The paper "Gender Roles in a Doll's House" states that the writer presents the characters in stereotype form as should conform to the existing beliefs of the Norwegian society which believed in male dominance and gave the husband the role of breadwinner. …
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One of the couples has to dominate the scene; the other should modify herself, sacrifice her inner desires and think only the welfare of the others. The story is set in the context of 19th Century Norwegian society where there are certain predetermined roles for different genders. Meyer (2008) reveals that the story also “ highlights the cultural conflicts” of the time (p 3). The traditional middle-class morality based on the dominance of the male gender bases the institution of the family not on the feelings of love and affection rather it sees the welfare of the family institution in the form of certain established power relationships. Johnston(1989) also indicates that it takes the family as a mini-state where the authority has to go to some autocratic power. The base of this family institution is not democratic. Here one person has to be dominant—the rule maker who is to be followed by others. The writer presents the characters in stereotype form as should conform to the existing beliefs of the Norwegian society which believed in male dominance and gave the husband the role of breadwinner. The superiority of the husband over his spouse is evident in the speech of Torvald and his chosen metaphor that represent women as a weak or diminutive creature. The husband of the story has the right to impose any kind of sanctions on his wife. Siddall (2008) explains it in this way, “Gender in A Doll’s House is crucial to the meaning of the play. Gender is simplified in order to define the marital roles: men work and women play; the husband is responsible and well-informed, while the wife as grown-up child decorates his life charmingly” (p 13). Woman as a weaker sex Nora has been described as ‘little squirrel’, ‘little skylark’. Such diminutive roles portray her as the weaker sex. Torvald’ assumed notions about the fair sex make him believe that she is a weaker sex which always needs the protection of the male sex. Torvald also thinks that his wife is incapable of taking any serious responsibility outside her domain— house. She is a pretty doll and she should be confined to her home. She should think about the welfare of her home, husband and family. Woman as a creature of home Mayer (2008) reflects that “Ibsen’s Nora Helmer is a doll trapped in her house, a condition underscored by the fact that all the play’s action takes place in her own living room. Repressed by a husband who expects her to fulfill her wifely and motherly roles under strict guidelines of morality and appearance” (p 3). Nora as a typical spendthrift woman In first act Nora has been shown as a spendthrift woman who likes money to spend on dresses and shopping. She is even willing to indulge in debt to appease her hunger for shopping. Helmer seems to be wary of her indiscreet behavior. He exclaims, “Bought, did you say? All these things? Has my little spendthrift been wasting money again?”(Act I ) But his efforts to stop her from spending money recklessly are futile as she wangles money from him every time. He helplessly remarks, “You always find some new way of wheedling money out of me, and, as soon as you have got it, it seems to melt in your hands. You never know where it has gone.” Helmer attributes this attitude to his gender traits and blurts out, “That is like a woman!” (Act I).
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