A Doll's House: A critical Commentary
Ibsen is one of the greatest dramatists of English literature. He is the first man to show that high tragedy can be written about ordinary people in ordinary everyday prose. His contribution to the theatre is memorable. His A Doll's House is a beautiful drama.
A Doll's House is a problem play or thesis play. Here Ibsen presents the problem and leaves the solution to the readers. The problem is - what is the position of woman in relation to her husband and her home? The play focuses our attention on the conjugal life of a middle class couple. It shows the sad consequences of the subordination of a married woman to the control of her husband. It again shows the method to get out of that predicament. Thus marriage is the major theme of this play. Ibsen is in favour of Nora, the heroine of the play. She wins our sympathy also. Thus it can be said that A Doll's House is a feminist play.
Ibsen is popular as a dramatist of social realities.He was interested in women's independence. In A Doll's House we find that. When the play was staged, it had the effect of bombshell. This theme was completely new to the 19th century Europe. Nora does not only defy her husband at the end of the play but also makes him dwarf. The play had a message for the society. The message was that if a woman is not allowed to establish her own identity, she could not be happy. Thus this play pointed out a particular weakness and flaw in the social fabric. The dramatist diagnosed the malady and lifted the cure to others.
When the play opens, we find that Nora has been leading a life of a pet in her husband's home. Though her husband loves her, but it seems a love of a superior for somebody lower in rank. He insists that she should exercise economy. He always speaks like a moralist. He advises her not to eat sweets because they would spoil her teeth. He says that she has inherited her habit of extravagance from her father. When she recommends Krogstad's case to him, he speaks again like a moralist.
As a wife Nora has been very devoted to her husband, Helmer. When he falls ill, she takes him to Italy under medical advice. For that she has to borrow money and has even to forge her father's signature. But she does not tell her husband about her sacrifice for a long time. She hides it because it would heat Helmer's self respect and ego. Nora feels that Helmer loves her with equal devotion. She firmly believes that if the worst happens, Helmer would take her whole guilt upon his own shoulders.
There are two reasons that lead to whole trouble between Helmer and Nora. The first reason is that he regards her as his property. He has possessive attitude towards her. The second reason is that when Helmer reads Krogstad's letter, he becomes furious. His behaviour shows that he is absolutely selfish and self centred. Nora is completely disillusioned about Helmer. That is why she decides to leave Helmer. She gives her reason for leaving. She tells him that first her father and then her husband wronged her. Her father used her as his baby doll and her husband has been treating her as his doll wife. Now she wants to establish her own identity. Thus she takes back her wedding ring and steps out of the house.
At the end of the play our sympathies are largely with Nora. We feel that she is right. Why should a wife be subordinate to her husband? Why should a wife be always servile to her husband? By leaving her house Nora compels husbands to examine their relationship with their wives. On the basis of these facts it can be said that A Doll's House is a feminist play. It suitably advocates the rights of women.
Thus A Doll's House is a beautiful play. The play deals with the woman's predicament. The subject of the play is nothing but the disillusionment of a wife. The play ends with the drastic step taken by a wife. It is the woman in the play who wins our maximum sympathy. In short, it is a problem play or thesis play because it gives rise to a problem in our minds.