Henrik Ibsen: Individual, Marriage and Family

Henrik Ibsen’s famous play A Doll’s House was written way back in 1879. But it remains a timeless classic even today. It upholds a mirror to the double standards of the society and institution of marriage. Often branded as one of the earliest feminist plays, A Doll’s House, is more about hypocrisy and trappings of a marriage, family and death of individuality.

Nora, the protagonist of the play, was not merely disappointed by her husband but also by her father too. Her individuality got crushed by two egoistic men who imposed their wisdom, opinion on her and thus never really gave her freedom to assert her own individuality. Not being a person of strong personality Nora spent her entire life pleasing her father and then her husband. Unknowingly she became their adorable doll and was happy being one too just because it gave her pleasure to please two people who were very important to her.  Nora had many of her own weaknesses and she hid her strengths. She was happy in her golden cage, her home till she got disillusioned and questioned her own identity and her role in her husband’s life.

The play literally ripped apart the whole façade of marriage. The individuality, independence and freedom should be primarily preserved in any marriage. But in reality these are the first main casualties. Society too keeps imposing gender stereotypes over and over again thus turning individuals into lifeless dolls capable only of pleasing others. Maybe this stereotyping is important to keep the institution of marriage and family intact.

The birth of Nora’s individuality and she walking out of her home at the end of play is modern day reality. Nora’s realizes in the end that her primary duty is towards her own self, that she is first a human being, an individual before being a wife and a mother. Unless she is clear of her own identity, her place, she can do very little for others.

Modern day individuals are haunted by these same issues of identity, freedom and duties toward family. They still have to juggle different roles, put others interests before self and even play a doll to save the sacred institution of marriage. More and more marriages are breaking up and individuals questioning marriage are opting to live together or lead a single life. The individual is alienated even in a happy marriage. The trappings of a doll’s house are a reality even today.


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