53 pages 1 hour read

Henrik Ibsen

A Doll's House

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1879

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Objectification and Sexism

The play criticizes the dynamics between men and women, particularly through the example of Nora and Torvald’s marriage. Their relationship is not a union between equals but a transaction in which Torvald possesses Nora, who exists to suit her husband’s whims. Torvald’s objectification of Nora is clear from the start, as he addresses her with dehumanizing epithets like “little singing bird” and “little squirrel of mine,” which cast Nora more as a pet, as a thing to be kept, than as a person with autonomy (3).

While Nora becomes increasingly aware of this sexist treatment, Torvald remains static in his casual misogyny. After the final New Year’s party that they spend together, Torvald can’t get over how adorable Nora was in her costume—or, indeed, how adorable everyone else at the party thought she was. He asks, “Can’t I look at my most treasured possession?” when a weary Nora tries to get him to leave her alone (69). His pleasure isn’t in Nora’s talent or charm but in the fact that other people see that charm, but don’t get to possess it. To Torvald, Nora is “[his] and [his] alone, completely and utterly [his]” (69). For Nora, however, this evening catalyzes a personal and emotional awakening, as she realizes her unhappiness and mistreatment: “I have been your doll wife, just as at home I was Daddy’s doll child.