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A Doll's House

Essay by 24  •  March 18, 2011  •  1,157 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,002 Views

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Women in the Late 19th Century

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, is a play about a woman who realizes that she is worth more than she has been given credit. Her whole life she was treated like a little doll; too fragile to do anything serious, too frail to be troubled with real business. She was the wife, mother and homemaker. The only things she was perceived as capable of were running the home, raising the children and looking pretty. This was a common stereotype for women in the 1880’s. Women were treated as possessions, not people.

Women had a specific role they had to fill. They had to look just so, act just so, raise the children in a certain way, and keep up the house in a perfect way. Many women tried to fill this position of the “perfect housewife”. They wore corsets that put about 22 pounds of pressure on their internal organs, which caused cracked ribs, displacement of the liver and uterine prolapsed and collapsed lungs, all just to look the way men wanted them to. Women balanced their ever so busy family lives as well as their social lives. They stayed home to take care of the kids, while taking a break to have friends over for tea or coffee. Women had to be the picture of perfection.

Magazines were plastered with this picture of the “perfect housewife” which showed women with their corsets laced so tight that they couldn’t breathe, and mothers holding many children. The whole world bought into this picture of perfection. Luckily, there were advances made to make life a little easier. The world went from being producers to being consumers. Mail order catalogs made it easier for women to purchase the necessary items to keep her house running smoothly. It was expected to have a perfect house, and this simply made it easier to obtain.

At this time, men were the dominant gender. They provided for the family, made important decisions, and were the head of the household. Women were not allowed to even take out a loan without their husband’s approval. A woman without a man was not a true woman. She was just a poor, lost soul who lacked everything necessary of acquiring a husband.

The 1870’s were a time when woman leaving her family was unacceptable. Although more and more women were starting to realize that they had greater worth. “That I no longer believe. I think that before all else I am a human being, just as much as you are--or, at least, I will try to become one. I know that most people agree with you, Torvald, and that they say so in books. But henceforth I can't be satisfied with what most people say, and what is in books. I must think things out for myself and try to get clear about them. . . . I had been living here these eight years with a strange man, and had borne him three children--Oh! I can't bear to think of it--I could tear myself to pieces!. . . . I can't spend the night in a strange man's house.”(Ibsen 1631) Women could go out and get a job and take care of themselves. It still was not even close to being acceptable to leave your family, but women were starting to want more from life. They realized they didn’t NEED a man to live their life happily. They could provide for themselves just fine, but it was easier to have a man to take care of them.

There were some women, like Nora, who decided to leave their families and try to make it on their own. They had no need for a man. Unfortunately,

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