A DOLL’S HOUSE
During the nineteenth century, most middle-class European and American women were economically and legally
dependent on their husbands. Realistic writers such as Leo Tolstoy, Guy de Maupassant, and Thomas Hardy wrote
works sympathizing with defiant, unconventional women, but their rebellious female characters usually came to
ruin. In A Doll’s House, Ibsen creates a modern tragic heroine and allows her to achieve independence.
Upon its publication in 1879, A Doll’s House was widely translated, read, discussed, attacked, and performed. The
portrayal of marital conflict in the play was considered so scandalous that the producers of the German version
changed the last act. Ibsen himself, under considerable pressure, wrote an alternate ending. He later regretted this,
stating that the entire play was written for the sake of the final scene and its famous “slamming door.”
In A Doll’s House, Ibsen imitates the technique of analysis and retrospection first developed by Sophocles in ancient
Greece. The major events affecting the characters have already occurred before the curtain is raised; the action of the
play serves to expose these events. Ibsen’s contemporaries were startled by the detailed set descriptions, the natural
dialogue, and the use of real-life situations. In fact, modern drama is often said to date from the appearance of A
Overall Literary Focus
Characterization is the process by which an author reveals the personality of the characters. In drama,
characterization occurs mostly through dialogue, a form of indirect characterization. We make up our minds about
the characters by listening to the things they say and how they say them, what they look like, and how they act.
1. Do you believe that Nora is as happy as she claims to be? Why or why not?
1. What do Torvald’s nicknames for Nora, such as “skylark,” “squirrel,” and “squanderbird” tell you about their
relationship? How does Nora react to th