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Ibsen’s women. Illustrate your essay with specific examples.

Ibsen was a champion of social criticism, particularly concerned about the 'imprisoned souls.' Concerns of women have been the concerns of his major works, A Dolls's House (1879), Pillars of society (1877) Ghosts and Hedda Gabbler. Generally speaking the main criticism in Ibsen's plays are directed against the vanities of contemporary living and especially of life which was lived in the north of Europe, which put obstacles in the way of free and unencumbered self-realization. The hypocrisies of economy, the dead hand of convention, the compulsion to do the done thing, the fear of what the people will think, the bigotries of the institutionalised religion and all those related factors which, under the guise of duty or royalty or moral obligation, stunt the personality and inhibit a natural development in the individual, and shut him off from genuine living. (J.W. Macfarlane, 1975) In Ibsen's above mentioned plays or to be precise from Brand (1865) onwards there occurs a deeper pre-occupation about freedom. Ibsen repeatedly insisted that freedom was essentially a matter of individual decision and individual responsibility, something personal which was striven for without ever being fully realizable. Much of the fabric of the contemporary society he saw constituted of out dated attitudes and opinions, something that was now quite inappropriate for the new individual. It caught him up in a mesh of prescriptive duties; it saddled him with an intolerable burden of incumbencies largely obsolescent. It coerced him and bemused him into a belief that suffering and joylessness were necessarily predominant in good life. Above all Ibsen was anxious to revise current thinking about what one owed to oneself. He noted the tendency to suppose that any concern for one's own self was rather one of the supreme duties.

Voice of women
A Dolls's House (1879), Pillars of society (1877) and Ghosts (1881) portrays a process of emancipation by ordeal. All the main characters, Nora, Bernick and Mrs. Alving are on the process of a transformation from a primitive form of personal integrity to a more advanced and enlightened one.


Ibsen's positive values are his strong women. The main antagonists to be faced and fought in his plays are convention, hypocrisy, sexual passion, marriages of expedience, a corrupt press and vested interests; and hardest of all, the past, either of society or of oneself, which may involve guilt and hamper freedom. Ibsen examines all these elements in a philosophical plane, and that's how the feminist identities are suffixed to it.  Ibsen's craft is so beautiful that he chooses 'home' and its domestic aspects to discuss his topic of interest. Ibsen shows these women in the context of their own home. Here home is seen as an 'institution that tends to inhibit the development of the authentic self.' So marriage becomes a microcosm of the prevailing male-dominated society at large, in which as the preliminary notes to Doll's House put it - 'a woman cannot be herself…It is an exclusively male society with laws drafted by men, and with counsel and judges who judge feminine conduct from the male point of view.' (Tennant, 1948) Thus Ibsen's female characters' faith in authority and in male domination most often clashes with their natural instincts and it is very largely this that makes most of his drama. Ibsen thus builds up his case against 'home' as the source of bigotry and hypocrisy and the epicentre of all the affection and possessiveness. From there begins the frustrations that is waged outside as war against the sexes.

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