When Nora slams the door at the end of IbsenÆs (1879) A DollÆs House, it was a door slam heard round the world. This is because when Nora abandons her marriage and family to strike out into the world on her own, she was slamming a door on the rigid roles and constraints placed on women by men that were extremely limiting to female expression and development. There are a number of themes in IbsenÆs drama that will be analyzed in this essay.
The Victorian era conventions and roles for men and women were rigid, constraining, and often imposed by men on women in a way that limited their development. We see such a case in the marriage between Nora and Torvald Helmer. Nora was first babied and bullied by her father and then experienced the same treatment in her marriage. In the society in which she lives, NoraÆs roll as a doll living in a doll house is one that has been forced on her by patriarchal social conventions and the men in her life. As she tells her husband, ôI lived by doing tricks for you, Torvald. But thatÆs the way you wanted it. You and Daddy did me a great wrong. ItÆs your fault that IÆve never made anything of my lifeö (Ibsen, 1879, p. 819).
The theme of male patriarchy and dominance over women and the theme of social conventions that limit the development of women are pervasive in the play. Nora begs, steals, lies, and plays games for Torvald to please him. When she realizes all of her sacrifices are in vain, for her husband has no appreciation of how she has sacrificed her own life for the benefit of his, she experiences an epiphany. As she tells Torvald, ôOur house has never been anything but a play-room. I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was DaddyÆs doll childö (Ibsen, 1879, p. 819). Templeton (1997) maintains that NoraÆs discovery that she just may not be her fatherÆs little girl or her husbandÆs little wife is a harbinger of