A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen: Do Women Have Rights to Choose and the Ability to Act Accordingly?

Freedom: Do women have rights to choose and the ability to act accordingly?

The answer to this question may seem to be an obvious “no”, or “not really” at least, when we first read “A Doll’s House”. However, in very detailed parts Ibsen did in fact give hints to suggest otherwise.

Throughout the story, Nora interpreted “freedom” differently. At first Nora remarked that when she could pay back all the debts she would be “without a care…being able to romp with the children…and having things just as Torvald likes to have them” (p16). She considered herself to be carefree then even though she was still restricted by her roles, as she later realized. Only at the end of the play was Nora able to pursue her true freedom—individual self-fulfillment—by acting subversively against the social conventions, which regard women as inferior. This awakening of Nora implies the fact that the male-dominating norm can indeed be changed.

In the first two acts of the play, Nora was obviously under the control of Torvald. She was not acting in her own way at all, but was manipulated instead. For example, when she borrowed money for a noble intention, she concealed it from Torvald just because he didn’t like it. The revealing may probably ruin the fantasy marriage that he wanted. It showed that Torvald was taking over Nora and whatever Nora did had to please Torvald. When Torvald called her by pet names at that time, Nora was submissive and had not said anything about it. Rather, she assured Torvald as “I would never dream of doing anything you didn’t want me to” (p5). In this sense, Nora wasn’t free at all. The only thing she did, at most, was to play small by regarding herself as “the likes of us skylarks and squirrels” while pleading Torvald for something. The patronizing and imperative tone of her husband had already made Nora lost her own self. Little did she realize that she had abandoned her freedom in a way of silent approval then.

When the play goes on, the whole...