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A Doll's House

A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen

Nineteenth century attitudes towards marriage, the role of women, morality and the search for identity are brilliantly explored in Henrik Ibsen's three act play, A Doll's House. It was highly controversial and received with a sense of outrage among opinion leaders in Europe. Many thinkers like August Strindberg lashed out at Ibsen for portraying the sacred institution of marriage in such a derogatory way.

A Doll's House, written in the original Danish, was first performed at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen in 1879. The ending of the play, where the heroine, Nora decides to leave her sham of a marriage aroused the ire of many viewers and critics at that time.

The play portrays Nora Helmer who is the pampered wife of a wealthy banker, Torvald Helmer. He treats Nora as a parent would pamper and indulge a child, calling her his “little squirrel” and constantly teasing and making fun of her habits and personality. When Nora's old friend Kristine Lind drops in with a request that Nora put in a word to Torvald about finding Kristine a job in the bank, things take a dramatic and unexpected turn. Nora's entire world turns upside down and she gradually comes to realize that she has been living a life that's a mere facade. Though she has taken serious decisions that have protected her family, she has always been regarded as a helpless and incompetent infant. As the play progresses, Nora's gradual realization of her own true powers and strengths lead to the stunning climax.

The first English production of A Doll's House was an adaptation by Henry Jones and Henry Herman, who re-titled it Breaking a Butterfly. English audiences were prevented from watching a real translation of the play for many decades by a ban order passed by the government. However, today with more liberal thinking, the rise of the feminist movement and a more broad and humanist ideology prevailing, A Doll's House can be read or watched almost anywhere in the world without restrictions.

As a revolutionary play that attacked the oppressive and inhuman mind-set of traditional, patriarchal social orders throughout the world, A Doll's House is a remarkable and thought provoking work of literature. It not only addresses the place of women in society, but also that of men and how the usefulness of each is essential for healthy family life and child rearing.

It is relevant even today, when perhaps such attitudes still persist though things may seem to have changed on the surface, more than a century after it was written.

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