'A Doll's House' is classified under the 'second phase' of Henrik
Ibsen's career. It was during this period which he made the transition
from mythical and historical dramas to plays dealing with social problems.
It was the first in a series investigating the tensions of family life.
Written during the Victorian era, the controversial play featuring a female
protagonist seeking individuality stirred up more controversy than any of
his other works. In contrast to many dramas of Scandinavia in that time
which depicted the role of women as the comforter, helper, and supporter of
man, 'A Doll's House' introduced woman as having her own purposes and
goals. The heroine, Nora Helmer, progresses during the course of the play
eventually to realize that she must discontinue the role of a doll and seek
out her individuality.
David Thomas describes the initial image of Nora as that of a doll
wife who revels in the thought of luxuries that can now be afforded, who
is become with flirtation, and engages in childlike acts of disobedience
(259). This inferior role from which Nora progressed is extremely
important. Ibsen in his 'A Doll's House' depicts the role of women as
subordinate in order to emphasize the need to reform their role in society.
Definite characteristics of the women's subordinate role in a
relationship are emphasized through Nora's contradicting actions. Her
infatuation with luxuries such as expensive Christmas gifts contradicts her
resourcefulness in scrounging and buying cheap clothing; her defiance of
Torvald by eating forbidden Macaroons contradicts the submission of her
opinions, including the decision of which dance outfit to wear, to her
husband; and Nora's flirtatious nature contradicts her devotion to her
husband. These occurrences emphasize the facets of a relationship in
which women play a dependent role: finance, power, and love.