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Society vs. Individuals. Outline. I. Social context of the Victorian Society a. Bourgeois Respectability b. Position of Women in the society c. Social Responsibility II. The Burden society puts on individuals a. Appearances b. Women are condemned c. Mistakes

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I. Social context of the Victorian Societya. Bourgeois Respectability b. Position of Women in the societyc. Social Responsibility

II. The Burden society puts on individualsa. Appearancesb. Women are condemnedc. Mistakes

III. Independence vs. Control / Manipulationa. Independence seen through Nora’s escapeb. Control/ Manipulation seen through Torvald and Krogstad

i s ocial context of the victorian society
I. Social context of the Victorian Society

The first stage production was in Copenhagen on December 21st, 1879.

The play caused an immediate sensation, sparked debate and controversy, and brought Ibsen international fame.

Performing the play was considered a revolutionary action, a daring defiance of cultural norms of Victorian Europe (1837-1901).

a bourgeois respectability
a. Bourgeois Respectability

Ideals: Financial Success, upward social mobility, freedom from financial debt and moral guilt, and a stable, secure family organized along traditional patriarchal lines.

b position of women in the society
b. Position of women in the society

Patriarchal ideals were supported and reinforced by a social structure in which women had little overt political or economic power.

They were economically, socially, and psychologically dependent upon men and also dependent upon the institutions of marriage and motherhood.

b position of women in the society1
b. Position of women in the society

Ideal Woman

Frugality Piety Patience

'... her ardent and unceasing flow of spirits, extreme activity and diligence, her punctuality, uprightness and remarkable frugality, combined with a firm reliance on God ... carried her through the severest times of pressure, both with credit and respectability ...' (The General Baptist Repository and Missionary Observer, 1840).

c social responsibility
c. Social Responsibility

Motherhood within marriage was considered a woman’s highest possible achievement

It was a social responsibility, a duty to the state and thus, a full-time job.

Mothering was no longer something that came naturally, but was something that had to be learned.

a appearances
a. Appearances

Torvald defines his life by what society finds acceptable and respectable. He is more concerned about the attractive appearance of his wife and home than he is about his wife's happiness

When Nora tries to convince him to keep Krogstad in his job, his main concern is what the bank employees will think of him if they believe he has been influenced by his wife.

“Don’t laugh. I mean, of course, a time will come when Torvald is not as devoted to me, not quite so happy when I dance for him, and dress for him, and play with him.”

From now on, forget happiness. Now it’s just about saving the remains, the wreckage, the appearance.

Torvald’s reaction to Krogstad’s letter solidifies his characterization as a shallow man concerned first and foremost with appearances. Here, he states explicitly that the appearance of happiness is far more important to him than happiness itself.

b women are condemned
b. Women are condemned

Torvald symbolizes the male dominated society at that time. And Nora stereotypes of women at that time ( being crushed)  thug giving a universal meaning

. Torvald seems to stereotype all women as frivolous spendthrifts

Nora is dependent on a men and Linde begins to conform to the society

HELMER: "That is like a woman! […] you know what I think about that. No debt, no borrowing.”

NORA: "surely you can understand that being with Torvald is a little like being with papa.

Someone to work for and live for--a home to bring comfort into."

c mistakes
c. Mistakes

Another mistake that Nora did was to not tell her husband about the loan.

The Fact that she wasn’t able to handle this situation instead of doing it behind her husband’s back is a huge mistake.

Unfortunately, society will make her pay this mistake thought the whole play.

a nora s escape
a. Nora’s escape

In leaving Torvald and her children, she will outrage society and stigmatize herself.

This is a terrible price to have to pay for self-fulfillment, but inevitable, given that society and the individual are so much at cross-purposes.

Self-fulfillmentpushingand breaking boundaries.

NORA: "What do you consider my most sacred duties?"
HELMER: "[…] your duties to your husband and your children."
NORA: "I have other duties just as sacred. […] Duties to myself."

This idea was completely scandalous in Ibsen's time. The thought that a woman might have value other than homemaking and being a mother was outrageous.

b control manipulation seen through torvald
b. Control/ Manipulation seen through Torvald

Helmer in A Doll's Houseis in many ways just as trapped by traditional gender roles as the women. He must bear the burden of supporting the entire household and be the infallible king of his house

In order to adapt to the norms of the society he has to control and manipulate everything. By the end of the play these traditional ideas are truly put to the testThe thought that a woman might have power over him is terrifying to Torvald.

HELMER: "It is already known at the Bank that I mean to dismiss Krogstad. Is it to get about now that the new manager has changed his mind at his wife's bidding-

b control manipulation seen through krogstad
b. Control/ Manipulation seen through Krogstad

Society's moral standards affects Krogstad’s life

He resorts to blackmail in an attempt to keep his job mark of respectability.

The threat of blackmail gains its power from the immense authority that individuals vested in society's moral standards: if nobody cared much what society thought, then Krogstad could tell all and no one would be harmed



from “A Doll’s House”

*appearance vs. reality

*sacrificial role of women

*filial & parental obligations/roles

*importance of appearance in the social realm

appearance vs reality
Appearance VS. Reality

What it means:

Smoke and mirrors. On the outside, something appears a certain way, yet truthfully, on the inside, it is quite different.

appearance vs reality in a doll s house
Nora is a meek, humble housewife, content with her life with Torvald.

TORVALD: Is that my little lark twittering out there?

NORA: Yes, it is!

TORVALD: Is it my little squirrel bustling about?

NORA: Yes!

TORVALD: When did my squirrel come home?

NORA: Just now. Come in here, Torvald, and see what I have bought.

Nora is unhappy. She is restless and ignorant about her life and her government. She wants to learn and be free from her ties as a mother and wife.

NORA: I must stand quite alone, if I am to understand myslef and everything about me. It is for that reason that I cannot remain with you any longer.

TORVALD: Before all else, you are a wife and a mother.

NORA: I don’t believe that any longer. I believe that before all else I am a reasonable human being.

Appearance VS. Reality-In “A Doll’s House”
sacrificial role of women
Sacrificial Role of Women

What it means:

In Victorian society it was viewed that a woman should assume the role of a martyr for the benefit of her husband. In that, she should pretend she is happy even if she is not, so that her husband need not worry about her, so that he will have a fragile but bubbling plaything.

sacrificial role of women in a doll s house
Sacrificial Role of Women-In “A Doll’s House”-

NORA: Good Heavens, no! How could you think so? A man who has such strong opinions about these things! And besides, how painful and humiliating it would be for Torvald, with his manly independence, to know that he owed me anything! It would upset our mutual relations altogether; our beautiful happy home would no longer be what it is now.

MRS. LINDE: My mother was alive then, and was bedridden and helpless, and I had to provide for my two younger brothers; so I did not think I was justified in refusing his offer…I believe he was quite well off. But his business was a precarious one; and, when he died, it all went to pieces and there was nothing left…I had to turn my hand to anything I could find- -first a small shop, then a small school, and so on. The last three years have seemed like one long working-day, with no rest.

filial parental obligations roles
Filial & Parental Obligations/Roles

What it means:

Men and women, as in Victorian society, have different roles when it comes to raising their children. Men generally take the backseat, having little interaction. Women, on the other hand are have plenty of contact, though they normally share their role with a nurse. The blame of mothers for corruption of children could also come from their heightened interaction with their kids.

filial parental obligations roles in a doll s house
NORA: Nurse, I want you to tell me something I’ve often wondered about—how could you have put your own child out among strangers?

NORA:To be able to be free from care, quite free from care; to be able to play and romp with the children; to be able to keep the house beautifully and have everything just as Torvald likes it!

NORA: There they are! There they are! (She runs to open the door. The NURSE comes in with the children.) Come in! Come in! (Stoops and kisses them.) Oh, you sweet blessings! Look at them, Christine! Aren't they darlings?

TORVALD: (after the children enter) Come along, Mrs. Linde; the place will only be bearable for a mother now!

TORVALD: Each breath the children take in such a house is full of the germs of evil…Almost everyone who has gone to the bad early in life has had a deceitful mother.

Filial & Parental Obligations/Roles-In “A Doll’s House”-
importance of appearance in the social realm
Importance of Appearance in the Social Realm

What it means:

Socially, people, families especially must appear to be of the norm: Happy, functional, and with proper gender roles intact. In Victorian society, divorce (especially with children involved) was a mortal sin. Even the appearance of a rift between a husband and his wife was seen as scandalous.

importance of appearance in the social realm in a doll s house
Importance of Appearance in the Social Realm-In “A Doll’s House”-

TORVALD: I am not so heartless as to condemn a man altogether because of a single false step of that kind…Many a man has been able to retrieve his character, if he has openly confessed his fault and taken his punishment…But Krogstad did nothing of that sort; he got himself out of it by a cunning trick, and that is why he has gone under altogether…Just think how a guilty man like that has to lie and play the hypocrite with every one, how he has to wear a mask in the presence of those near and dear to him, even before his own wife and children.

TORVALD: The chief thing is, she had made a success--she had made a tremendous success. Do you think I was going to let her remain there after that, and spoil the effect? No, indeed! I took my charming little Capri maiden--my capricious little Capri maiden, I should say--on my arm; took one quick turn round the room; a curtsey on either side, and, as they say in novels, the beautiful apparition disappeared.

TORVALD: He can make the affair known everywhere; and if he does, I may be falsely suspected of having been a party to your criminal action. Very likely people will think I was behind it all--that it was I who prompted you!

TORVALD: From this moment happiness is not the question; all that concerns us is to save the remains, the fragments, the appearance–

the weir
The Weir