The Doll House Essay, Research Paper
When The Doll House was written in 1879, the world was still completely in the clutches of many horrific gender stereotypes. Women in particular were confined to very narrow roles, and were thought to be incapable of anything outside the scope of those roles.
The Helmer household was founded upon these stereotypes, and as we eventually see, could not stand without them.
Women were raised to believe that their place was in the home. Their primary functions were to cook, clean, bear children, maintain a nice home, and adorn themselves accordingly. In Nora?s case, her main function is to keep up the fa?ade of a ?beautiful, happy home.?
On the other hand, men were raised to finance the whole charade. Husbands went to work every day, dealt with all of the harsh realities of the world, and brought home a paycheck. Helmer comes home every day to the comfort and entertainment provided by Nora, and that is the only way he knows that a marriage can be.
Nora, however, knows that she is capable of more. When she was informed that her husband?s life was in danger, she took a great financial burden upon herself. Although this was an act of love, Nora can?t tell Helmer that she did it. Helmer is a firm believer that women have no understanding of financial matters, and would have been made to feel like less of a man if he knew that his life was indebted to his ?squirrel,? Nora.
That perhaps Nora knows more about money than how to spend it never enters Helmer?s head. He assumes that Nora is just a pretty little ?featherhead.? Instead of treating her like an equal partner in their marriage, he treats her as an ornament and a child.
Nora feeds into the illusion, of course, because part of her role as a wife is to ensure that her husband feels in charge, and secure in his manhood. She asks for his guidance and approval in the most trivial of matters, even when she needs none. This serves as proof to Helmer that women are unable to take care of themselves, or even think for themselves. When Nora begs Helmer to let Krogstad keep his job at the bank, Helmer thinks Nora is simply being soft-hearted and misguided. When Nora is unable to account for where all the spending money that Helmer gives her is going, he just assumes that she is spending it foolishly, like a typical woman. Nora asks for Helmer?s assistance in getting ready for the masquerade party, and Helmer has no idea that Nora is just trying to spare Helmer the truth about their marriage. Helmer probably doesn?t even realize that Nora could be that clever.
As shown in the end of the play, when Nora leaves Helmer to discover her true self out in the world, these stereotypes are most often false. Women are not inherently frivolous and incapable. Men are not all-knowing, all-powerful, petty kings of their personal castles in a completely man-made world.
During the time period in which The Doll House was written, women were almost forced to be docile and compliant. Nora was never taught the skills to be any other way.
From the beginning of her life, she had a man to tell her how to live. First it was her father, and then she was passed on to Helmer. Until her husband?s life was at stake, she had never had a need to develop business skills. How could she be expected to know that she was breaking a law by signing her father?s name, when she had never been educated in the laws?
During the last conversation that Nora and Helmer have, Nora finally realizes that she hasn?t been happy in Helmer?s home. She says that she has been content with her life there, but not truly happy. It takes her eight years to finally realize that something isn?t quite right with her marriage. After all, by society?s standards, she has a good life. She has beautiful children, an adoring husband, a nice home, and some spending money in her pocket. This is the life that women should want, and the life that women were told they should aspire to.
If Helmer had never found out about the loan Nora took out, Nora would probably not have ever had a reason to leave. She wouldn?t have had a reason to question the integrity of the life she was leading.