The play ‘Et dukkehjem‘ or ‘The Doll’s House‘ by the Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen (1828 – 1906) is an obvious work of social criticism that condemns certain societal mores regarding women, prevalent in Ibsen’s time that Ibsen believed to be oppressive and unjust. The play is based on a real life tragic incident that happened to a young woman of Ibsen’s acquaintance named Laura Kieler nee Petersen (1849-1932).
Like Nora in the novel, Kieler had borrowed money in secret, in order to pay for an extended vacation in Italy for her husband who suffered from Tuberculosis. Unable to pay back the debt Kieler had been caught trying to pass off a forged note and had been forced to reveal everything to her husband. Enraged her husband divorced her on the grounds of being an unfit mother to her children and obtained custody of them (Baruch). Kieler suffered a nervous breakdown and was admitted to a lunatic asylum. She was released from the asylum in a month but it wasn’t until two years after the incident that her husband agreed to take her back as his wife and she was reunited with her children (Baruch).This paper attempts to examine some of the conditions of the society in Ibsen’s time and how the society of the time expected the women to behave and shall show how these societal expectations of women have been criticized by Ibsen.
Women of Ibsen’s time were widely believed to be inferior to men. Biblical verses were quoted to show women’s inferiority to men and the need for women to submit their will to the will of the men in their lives. Unmarried young women were expected to obey their fathers in all matters and married women were to submit to the authority of their husbands (Templeton).
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