Henrik Ibsen: A Life in Contrast
Henrik Ibsen's journey began in Skien, Norway in 1828, where he was born into affluence. Unexpectedly, academic pursuits eluded him as he chose to forsake higher education in favor of writing. This decision, though, initially led to financial hardship for him and his wife. The playwright's turning point came in 1864 when he left his family behind, including his son Sigurd, who would later become the Prime Minister of Norway. Ibsen's sojourn in Sorrento, Italy, and later Dresden, Germany, marked the creation of his magnum opus, "A Doll’s House." His later years witnessed a surge in popularity despite the controversial nature of his plays. In 1891, he returned to Norway, succumbing to death in 1906 after battling debilitating strokes. Today, Ibsen's legacy is that of a celebrated dramatist, often dubbed "the father of realism" and a pioneer of Modernism.
The Contextual Tapestry of "A Doll's House"
The 1870s were cloaked in Victorian stringency, a time when rigid societal norms and stringent laws curtailed
women's rights, especially for married women. The Napoleonic Code
Definition: The civil code established under Napoleon in France in 1804 that influenced legal systems worldwide.
Example: The Napoleonic Code emphasized individual rights and equality before the law.
Go To Literary Terms Dictionary , enforced across Europe, hindered women's financial autonomy. This meant that many women had to forego marriage to preserve their independence. The early 20th century heralded change, as the global suffrage movement heralded women's rights, including property ownership and voting. Nevertheless, these transformations were merely a distant aspiration for most during the late 1870s.
Intersecting Threads: "A Doll's House" and the Literary Fabric
Within the realm of realism, Anton Chekhov's plays resonate with themes of family, society, and morality,
offering a profound critique
Definition: A detailed analysis or evaluation of a work, idea, or concept.
Example: The critic's review provided an insightful critique of the novel's themes and characters.
Go To Literary Terms Dictionary akin to Ibsen's works. Augmenting this tradition is August Strindberg, a Swedish playwright whose naturalist-style plays emerged as a response to realism, much like the current of naturalism grew from it.
Unveiling the Essence of "A Doll's House"
- Full Title: A Doll’s House (Norwegian: Ett dukkehjem)
- Written: 1879
- Location: Dresden, Germany
- Published and First Performed: December 1879
- Literary Eras: Realism, modernism
- Genre: Realist modern prose drama
- Setting: A Norwegian town or city
- Climax: Torvald's discovery of Krogstad's letter unveiling Nora's secret
- Antagonists: Initially Krogstad, then Torvald
A Deeper Connection: "A Doll's House" and Reality
Astonishingly, "A Doll’s House" draws from the real-life account of Laura Kieler, a close family friend of Ibsen. Her tale, which inspired Nora’s concealed debt, took a different turn. In real life, Kieler didn't forge signatures, but her husband's discovery led to divorce and institutionalization. Ibsen’s empathy for her plight motivated him to create the play as a defense. After two years in the asylum, Kieler emerged, became an acclaimed Danish author, and returned to her family.
Controversial Reverberations: The Unsettling Echo of "A Doll's House"
Upon its premiere and for years to come, "A Doll’s House" stirred controversy. Critiquing 19th-century marital
norms and portraying a woman's abandonment of her family for self-discovery
Definition: The process of learning about one's own character, values, and motives.
Example: Her journey of self-discovery led her to pursue a new career path that aligned with her passions.
Go To Literary Terms Dictionary , the play incited strong reactions. Under pressure, Ibsen penned an alternate ending, in which Nora reconsiders upon seeing her children and stays with Torvald. Regretting this change, he deemed the altered ending a "barbaric outrage."