Sample Literature Paper on The role of women as sacrificial beings in “A Doll House”

Throughout English literature, sex and gender are equated with specific human traits. Weakness is a female trait and strength is a male trait. Women are capricious while men are stable. Imagination is feminine while logic is masculine. This is especially true of literature write in during the 19th century and the centuries before it. Ibsen’s play “A Doll House” that was written in the 1879 is characteristic of the gender roles of literature of the 19th century. In doll house, men are bread winners, strong, rational and protectors. On the other hand, women are home makers, irrational, and weak. Gender roles are one of the most obvious issues in Ibsen’s play “A Doll House”. He uses stereotypical gender attributes in his characterization of various female and male characters throughout the body of the play. One specific attribute is the sacrifices women have to make for their children, husbands and families. However, towards the end of the play, the stereotypical roles of women are reversed as the female characters stand up for themselves. To what extent does the play “A Doll House conform to gender stereotypes of women sacrificing for their loved ones and how is this role reversed in the end?

Apart from being bound to the kitchen, the woman of the 19th century was expected to make sacrifices for her husband and children. In “A Doll House” all female characters are seen making hard decisions that in the end causes them to sacrifice themselves so as to serve their children and/or their husbands. For example, Mrs. Linde marries someone she did not love as a sacrifice. When she is asked by Nora why she agreed to marry someone she does not love, Mrs. Linde responds that “My mother was still alive; bedridden and helpless. And then I had my two younger brothers to think of. I thought it was my duty to accept him” (Ibsen 15). In the play, it is revealed that Krogstad happens to be Mrs. Linde’s true love. However, due to her family circumstances, Mrs. Linde was forced to marry for money in order to support her family. As a woman who was not allowed to work, Mrs. Linde’s only option was to marry rich. Therefore, in this case, she had to sacrifice her own desire and happiness for the well-being of her family.

Another woman who has to conform to the gender role of female sacrifice is Anne-Marie. Ann Marie was a woman of low social status who work as Nora’s and Nora’s children’s nurse. In the scene where Nora believes she has poisoned her child, she asks Ann Marie what it was like to leave her own child behind. Anne Marie responds that “When I had the chance to such a good place? A poor girl who’s been in trouble must take what come. That Wicked man did nothing for me” (Ibsen 51). This quote show that Ann-Marie was about to be a poor single mother because the father of the child was not ready to marry or help her. Single mothers in the day were an anomaly, because women were not expected to be bread winners. Therefore, Anne Marie is forced to give up her child for adoption to give the child a better life. As a woman, Anne Marie could not obtain a job that would allow her to support herself and her child. She had to sacrifice her role as a mother and give up her child so her child could have a chance at a better life.

Nora is another Woman who has to sacrifice her well-being to help her husband and her family. She commits forgery in order to obtain a loan that will save her husband from ruin. When discussing her rash decision to take a loan to save Torvald’s life with Mrs. Linde, Nora says “How painful and humiliating it would be for Torvald, with his manly self-reliance, to know that he owed anything to me! It would utterly upset the relation between us; our beautiful family, happy home would never again be what it was (Ibsen 21). Nora is between a rock and a hard place and to solve her husband’s problem, she sacrifices her innocence by committing forgery. She sacrifices her reputation and even her marriage to save her husband. Moreover, Nora also has to hide that she saved her husband because such acts are viewed as unconventional. Nora not only sacrifices her innocence but she sacrifices her moment of strength, thus conforming to 19th century gender roles.

However, towards the end, the women in the play are no longer playing sacrificial roles for other people, rather, they pursue their happiness. Mrs. Linde was originally forced to marry for money to save her poor family. As the play ends, she chooses the love of her life, Krogstad. “What a change! To have someone to work for; a home to make happy.” (Page 77). Mrs. Linde is no longer ready to play a sacrificial role for anyone. She wants to pursue her happiness and desire by pursuing a relationship with Krogstad. In her previous marriage, Mrs. Linde was unhappy and did not like the life she found herself living. Choosing Krogstad was her subtle way of choosing happiness.

Another woman who deviates from the sacrificing role of women is Nora at the end of the play. Throughout the play, Nora sacrifices her innocence and her abilities as a strong woman to play the expected feminine roles. She goes as far as to commit forgery to save her husband and their family. However, in the end she chooses herself over her husband and children. While in a fight with Torvald, Nora says “I must try to educate myself. You are not the man to help me in that. I must set about it alone. And that is why I am leaving you!” (Ibsen 111). Nora makes the brave decision of leaving her husband and her children to go find herself. She is no longer willing to sacrifice herself to save her family. By leaving Torvald, Nora reveals that she is a strong woman who can escape societal expectations of her as a woman.

It is obvious that Ibsen initially subcribes to stereotypical female gender roles at the beginning of his play- Doll house. However, towards the end, he reverses these roles and bring s out women as strong characters to reckon with. Nora, Anne Marie and Mrs. Linde make sacrifices for their families as is expected of women in the society. Nora sacrifices her innocence by committing a crime to save her marriage. On the other hand, Anne Marie sacrifices living with her own child so her child can have a better life. Mrs. Linde also makes a sacrifice by marrying for money instead of love to save her family. However, in the end, these women pursue their happiness and their well-being. They are no longer ready to sacrifice themselves for anyone.


Works cited

Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll House.