In Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, readers are presented with an odd form of feminism. Ibsen’s representation of women is more or less typical of the time period; he paints Nora as a housewife who is struggling to keep her family together, despite society’s mandate that women have no place in financial dealings. Nora seems to lack tact; she openly brags about her family and new found status in the face of a woman (supposedly her friend) who has just admitted to losing everything. Upon learning that Krogstad plans to blackmail her family, she immediately romanticizes the situation, casting herself in the role of damsel in distress, who her loving husband/knight in shining armor will undoubtedly sacrifice himself rescue. This image of Nora as the typical woman of the time caused me to question the feminist value of Ibsen’s work. Why would an author who seeks to validate the role of an independent woman create a female character who is so unable to navigate the society in which she is placed? The answer, I feel, lies in Ibsen’s use of realism. He is portraying the societal role of women as it is, not as it should be, and uses this role to illustrate the fact that anyone is capable of self-actualization, regardless of their upbringing or position in society. Nora is undoubtedly a product of her upbringing; like a doll, she has played her part in the world into which she was born, until she finally reaches the limits of her acting ability and claims her independence.
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