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To understand plot is to evaluate how the contextual elements drive the development of the characters in a work. Henrik Ibsen's A Doll House is widely considered a milestone in the development of a highly prevalent genre of theater, realism, which refers to the general attempt to depict subjects as they are considered to exist in objective reality, without exaggeration. In A Doll House, Ibsen clearly shows the themes and structures of classical tragedy while writing in prose about everyday, indifferent people. It is evident that Ibsen tries to render women suffrage within this text as a way of depicting women's rights and the role they played in society. Through the use of characters such as Nora, Torvald, and Anne Marie, Ibsen is able to portray the socioeconomic issues that faced women in the late 19th century in Norway as a way of showing the struggles women encountered in a male dominated society.
In A Doll House, Ibsen paints an austere picture of the sacrificial role held by women of all economic classes in a Norwegian society. This is especially evident in the characters of Mrs. Linde and Anne Marie. In order to support her mother and two brothers, Mrs. Linde found it necessary to abandon Krogstad and marry a richer man. The nanny, Anne Marie, had to abandon her own child in order to be able to take care of herself. She began to work for Nora as a caregiver, and later played a role of a mother for Nora's children. Because her relationship with her own child was destroyed, Anne Marie thought that acting as a mother toward Nora's children will supplement for that feeling of grief. She believes that at the time, abandoning her child was a natural and acceptable circumstance, when dealing with class and money. As she tells Nora, the nanny considers herself lucky to have found the job, since she was "a poor girl who'd been led astray." Despite Nora's true love for her children, she chooses to leave them, which could be considered as an act of self-sacrifice. Nora truly believes that the nanny will be a better mother and that leaving her children is in their best interest. Mrs. Linde sacrificed her life to provide to provide for her brothers. That showed real courage, taking into account that women had few rights and leaving her husband (Krogstad) was considered immoral. Though Nora lived an economically privileged life when compared to the other female characters, her life is showed through a difficult lens because society's dictation of a man (Torvald) as the head of the household. This is shown through Nora and her constant struggle to hide the facts that she, a woman, had saved her husband's life, a man, by forging his signature in an attempt to rescue her lover. Nora continues to hide the letter from Torvald because she knows that it would be impossible for Torvald to believe the fact that a woman had helped save his life.
Women were considered a "bad risk" due to their role in society and difficulty finding employment. Few employers would hire female workers because women were considered weak and unable to resist temptation or corruption. Women were subject to the household; their role is artificial because it's created by the role with regard to their husbands. Their lack of independence in a society dictated by males constitutes toward their artificial role. Men took all the jobs and women were considered subservient. The only jobs women were able to accommodate were those to supplement their husband's income; it didn't go towards their personal income and therefore they couldn't spend it without their husband's permission. The socioeconomic status shapes the characters. Being economically advantaged, Nora realizes that being enslaved to money leads to dominance by Torvald, forcing her to leave and establish her independence. Nora and Torvald both express the belief that a parent is obligated to be honest and upstanding, because a parent's immorality is passed on to his or her children like a disease. Just as Dr. Rank suffered his father's misdeeds, Torvald voices the idea that one's parents are the ones who determine the children's moral character. Ibsen uses the idea of a child's debt to his/her parent to exhibit the complexity and mutual nature of familial obligations. Because women are supposed to be motherly and raise children, their actions were such that if they were sinful, their children would be considered sinful. Manifested by her interaction with the children and her great fear of corrupting them, Nora decides to leave her children in an attempt to save them from the outrageous implications society has put on her, hoping that her children don't face the same corrupted life.
Throughout the story, it seems as if the need for money is linked with the ability to exist. Krogstad blackmailed Nora in order to maintain his financial status. Mrs. Linde abandoned her husband and sacrificed her role as a wife for money to provide for her brothers. Anne Marie destroyed her relationship with her child in order to supplement her own living. All of these characters provide a foil to Nora along with her decisions and behavior when dealing with money. It is evident that Nora has been shaped I by the presence of money; that she is willing to do anything for it. A "tattered" dress wasn't enough for her; she wanted something that would help her blend into society.
Nora's attitude towards her children raises the issue of nature vs. nurture. Women were supposed to have an innate role in nurturing their children. "Absences" examine the factors that are not in the play. A good example of an "absence" in A Doll House is Nora's mother. This absence ties Nora to the male dominated society in which she lives. Because we have no word on Nora's mother, we have no idea on how she was raised. This leads us to believe that the way Nora raises her children might deal with the way Nora herself was raised. Nora's upbringing makes her fit to be a mother and a wife; her father forced her to throw away her sense of self. Through the absence of Nora's mother her father decided to shape her into the ideal woman he wanted so she could be a good wife for Torvald.
Over the course of A Doll's House, appearances prove to be misleading facades that mask the reality of the play's characters and situations. Our first impression of Nora leads us to believe that she is a silly, childish woman who merely does anything for the sake of money. She is often referred to as a "spendthrift," accumulating the money Torvald gives to her and spends it on cookies. She is never satisfied and constantly fights the dictations of society in order to survive in a male dominated world. As the play progresses, we learn that Nora is an intelligent, independent individual who did an illegal act to save her husband's life. She also realizes that she has been putting on a show for Torvald all these years, referring back the title A Doll House. Dolls are meant to be played with and are there for the enjoyment of others, just as Nora was for Torvald; she was an "artificial" being. Torvald, though he plays the part of a strong husband, proves to be cowardly, fearing the fact that Krogstad might expose the scandal Nora has caused. As the play closes to an end, Nora strives to find her own sense of being. Ibsen creates a cliffhanger - forces the reader to make their own assumptions. "The door slams shut." This is not just a new life for Nora, but a new hope for Torvald to realize who they are as individuals.