A Doll House by Henrik Ibsen: Character analysis of Men dominance

Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House highlights several instances where the society forces women to obey their husbands. Obeying husbands is like an addiction, which is hard for women to avoid. Men dominance is a belief that flows in the blood of almost all women, young and the old. It is a life that women have no choice but adhere to its principles or risk losing their dignity.


The main instance in Ibsen’s book that indicates how women cannot depend on themselves in the contemporary society is, the scenario involving Nora’s debt in order to save Helmer’s life. She keeps this as a secret because women were not allowed to rent money. This is clearly indicated in this line; Mrs Linde: No, a wife cannot borrow without her husband’s consent (Ibsen 11). This brings out an image of how women are completely dominated by men to an extent that they cannot perform a task or responsibility that is perceived to be for men even for their benefit. It is a belief that does not take into consideration of moral principles.

In response to Linde’s reaction, Nora tries to convince Linde that it is not wrong for a woman to borrow money for the benefit of the husband. She also tries to satisfy Linde that women are not slaves of men but Linde does not seem to agree with her. This also clearly shows that men do not create the belief of men superiority. It is the women who grant men the permission to dominate them.
If women could have all defied this belief of men dominance then it could not have been in existence up to this era. But, due to their adherence to this belief, men keep dominating them despite being protected by the constitution and human right activists.

On the other hand, the act of men dominance as expressed in Ibsen’s book shows that the belief of men dominance is strengthened by women. For instance Nora’s husband tells her that she spends money carelessly. There is no time Torvald admits that Nora spends the money she gives her properly. Moreover, calls her a spendthrift (A Doll’s House 1).

Majority of women as indicated in Ibsen’s book are not employed. They depend on their husband’s earnings in order to meet their daily needs. Therefore, women remain dominated by men because men act as their ‘managers’. Without their husbands they cannot eat, dress, and maintain their family. Thus, it is clear that there is perhaps no way women can stop bending too low for their ‘managers’ who in this case are their husbands unless they start depending on themselves. Moreover, in a male dominated society, the only person that a wife can look at incase of a problem is the husband. Therefore, lack of employment forces women to ‘adore’ to their husbands.

Many of the choices that women make as revealed in Ibsen’s book are directly based on societal beliefs. Women have no other choice but adhere to the beliefs of men dominance because without adhering to them they will face a hard time in the society particularly from men. Therefore, women are bound to adhere to the beliefs.

The environment or surrounding of a child shapes his or her behavior. According to the psychological point of view, as a child develops she adopts what she sees and hears from her elders. Therefore, when a girl is brought up she observes how her mother treats her fathers. She will adopt this behavior which eventually determines her behavior when she grows up.

In Ibsen’s play “A Doll House” Nora treats her husband as a child treats her father and Torvard treats Nora as a father treats her child. Then again, Nora’s behavior was shaped by her upbringing. Her father treated her as a ‘doll-child’. This might have probably affected Nora’s behavior and by a great extent.

In the 19th century when Nora was a child a woman was viewed as a property of a man and was supposed to act in accordance to the guidelines or wish of her husband. Therefore, Nora adopted her behavior from these happenings.

Women are not given equal rights to men. Women’s judgments are made by men because men have the perception that women are lesser beings and therefore do not have the right or freedom to make their own judgments. On the other hand, in a male dominated society a woman cannot be independent. This is because, laws are made by men and thus judgments are made from a man’s point of view.

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Nora’s husband is one of the factors that make her to behave in a manner that Ibsen displays in his book. Nora works under the orders of her husband. This begun from her father and eventually transpired to her husband once she was married. Although Nora seems to enjoy her marriage at the beginning of the play, she lives like a master-slave. She encounters the same treatment that she used to encounter when she was at the hands of her father. His husband who is supposed to be her savior treats her worse than her father used to treat her. The implication that can be derived from this statement is that the male dominant society will not end because it is passed from generation to generation. Boys are born with the perception that they are greater than girls and once girls are born they are taught on how to respect their husbands.
Nora respects her husband to the extent that she hides what she does. There are many instances where Ibsen reveals Nora hiding things so that her husband does not know. For instance, she fears to disclose to her husband that she is eating sweets because her husband will be angry at her. This is because she respects the societal belief so much that she does not even think herself. She really tries as hard as she can to ensure that she pleases her husband while she suffers.
Nora’s belief in the superiority of men is so extra ordinary that she even goes to an extent of imagining that her husband knows what she deserves and so should not tell her. This brings out a clear image of how women completely lack the ability to make their own opinion because of their perception that they are not supposed to make opinions even in the kind of dress they want to wear or buy.
There are also words that Henrik Ibsen uses in his book to show how men consider women as lesser beings. They go to a degree of equating them to world animals. For instance, Torvald refers Nora as a “squirrel” (A Doll’s House 1).
On the other hand, it is noted from Henrik Ibsen’s play that men and in this case Torvald try as much as possible to keep women away from their business. There is no opportunity given to women for them to develop and become independent. The intention of keeping women away from anything that may make them independent or may assist them in generating their own revenue is to maintain the status of them living under the mercy of their husbands. In so doing women particularly Nora lives under the sympathy of his husband. A hypothetical example that can be provided to show how women cannot stop depending on their husbands is oxygen. It appears like husbands act as oxygen for their wives and therefore without husbands, wives are prone to death which is not the case.

Husbands totally do not have respect for their wives because they have this presupposition that women are lesser beings and do not deserve respect at all. For instance, in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll Torvard calls Nora a ‘criminal’ (Ibsen 1).
At the end of the book Nora seems to have been exhausted with this life of leaving like a slave. She clearly expresses to her husband how she has suffered. She says that she has been living like a beggar a life which does not want to continue living anymore. Then again she says, “….when I look back, it seems as if I’d lived here like a beggar (Ibsen 907).

She decides to abandon the duties of a wife until she realizes the position of a woman in this world that is dominated by men (Templeton 28). Ibsen tries to bring an observation that time has come that women should break away from marriages where they work as slaves for men. Ibsen also tries to indicate that education might be the only way to end men dominance. Indeed Ibsen’s book shows that this is a male dominated society


Works cited

A Doll’s House. Cyclopedia Of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition. February 1998:1-2.
Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll’s House. Louisville, Kentucky: Plain Label Books, 1960. Print.

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