry because of her husband's selfish behaviors and leaves him to stay alone as an independent woman. In summary, Torvald's employees know about how Nora is misleading her husband and when Torvald tries to fire them, Nora comes to their defense. One of the employees who is fired is Krogstad who sends Torvald a letter telling him about the deceit of Nora. Nora attired to distract Torvald from leading the letter into vain. Torvald is upset that Nora borrowed some money to save his life. He insists that these actions have destroyed his reputations but later forgives Nora when he learns that the money was not to be repaid. Nora, on the other hand, realizes that Torvald is selfish and only care about his reputation. She leaves the family to stay alone.

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The play depicts some of the cultural and historical backgrounds on stage and in reality. The play is said to have been written by Ibsen in 1879 and played in the same decade meaning that what was being played depicted cultural and political factors at that time. Some of the ideas being displayed include social status and patriarchy status. This paper will discuss the historical and cultural background and context of A Doll's House as well as analyzing the main character in the play; Torvald.

The Historical and Cultural Background and Context of a Doll’s House

The world of play and the world which Ibsen lived are the same as clearly seen in the play. The play was set in Norway in an upper-middle-class house which depicts that social classes that existed in Norway in the 19th century. Ibsen was born in the upper-middle class status and understand the importance of social class and the expectations that are placed on the members in this class. In the same manner, A Doll's House depicts a story of a married couple who are leaving in a society where social status must stand by abiding into strict rules which are sometimes suffocating. Their marriage proves that during the 19th century the upper-middle class was comfortable only if one fitted in its narrow margins.

The growth of the upper-middle class in Norway was experienced at the beginning of 1843 and lasted until 1875 meaning that Torvald and Nora experience this economic boom. This is also the time when Norway saw the high number of people being employed. This can also be seen in the play when Torvald employs several people on his farm. Although the economic boom was beneficial, it has a negative impact on most people who were obsessed with and over-awareness of money. This is clearly depicted in the play; Nora borrows some cash from Krogstad to cater for her husband bills which cases her immense stress. Similarly, Torvald wants to stay out of debt in all means. When the news comes that Torvald might be promoted in the bank, Nora and Torvald are excited because they know this will bring more many. Additionally, Nora lies about her financial challenges which create dishonesty and tension in the family.

Furthermore, being in the middle-upper class came with some expectations. People in this class were expected to be financially successful and stable with no debt. They were also expected to be of moral behaviors and leaving in a patriarchal family. The duties of a woman were to serve his husband and children while staying at home. This is seen in the play when Torvald calls his wife "little skylark" and Nora does whatever the husband asks (Ibsen, 2). Torvald is the head of the family and makes more money as well as managing finances. Torvald admits that the women should be submissive when he says A woman cannot be herself in contemporary society, it is an exclusively male society with laws drafted by men, and with counsel and judges who judge feminine conduct from the male point of view" (Ibsen, 90). The audience is shocked when Nora says that she had "a duty to herself" (Ibsen, 82). She goes against the patriarchy norms by borrowing some money as well as leaving her husband to stay alone. This is the only act that shows different historical and cultural background in the play.

Torvald Character Analysis

In A Doll House, Torvald Helmer is stooping, self-retained and legitimate. He effectively turns into the enemy in the story due to his self-importance and awful treatment towards his better half and his managers. These repulsive attributes that Torvald shows, notwithstanding, were very normal in the day and age that this story occurred. Besides, applying the societal standards to live, Torvald had different inspirations embedded in his psyche by the society that guided what he did. His intentions can without much of a stretch be followed by investigating only one huge factor: his treatment of individuals, particularly Nora. Torvald's activities and practices are driven by his powerful urge to maintain a regarded notoriety, his position, and his social acknowledgment.

It can clearly be seen that Torvald is not a misogynist but he is only caught up in the 19th-century norms of patriarchy. Misogynist is defined as a person who despises, dislikes and/or is prejudiced against women. This definition clearly does not fit Torvald even though he uses words and acts in a way that he might be misunderstood and misogynist. Torvald gives Nora titles such "songbird" and he says that "I have often wished that you might be threatened by some great danger, so that I might risk my life's blood, and everything, for your sake" (Ibsen, 214). This statement might be used to show that Torvald views Nora as a lower person to him to an extent that he wishes that she might be in trouble so that he can prove his point. This words and the title that Torvald uses towards Nora are just words that show love towards her. During the 19th century, it was the societal norm for women to be submissive (Aulkins). Therefore, Torvald was only flowing with the system that existed at that time.

In the nineteenth century, there were specific frameworks for men and for women. The men were supposed to be husbands, fathers, and providers and were to abide by this norm. Women, on the other hand, were supposed to serve their husbands and take care of their children. Torvald Helmer was only living up to the standards of such as man. The norms made men to develop some characteristics that were seen to demean women (Aulkins). This is the reason Torvald developed some traits such as male pride, chauvinism and some male syndromes that are vivid even in the current times. Torvald viewed Nora as something closer to him as his 'owner' and protector. He used to call her some objective name such as 'little squirrel', 'little spendthrift', 'my charming little Capri maiden' and 'featherhead' (Wang pp. 69-73). He regards himself higher than Nora. This was not anything wrong with Torvald. In fact, he was in line with what was expected of him. When women were married, all her belongings were to be under the man automatically and she had no rights on possessions or even her body. Women were only allowed to have low paying jobs since they also had low education. This made them dependent and there was no any chance of being dependent.

During the 19th century, it was normal for women to under their husbands. Nora was expected to play by the role of 'normal' woman (Aulkins). This is why the audience was shocked to learn that she has overstepped her roles and acting in ways that she was not expected to act in. For instance, when she borrowed some money, she was doing what was not expected of him. Torvald was preoccupied with his activities and when he learned that Krogstad has loaned Nora some money, he was upset and fired Krogstad since he felt threatened (Wang pp. 69-73). At the beginning of the play, Torvald appears to be caring only for the audience to learn at the end that care was superficial. Finally, when the play comes to the end, the reader realizes that Torvald as only caught by social norms and it can be seen at the end Torvald begging Nora to stay since she is the doll in the house.


A Doll's House is a play that was written by Henrik Ibsen in the 19th century. The main character in this play is Torvald and Nora. They are both married and Torvald is the husband to Nora. The problem in the play emerges when Nora is in the financial crisis. Her husband requires some money to cater for some bills. Nora approaches Krogstad of Torvald employees to lend her the money. She does not let her husband know of this deals. Later Torvald learns about the deals and he is very upset. He comes down when he realizes that Nora has settled the loan. Nora gets upset when he realizes that his husband is selfish and self-centered. She leaves him to leave as an independent woman.

The play reveals the historical and cultural context of the 19th century. During this time in Norway, men were the head of the family and women were supposed to be submissive. They were not allowed to be involved in financial deals. Additionally, it indicates the rising of the upper-middle class status during that time. Torvald and Nora were in this social class and were supposed to behave in a certain manner. They were to be financially stable, morally upright and come from a patriarchy system. This is the reason why the actions of Torvald shows that he was caught up in the social norms. He was not a Misogynist but a character that was supposed to behave in accordance with the social status and norms.

Work Cited

Aulkins, Douglas. "Culture of Norway". Countries and Their Cultures, 2007. Web. 27 Nov. 2018. <>.

Ibsen, Henrik. Four Great Plays by Henrik Ibsen. New York: Elsevier-Dutton Publng Co., 1958. Print

Wang, Quan. "Before Marriage, Within Marriage, And After Marriage-Kristine Linde In A DOLL HOUSE". The Explicator, vol 74, no. 2, 2016, pp. 69-73. Informa UK Limited, doi:10.1080/00144940.2016.1169494.

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