A FEMINIST READING AND SYMBOLIC SIGNIFICANCE OF HENRICK IBSEN’S ‘A DOLL’S HOUSE(1)

DOLL’S HOUSE(1)

Feminism as perceived by Toril Moi is a ‘political discourse’, critical and theoretical practice. It is an unflinching attempt by a multitude of women to shatter the bondages of the patriarchal system that has smothered their femininity down the ages. The conventional patriarchal system had sanctioned only specified roles to women like daughter, wife and mother. The very existence of a woman revolved around a man, while playing second fiddle to him. Any woman who rebutted against this system was severely castigated and ostracized from society. Adrienne Rich in the poem ‘Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law’ is of the view,“A thinking woman sleeps with monsters”.

It was this despicable attitude of men that Ibsen protested in ‘A Doll’s House.’ Albeit he candidly proclaimed that he was not to be considered as a feminist. Ibsen voiced a clarion call at the Scandinavian club in Rome on January 28, 1879, where he was a frequent visitor. He espoused that the post of librarian should be made eligible for women as well. He added to the stupeficaction of numerous members, that women should be offered the right to vote. Unfortunately the second agenda was turned down for want of a single vote. This was the social scenario in which Ibsen wrote and espoused the cause of women. Nora, the protagonist of his play is supposedly his favorite creation. It is alleged that he had conceived this character in the womb of his mind. For one day he had claimed to his wife, “Now I have seen Nora.”

He imagines her to be clad in ‘a blue woolen dress.’ It occurs to me that the re-iterated theme of the play is the assertion of one’s identity and liberation of the individual. In the initial stages of her life Nora was a mere doll in the hands of Helmer. Her father treated her as his ‘doll child’ while Helmer takes her for a ride as a ‘doll wife. ‘ As a result, Nora’s identity had been terribly effaced and her intellectual progress stunted. This swapping of roles betwixt a ‘doll child’ and a ‘doll wife’ , like in the case of Nora was imperative in the lives of most women during Ibsen’s time and continues to plague the life of several women till the present day. It is mandatory for a woman to succumb to the domestic roles assigned by the society and to perform them endearingly. It is alleged by Pedrini .D.T, and Bonnie. C, in their paper “Freud, Alder, Jung: From Womb to Tomb” that Freud had encapsulated the subservient role played by woman in her life from ‘Womb to the tomb.’ This stocking of chauvinistic statements against woman has not stopped with Freud. We cannot afford to disregard Milton’s chauvinistic description of Eve in ‘Paradise Lost’: “He for God only and she for God in him” (Milton iv. 299)