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  • A Doll’s House Analysis,
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  • What Is A Doll’s House About

On December 4, 1876, a three-act play was published in Copenhagen and it sold out within 30 days. No doubt that the success of the book was also driven by its sensationalism. Henrik Ibsen’s play, A Doll’s House was largely debated and discussed by wonted playgoers and individuals usually disinterested in theatre. It was based on Laura Kieler’s real-life marriage that had suffered a worse fate than the lead female character in A Doll’s House. Ibsen had helped nurture her literary skills from the age of 19. Kieler became an accomplished Danish author and died at the good old age of 83.

A highly devoted woman to her husband and three children, a cosy, homely and warm household, an educated husband, a lawyer with a new job in a local bank and a promising financially secure future, what could go wrong?

What Is A Doll’s House About


A Doll’s House begins with a wonderful family with its normal challenges whose financial snags would soon be in the past. The husband, Helmer, has just been promoted and offered a well-paying bank job. There’s an obvious expectation that the best of life is guaranteed for the entire family.

Nora, Helmer’s wife, is a whole new kettle of fish. She has been a doll all her life; first the doll-child to her late father and doll-wife to her husband. Her husband and children come first above anything else. She is a financial profligate to her husband and very loose with the meagre family fortune like Helmer’s Spendthrifts, “those little birds that always fly through their fortunes”. Nora can’t even enjoy a few macaroons or a little confectionary for her sweet tooth without being reminded of how denting this is to Helmer’s wallet. The sweet little lark, Helmer’s doll, needs to be taught and managed.


She is even reminded by an old friend, Kristine Linde that she is an adult in physique but still a child. Unlike the beautiful life-inexperienced Nora who has had an easy life without toil, Kristine had to marry a man she did not love for the sake of her sick and bedridden mother and two younger brothers. She had to break the heart of the man she loved then, Krogstad whom she had promised to marry. Kristina rubs it on Nora that joy oozes from giving up comfort zones for the people we love, even if you give up your life in the process.  Nora is simply Helmer’s Tarantella dancing, tambourine swinging Capri girl he claims to love. She’s depicted as a woman who knows “so little of life’s burdens”.

Where the centre is held by nothing but niceties and a doll that serves everyone, husband, children, household, and friendly dying doctor and older acquaintance Kristine, it is bound to start extricating. It just can’t hold.


Helmer is a lawyer with a higher moral compass and a man of high standards with a reputation to keep. What people will say is important than the feelings of his wife. To Helmer, honour triumphs over love and he is ready to live a life of unhappiness than let anything muddle his reputation.


Krogstad is about to lose his job in the bank. The sweep-clean Helmer has no time for people of questionable morals and dubious character. Nora will learn her husband cares more about reputation and what people will say than love, which according to his measuring rod comes lower than honour, of which she reminds him that “millions of women” have given up honour for love.


All this leads Nora to make a terse decision to seek her own education and understand herself. Her sacred vows will no longer be viewed through the lens of a patriarchal society. She has given her all but has nothing to show for it. As a woman, she is reminded about what society thought of her kind, that “almost everyone who goes bad early in life has a mother who’s a chronic liar” by a husband who insults her that he cannot be “swept down miserably into the depths on account of a featherbrained woman”. Her duty from now on will be to herself and not to a stranger she had married for eight years.


A Doll’s Houseis as relevant today as it was in the 19th century. In a way, Nora’s resolve that her highest obligation is to herself first is in tandem with Joan Thatiah’s two nuggets in I’m Too Pretty To Be Brokeand Other Lies You’ve Been Telling Yourself that a woman’s purpose has nothing to do with outdoing a man, but being her best version and marriage is not equal to happiness unless you find happiness first within yourself. Nora’s quandary and rebirth is a gender relations malady in the marriage institution in a society that is obviously patriarchal as borne by Mwavita in Mama Ee by Ari Katini Mwachofi and Lanina in Kilio cha Haki by Alamni Mazrui-three women who make a resounding emphasis that even educated men will not be using their culture, religion or societal-set duty to deny them the inalienable right to self-identification and self-determination.

Ibsen may have written the play in 1876 for a very different Victorian society but the unequal treatment of women still persists as Caryl Churchill observed in her play Vinegar Tom. Women still have to deal with brutal setbacks such as rape culture in Alice Birch’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.  From women being referred to as simply baby making factories by Tuggle Carpenter in George Wells’ Where the Boys Are, giving women a voice is connected to their survival not just in heart-breaking modern plays like 2015’s Eclipsed by Danai Gurira, the first all-black female Broadway production starring Lupita Nyong’o, but also in the eternal message of A Doll’s House.

Source: Daily Nation