The Cultural and Social Background of the Play ‘A Doll’s House’

‘A Doll’s House,’ a part of the epicentre of modern literature, was scripted and produced in the early 19th century. This was a kairotic period in the nascent stages of the Feminist movement in Norway. The world (setting) created by Henrik Ibsen in his play – ‘A Doll’s House’ has a stark similarity to the world that Ibsen lived in-the 19th century Norway. The cognate worlds have provided the readers with a clear and impartial representation of the Norwegian society.

When Norway emerged as an independent country, after being subservient to Denmark for years, it experienced exponential growth in foreign trade and mining, along with rapid industrialization hence playing a pivotal role in Norway’s substantial economic rise. This influx of money enticed the Norwegians which led to their clambering for money. Thus giving rise to the ‘bourgeois respectability.’ It was based on the ideas of financial success without any debts, a patriarchal setup and upholding the established strict societal norms. Ibsen, born in the upper-middle-class understood these ideals which every individual was expected to uphold. This facilitates the readers’ understanding of the Norwegian society, setting of the play characters and their actions.

Ibsen being a realist has palpably depicted the social hierarchy and the gender conflict prevalent in his times. The play highlights the constant struggle of an individual to be accepted by the society and the gender conflict; wherein women were subjugated by men and expected to be submissive to their husbands. This insight enhances the sense of characterization of the two protagonists- Nora and Helmer, aiding in the readers’ comprehension of the nuances in their behavior, which was predominantly governed by the stringent societal structure and norms. The deft portrayal of characters enhances the reader’s sagacity to comprehend the true nature of Ibsen’s radical ideas on marriage and society, bringing out the realism in his writing.

Ibsen, a humanist, characterized women not as “props in a play” or “angels at home” but as individuals in a society with their very own sense of purpose. He displayed feminist tendencies in his writing which further fueled the feminist movement and enabled bridging the gap between the two genders.

Ibsen effectively portrayed the Norwegian society and outlined the socio-economic conditions during the 19th century through his characters.

~ Asavari Singh

Photograph ~ By United Artists – Doctormacro, Public Domain,

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