Nora – a Modern Woman Essay

The main character of “A Doll’s House”, Nora, is a new type of woman depicted by Henrik Ibsen in his play. In fact, Nora challenges the existing social norms and traditions. She attempts to deny the gender role imposed on her by the patriarchal society and eventually she understands that she can be an independent woman, or, at least, she should strive to become one. At the same time, the main character arrives to the realization of her significance, her equality to men and independence of them in the course of the play. In fact, the entire play is the evolution of the main character from an ordinary woman living in a patriarchal society to a progressive woman conscious of her current position and her right and ability to be equal to men.

In fact, at the beginning of the play, the main character is totally dependent on her husband. She cannot imagine her life without Torvald. She says: “Free. To be absolutely free. To spend time playing with the children. To have a clean, beautiful house, the way Torvald likes it” (Ibsen, Act 1). In such a way, all her life is focused on Torvald, children and household and the purpose of her life is being a good wife and mother. At the same time, she cannot understand yet that she has no freedom. In stark contrast, she is treated by her husband as a commodity, a second-class citizen, a person who serves to her husband as a housewife and mother of his children, but not as an equal human. Nora does not have her opinion and she makes her judgments on the basis of Torvald’s ideas. She does not dare to challenge Torvald and oppose to him.

However, gradually she comes to the realization that she can be an independent woman. When her husband falls ill, she proves to be able to take decisions and act boldly. In fact, she saves the life of her husband but she has got nothing but contempt of men, who keep treating her as second-class citizen. In such a situation, she eventually understands that her duties should not necessarily be limited by her household duties. She argues: “I have another duty equally sacred…My duty to myself.” (Ibsen,  Act III). Thus, for the first time, she puts her own needs and interests about those of her husband, of a man. She understands that men manipulated with her, they used her and conditioned her in accordance to their own vision of an ideal woman: “I have been performing tricks for you, Torvald. That’s how I’ve survived. You wanted it like that. You and Papa have done me a great wrong. It’s because of you I’ve made nothing of my life.” (Ibsen, Act III). Nevertheless, it is obvious that she is not going to be an obedient, voiceless Nora without rights and opinion. She has already decided to free herself from bounds of the patriarchal family and she is ready to live her own life, as she wants.

Thus, it is possible to conclude that Henrik Ibsen reveals a dramatic transformation of the main character from a woman of the patriarchal epoch to a modern woman. Nora understands that the society is unjust to her and she eventually understands that she can be equal to men and she is not obliged to serve men.

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