Henrik Ibsen seems to be of their idea of the bigger picture. That is to say that as a writer, Henrik Ibsen always portrays characters in his drama plays so as to communicate to the society the importance of being selfless. In a society, selflessness is a virtue that should be nurtured and encouraged since in the long run; it creates something good for everyone. Henrik, therefore, as a writer with a responsibility to teach the society of the important human values; believes that in case of a conflict to pursue individual interest or defy social conventions so as to be responsible for others to benefit, it is noble to be selfless and try to do good to others contrary to the norms of a society.
In the play “A Doll’s House,” Ibsen through the character Nora, shows us that individuals and specifically women, do sacrifice their own integrity just for the sake of others (Ibsen & Non Worrall 13). For example, Mrs. Linde sacrifices her own happiness which is to be with her true love Mr. Krogstad, who is poor. She instead sacrifices this personal interest and marries a rich man. This all she does just her mother and her two brothers. In doing so, Mrs. Linde could be seen as materialistic and immoral; however, she decides to defy this societal norm and goes to marry a rich man just to enable her to support her mother and two brothers (Hooti and Pouria 1104). Although from the society point of view, one could argue that she married under the disguise of trying to find a way to support her siblings and mother, investigating the inner character of Mrs. Linde shows the true picture of her, she indeed sacrificed her on happiness to support her siblings and her mother.
Through yet another character Nora, Ibsen shows the virtue of individual sacrifice for the good of others. Nora is an economically empowered woman, yet according to the norms of the society, she should be second to her husband no matter what her status. Although Nora isn’t portrayed as being disobedient to her husband, the society almost thinks that economic prowess alone suffice to make a woman be seen as the head of the family. To make her husband Torvald and the society happy, she decides to live a life way below her means (Hooti and Pouria 1107). Nora has to hide her loan money from her husband Torvald because he did not want to be seen as weak by being helped by a woman, not even his wife. In this case, Nora has sacrificed to live a life which she has surpassed considering her financial potential. She then wasn’t to ensure happiness in her family and a good marriage with her husband. Through these two characters, Ibsen teaches us selflessness as a fundamental virtue that individuals should always try to practice as it may compromise an individual’s happiness but may ultimately make others happy.
Although it is virtuous to be selfless and try as much as possible to put other people’s interest before our own, I do not fully agree that all individual’s pleasure and happiness must be sacrificed for the sake of others. The necessity to sacrifice such happiness or self-gain in order to achieve a better good should if those who are expected to benefit also reciprocate back. For example, a hypothetical situation is if Nora was in an abusive relationship with her husband Torvald, then making a sacrifice and trying to please the society would not be correct; but since she also gained by the mere fact that sacrificing her ability to leave a good life ensured that her marriage didn’t break up, she in a way has something good coming out of her sacrifices and these goods things benefit her. Henrik’s message through these characters is plausible though should not be taken lightly, it is true that women sacrifice a lot than men and from this, men should change sooner than later so that they reciprocate the sacrifice women make.
Through the characters Nora and Torvald, Ibsen narrates to the audience the traditional marriage. From the play, it is evident that the status given to both men and women in the society is not only biased but is unjust and irrational. One would question of what sense is it to educate a woman if she cannot be allowed to better her life with her education. In the play, we see Nora restricted with what she can do with her money for herself or for her family (Lynch & Carl 27). The position of women in a marriage is also portrayed as that of being the second no matter what the situation. However, it seems that the whole idea of leading the family rests upon one’s ability to provide. Even though Nora is a supportive woman who loves her family and husband too, she isn’t allowed to spend her money openly nor is she allowed to show some financial help to her husband. The play paints a bad picture about traditional marriage; it portrays that traditional marriage demanded a lot from a woman and required her to sacrifice a lot, yet the man sacrificed very little or even nothing (Ibsen & Non Worrall 21). This play makes one hate traditional marriage, if marriage is to go the traditional way, then there is not point being in it for women.
According to Ibsen, honesty is good and should be upheld at any one given time. If an individual becomes dishonest and hides something hoping that it is safe to do so to make the other happy, then that happiness breaks the moment the other person realizes that you were dishonest. In the play, Nora thinks that her marriage can be protected when she remains dishonest to her husband about her loan (Lynch & Carl 36). However, it is evident that the consequences of her husband knowing that she had been lying all along to protect their marriage and society would be gross and would not be overshadowed but the happiness which it brings. In essence, Henrik Ibsen teaches us that yes you can try to be dishonest to protect another good thing, but the honesty is always better than dishonesty meant for a good course.
According to Ibsen, money is a tool that defines who has more say and who has power. Torvald being a banker with money is seen to have some moral authority and judges who between Mrs. Linde and Krogstad gets a job. Nora for example also knows that she can behave in a particular way so as to solicit for money from Torvald (Lynch & Carl 45). She also on a different instance uses her behaviors to manipulate Dr. Ranks. In these two circumstances, the writer illustrates how women give sexual favors to men to get money from them.
This drama is relevant today as it illuminates some of the ways of the society that have defined the male chauvinistic society we live in today. However, the book also helps us not to lose hope in the search for gender equity as it shows us the achievements men and women have made in their quests to create gender equity. Through this play, we can appreciate that we, as human beings, have made tremendous efforts to appreciate the role of women in the society and marriage. The play, therefore, is very important today in informing us of our true past and helping us chart our future. The play also teaches to uphold the virtuous act of being honest and selfless for the society sometimes needs individual sacrifices to make the whole society good. In terms of marriage, the play passes a message to couples that honesty is the best policy. A marriage build on the basis of dishonesty is like quick sand and might perish.
Ibsen, Henrik, and Non Worrall. A Doll's House. A&C Black, 2008.
Hooti, Noorbakhsh, and Pouria Torkamaneh. "Henrik Ibsen‘s A Doll’s House: A Postmodernist Study." Theory and Practice in Language Studies 1.9 (2011): 1103-1110.
Lynch, Gerard, and Carl Vogel. "Chasing the ghosts of ibsen: A computational stylistic analysis of drama in translation." arXiv preprint arXiv:1501.00841 (2015).