Significance of the title "A Doll's House" by Henrik Ibsen


"A Doll's House" is among Henrik Ibsen's sociological plays,  bearing a fine portrait of a male-dominated society.  The play deals with the 'gender relation' of the society and chiefly aimed at women's emancipation from their husband's proprietary right upon them.  To bring out this theme in the play,  the writer introduces Nora Helmer - in whose character the title remained exemplified. 

Significance of the title "A Doll's House"

Literally 'doll' represents a passive and subservient woman,  so "A doll's house" signifies a house dwelled by such a woman. Keeping in context with this literal meaning,  in the play the word 'doll' has been applied to Nora and as such her house is "A doll's house". The writer depicted the character of Nora glorifying 'wifely devotion' through it. She was a passive and obedient wife to her husband, Torvald Helmer. From the very beginning of the play, we find Helmer showing his authority upon her, whereas Nora, showing no individuality of her own, remained his 'doll wife' - always conforming to his ideas, opinions and taste. Apart from her herioc decision of borrowing money from Krogsted without her husband's concern, she lived in a most passive manner.

A detailed study of Nora-Helmer's married life and the kind of life they led will enable us to trace the significance of the title of the play.

Summary of "A Doll's House"

The play opens on a Christmas eve with Nora returning from shopping. From the beginning of Nora and Helmet's conversation we had a glimpse of Helmer's sense of authority upon her, mingled with deep affection. His manner of addressing Nora by pet names like 'my little squirrel' and 'my little skylark' brings out this predominating sense in him. In contrast, her manners revealed her 'wifely devotion' to him. In one word, Nora is a 'doll' for Helmer.

As the story proceeds, we find Helmer's love for Nora been overshadowed by his authoritarian attitude. Nora's recommendation on behalf of Krogsted was severely rejected by Helmer, shattering her faith on Helmer's supportive attitude towards her. Moreover, Krogsted's threats added to her misery. This incident demoralised her so much that she thought of committing suicide.

By the end of Act 3, we had a full sketch of Nora's dependent character and wifely devotion to her husband. Although she thought of committing suicide, but that also for the sake of her husband's self respect and position in the society.

Helmer's unexpected reaction to Krogsted's letters made Nora realize her real position as an individual. All the years she had been a 'doll' of Helmer - busy keeping him pleased, but this incident opens up her mind. She became aware of the fact that she had been a nonentity in her own house, "a doll's house", and she herself was a little better than a 'doll' in the sense that she was a living being.

By the end of the play, we find Nora rising above the passive manner to an active one. Her real transformation was marked in her decision of leaving her family to discover the real individual within her.

Conclusion of A Doll's House - by Henrik Ibsen

The ending of the play made Nora a heroine in the real sense of the term. But as the play deals with the married life till her transformation, the title proved to be an appropriate one, signifying the kind of life she led in her husband's house, that is, in "A Doll's House" and therein lies the significance of the title. Her exit is the starting of a new life in the open world. Thus, we can deem the title to be the most perfect one.

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