Assessment Type 1: Responding to Texts
Drama Text: A Doll’s House (Henrik Ibsen)
How does the author of A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen use characterisation and symbolism to explore ideas?
Set in Norway in the 1800s, Henrik Ibsen’s play, A Doll’s House, is a memorable text that challenges the patriarchal society of that era. The playwright uses symbolism to represent the complexities of rules that govern behaviour of women in that period, and characterization to contrast the actions of husband and wife, Nora and Helmer. Symbolism and characterization are key techniques Ibsen uses to demonstrate how a person’s entire life can be governed by society’s expectations.
In A Doll’s House, Ibsen uses symbolism to represent …show more content…
Ibsen has written A Doll’s House in realist style, depicting Helmer, through his dialogue and actions, as a character who is typical of that era in that he believes that women should be meek and submissive towards men. Helmer’s condescending words such as, “squirrelkin,” when referring to Nora portray superiority of males over females and demonstrate the ridiculousness of the treatment that women endure due to cultural traditions. Although, by patriarchal society’s standards, Helmer may have been a respectable person, his own life is a dichotomy to this façade, as he is far more concerned about his societal position than his true moral standing. This is shown by his incensed words, “you don’t consider what people will say,” when Nora declares that she is leaving. Through Helmer, Ibsen questions whether a faultless reputation is actually a true test for a respectable character and whether it is a worthwhile aspiration. Thus, in contrast to his wife, Helmer, like most of society, is entrenched in his habits and his personality does not undergo any transformations. His whole attitude is summarised by his statement, “no man sacrifices his honour for the one he loves,” when questioned by Nora regarding his lack of chivalry towards her. Like most of society in that period, Helmer is trapped in his old habits and incapable of change, a fact that Ibsen demonstrates to be a flaw of …show more content…
With symbolism, Ibsen shows how macaroons, a shawl and a tarantella dance can portray the confusion and rebellion of some women, due to patriarchal traditions to which they are subjected. Characterisation of Nora and Helmer illustrates the differing opinions people have in regards to the virtues of patriarchal societies. Overall, Ibsen laments that some people are incapable of changing their characters, as illustrated by Helmer’s inability to alter his attitude, yet with the eventual freedom of Nora, provides hope gender equality is