An Existentialist and Modern Play
“I have been your doll wife, just as at home I was Papa’s doll child…” says Nora.
As the title suggests the Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House explores the women’s cause. Women have always been seen as a “doll”—an object of beauty and desire—whose ownership is transferred from one man to another. It is this attitude of the nineteenth century that Ibsen critiques in his play by creating an unconventional female character Nora, who insists on finding herself by breaking off the shackles of family and relationships.
With the rise of the middle class in the nineteenth-century and the advent of modernism, the joint family equations changed to a great extent. It was no more the age where the male of the house was the sole provider of the family and it is this aspect which “A Doll’s House” perfectly incorporates. The play is a realistic representation of its contemporary times.
What’s more is that there is a constant play of appearance and reality in the play. Things appear to be wonderful in the beginning, but we get a closer look at reality, it turns into illusion— Nora and Helmer are not a happy couple, Krogstad is not as evil as he appears to be, and Nora is not as childish as we first assume her to be.
Ibsen first tricks the reader into believing that the main focus of his play is the status of women in the nineteen century male dominated society, but it is only later that we realise that it is about individuality. The play emphasises on the fact that every individual needs to find himself/herself.
When I first read the play, I was reminded of Mohan Rakesh’s play Aadhe-Adhure which set in India comes way later in time. However, unlike Aadhe-Adhure which shows the failure of a matriarchal household, Ibsen discovers the potential of a woman in a modernised world.
The theme of existentialism has also been delicately explored in the play. There is a certain kind of emptiness and a feeling of despair towards the end when Nora leaves her family. And even though Nora seems to have stepped towards a new beginning, there is a sense of hopelessness that engulfs the play and its readers.
All in All, reading this wonderful play by Ibsen is a whole new experience altogether. The issues and anxieties of the modern world which has been brought up in the play in just three acts is something that only Ibsen could have done.
So I suggest if you are fond of nineteenth century literature then please grab a copy of Ibsen’s A Doll House as soon as possible.
Have you read any of Ibsen’s play? What makes him so different from the other playwrights? Write your opinions in the comment box below.