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Applying the Concept of Dramatic Theory – A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

The text “A Doll’s House” by the author Henrik Ibsen is considered a good example of a naturalistic play. The play is considered to be naturalistic since it deals with worldly problems that are realistic and one that resulted from a careful study of the psychology and behavior of human beings. Zola defines the term naturalism as a theory in the literature that emphasizes scientific observation of life devoid of idealism or avoidance of the ugly. This definition of naturalism is fundamentally made of thoughts and ideas that glorify nature while at the same time excluding both spirit and supernatural elements that closely adhere to nature in both literature and art. In this case, Ibsen’s text “A Doll House” is considered to be a landmark in his long-term career as a naturalistic playwright. As a naturalist, Ibsen always found a way to offer different perspectives because he focused more on naturalistic issues and women’s questions. In the selected play by Henrik Ibsen, he focuses on naturalistic problems based on the social reality of his time. Ibsen designed this play in a manner that elicits the audience to think deeply about their situations at home and to become cognizant of the existing problems so they can pinpoint and develop techniques to solve the identified problems early. Therefore, by applying the concept of dramatic theory, it becomes apparent that Henrik Ibsen’s play “A Doll House” is a perfect example of a naturalistic play.

To have a clear understanding of the philosophy behind Henrik Ibsen’s naturalistic play, it is necessary to first conceptualize the story itself. Ibsen’s play, “A Doll House”, as mentioned by Kumari (13) is viewed by many as a very naturalistic story that reflects on actual problems within a family setting (this case being the family of Nora). The setting of the aforementioned play is often in-house, therefore, contributing to the creation of a setting that is utterly naturalistic. Besides, this play involves dialogues between family members and friends, a depiction of a few of the multiple things that people engage in their day-to-day lives. Issues relating to marriage and divorce are among the daily experiences of a lot of people, and one that gains popularity by the day. The main idea behind Ibsen’s play “A Doll House” is to urge the readers to reflect upon their situations, be aware of the actual existence of life-related problems, and identify the best solutions to their problems (Kumar, 13). The actual definition of naturalism as the use of art to depict realistic objects in a natural setting is the foundational concept of this play since the language, objects, ad costumes are very close to everyday human life. Besides, the overall theme of “A Doll House” play stresses the need of every individual despite their genders to do whatever it takes to become the person they desire. Therefore, the basic theme of Ibsen’s play is the captivity of the naturalistic tendencies which happen to serve as the play’s performance guide for the portrayal of the author’s character.

Furthermore, “A Doll House” play is considered a naturalistic play because it has a theme of captivity which is a naturalistic tendency that serves the purpose of portraying the character of the author. The majority of the female characters in this play are either in bondage with a person or an object that manipulates their mental and emotional senses. When the inner activity of the play’s characters reaches a climax, the characters are forced to make decisions that will either remove them from captivity or keep them in captivity forever. According to Kumar (13), Nora who is the protagonist in this play appears to undergo a lot of suffering as a captive. For this reason, this character (Nora) struggles to realize her authentic identity considering that her husband Torvald has always established her identity. Other than being patronizing towards her, Nora’s husband, Torvald always forced her to act and look in ways that made him happy. The captivity of Nora is evident in the play by Ibsen (71) where Nora talks in a very low tone to Krogstad when he visited her at her home so that Torvald could not hear what they were talking about. Torvald forced Nora to constantly remain his quiet and happy little doll. The theme of realism or naturalism is brought forth in this play when Nora finally decides to leave her “doll house” so she could discover and learn on her own.

Another incident of naturalism or realism is evident in the part of the play where Nora shows her real self more to other people other than her husband. In the play A Doll House by Ibsen (28), Nora tells Mrs. Liden and Rank that Macaroon was not contraband and that she was only taking them because her husband was not present at the moment. Nora had been forbidden by Torvald from eating macaroons, but she took this for granted in the presence of her friends. Whether this issue was serious or not, Nora could only afford to disclose this to her friends. Other than this, Nora went further to disclose her anxiety about her marriage and her desire for money naturally but discussed it only wither friends Ibsen (23). The latter provides evidence of the naturalism and realism of how Nora was suppressing the passion and energy of her mind that only comes in full when she eventually confronts her husband at the end of the play. After holding back for a long time, Nora eventually surrenders to the human naturalistic will and ends up identifying the comforts that come with freedom and money Kumar (13).

At the start of this play, the reader might consider Nora as an individual who is full of life, a spendthrift, and one who enjoys her life as a “doll wife” to Torvald who is depicted as being the epitome of masculinity dominance and a loving husband who treats Nora as a child (Hosuri, 181). Nora’s husband fails to identify her as a proper adult based on the notion that she is a woman. This is so because, at the period when this play was written, men used to dominate almost every aspect of life including the life of their wives. This level of domination by men is evident by how Nora played along with Torvald’s pet names for her such as “the little songbird” (Ibsen, 7). As noted by Hosuri (181), before the 20th century, men used to be the sole providers of their families. This is evident in Ibsen’s play from how Torvald worked hard to provide for his family despite being an overly opinionated individual. Furthermore, the evidence of naturalism is brought forth in this play based on Nora’s knowledge of her restricted role in society. She sees freedom in having money and being independent and even gets upset when Christine tells her that she is not aware of the problems that life holds (Ibsen, 22). Nonetheless, Christine was somehow right because Helmer had full control of every single household and financial affairs besides being in a position to restrict Nora the same way he restricted his children, a stance that exhibits naturalism or the nature of dominance in this play.

More so, as a member of the male society, Nora’s husband, Torvald tends to encapsulate her in captivity to the male society of the mid-19th century by forcing his will on her. According to Kumar (13), Nora faces the danger of experiencing serious legal action, one that might affect her relationship with her husband and children. Her situation is naturalistic with regards to the then characteristics of the male-dominated society which proved to be a more difficult burden as compared to monetary captivity. Further realism evident in this play is because Nora started as a “doll child” to her father and later became a “doll wife” to Torvald, her husband. Both Nora’s father and her husband act as barriers to her growth who in this case is a grown and responsible individual in society. Torvald’s moralistic and patronizing expectations are enslavement to Nora because they contribute to her becoming self-loathing, confused, and doubtful.

Also, the notion of naturalistic study in Ibsen’s lay “A Doll House” is based on the pernicious effects of money, class, and the ideology of patriarchy in the then society, and how they distort social behavior and marginalize women and the lower orders in general. For instance, Marie the nurse was forced to abandon her child to work as a house help because of poverty and the social structure of the mid-19 century society. Marie happens to share the same characteristics with Mrs. Linde who was compelled to abandon her youthful love so she could focus on her finances and security (Kumar, 13). The last naturalistic element in this play is the influence of heredity ad environment which ought to be strong motifs. Nora’s father is depicted as having a very strong but corruptive influence since her husband is always comparing her to her father while condemning them for being spendthrifts. How Nora spends her finances and the way she is irresponsible is a perfect reflection of her father. Other than Nora, Dr. Rank has also been corrupted by Nora’s father and is a victim of his father’s profligacy disease.

After analyzing the play “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen, it is apparent that the portrayal of characters depicts them under the strong influence of naturalistic elements. Among the naturalistic elements discussed in this analysis include the ideology of power, money, self-realization, environment, and patriarchy in society. From this study, it is evident that humans are presented as entrapped in a society that is determined by the inevitable laws of the environment and heredity. Therefore, the author of the play under analysis confirms that, as much as we can survive under the environment and heredity, we are unable to change anything

Work Cited

Hosuri, Anupama. “THE EMERGENCE OF REALISM IN Henrik Ibsen’s A DOLL’s HOUSE”. Literaryendeavour.Org, 2019,’s%20A%20Doll%E2%80%99sHouse%20-%20Miss.%20Anupama%20Hosuri.pdf.

Ibsen, Henrik. A doll’s house: a play in three acts. WH Baker, 1890.

Kumar, Ravindra. “A Naturalistic Study Of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House”. Advancedjournal.Com, 2020,

Zola, Emile. “Preface to Thérèse Raquin.” Naturalism and Symbolism in European Theatre 1918 (1850).


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