In many novels, plays, and other works of literature, an author will make an example of a social issue, usually on a single individual or a small group of characters. These issues can vary in subject, depending on the author’s views on society and particular social issues. In Henrik Ibsen’s play, “A Doll’s House”, the predicament of women in the late eighteen hundreds is shown in a particularly dramatic fashion. The protagonist of the play, Nora Helmer, is a prime example of this situation. As the wife of a respected man, she would be expected to keep his home, raise his children and agree with him in all things. However, Nora broke out of this mold by attempting to think for herself.
However, due to the social treatment of women in this time period, her independence resulted in years of lies and deception, which must have caused Nora a great deal of stress. Her husband knew nothing of her activities, and she was determined that he stay ignorant. She acted much sillier and shallower then she actually was, pretending that she was spending hours decorating, or spending unnecessary money rather than working hard and saving every penny. Her actions may have affected her marriage as well as her state of mind. Society forced her to let her husband believe that she spent money carelessly and could do nothing herself, rather than revealing the truth and attempting to work their issues out together. Had Nora’s husband known her true nature, they might have formed a more honest, equal marriage rather than an unequal, deceitful one. In this way, society’s view on expectations for respectable women forced Nora into a dishonest marriage, secrecy for many years and quite a lot of distress.
Society’s negative view on women, their place in society, and their alleged low mental capacity in comparison to men, made what should have been a loving marriage between two equals a relationship full of dishonesty and absolutely no equality. Nora had been taught by society that she could not and was not allowed to do anything of substance besides care for her family. Her husband Torvald was taught that not only could she not do these things, but that she must be condemned if she tried. Both characters were negatively affected by the results of these assumptions, resulting in the end of their marriage. Had Nora and Torvald lived in the modern world, the result may have been very different.