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A Doll's House 3 Essay

4183 words - 17 pages

Loyalty, duty, obligation. These are only some of the social laws that Henrik Ibsen wrote out against in his later works. Ibsen believed that these bourgeois beliefs were hindering the individual's, as well as the nation's, realization of the self. To Ibsen, it was far more important to have the freedom to express oneself than to adhere to outdated, conventional ideas. In "A Doll House" and "Ghosts", both heroines are forced to confront these social hindrances. Both women attempt to overcome these powerful restraints in their attempts to find themselves, one more successfully than the other. "Ibsen's effect on his contemporaries and his influence on the course of modern drama were immediate ...view middle of the document...

Mrs. Alving in "Ghosts" must confront herself, the ghosts which she carries around with her, and those she perpetuates into the lives of the children in her care. She is forced to come to terms with her own cowardice in the face of stringent social norms. Ibsen makes it painfully clear that these women have only themselves to blame, and forces them to deal with that knowledge. It is the tragic life feeling that gives Ibsen's drama its unique quality. This experience of missing out on life and plodding along in a state of living death. The alternative is pictured as an existence in freedom, truth and love, in short, a happy life. In Ibsen's world the main character strives toward a goal, but this struggle leads out into the cold, to loneliness. Yet the possibility of opting for another route is always there, one can chose human warmth and contact. The problem for Ibsen's protagonists is that the choices can be deceiving, and the individual cannot always see the consequences of his decision. His characters are distinguished by their staunch, well-established bourgeois lives. Nevertheless, their world is threatened and threatening. It turns out that the world is in motion; old values and previous conceptions are adrift. The movement shakes up the life of the individual and jeopardizes the established social order. Here we see how the process has a psychological as well as a conceptual and social aspect. Yet what starts the whole process is the need for change, something springing forth from the individual's volition. In this sense, Ibsen is a powerful conceptual writer. This does not mean that his main concern as a dramatist was the didactical use of theater, or the waging of an abstract ideological debate. (Some of his critics, contemporary and later, have made this accusation - and it is fairly obvious that Ibsen was drawn towards the didactic.) However, the basis of Ibsen's human portrayal is his characters' conceptions of what makes life worth living - their values and their understanding of existence. The concepts they use to describe their position may be unclear; their self-understanding may be intuitive and deficient. In 1879, Ibsen sent Nora Helmer out into the world with a demand that a woman too must have the freedom to develop as an adult, independent, and responsible person.3 The playwright was now over 50, and had finally been recognized outside of the Nordic countries. "Pillars of Society" had admittedly opened the German borders for him, but it was "A Doll's House" and "Ghosts" (1881) which in the 1880s led him into the European avant-garde.4 Nora is regarded by her husband as nothing more than as a plaything or a pet rather than as an independent person with real needs and emotions. These attitudes reflect the shallow and sexual nature of their marriage. Nora is oblivious to this, however, until later in the play. When she finally faces this reality, she is humiliated and disgusted. Nora has forged her father's signature in order...

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