Author: Henrik Ibsen
Translator: Michael Meyer
Genre: Historic Fiction Play
Published: December 21st, 1879
Synopsis: A Doll's House is a masterpiece of theatrical craft which, for the first time portrayed the tragic hypocrisy of Victorian middle class marriage on stage. The play ushered in a new social era and "exploded like a bomb into contemporary life."
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
“You have never loved me. You have only thought it pleasant to be in love with me.”
I appreciate what this play was trying to do. I really appreciate the feminist standpoint, especially since it was written all the way back in 1879. It's just that when read in modern day, the extremes taken to convey the feminism seemed kind of silly.
The plot consists of a woman named Nora and her husband Helmer who have three kids and have been married for 8 years in Victorian Norway. Everything seems perfect for them, until a secret Nora has been keeping from her husband threatens to be revealed.
The way Helmer treats his wife is horrible. He honestly acts more like a father to her than a husband, always bossing her around and dismissing her ideas as though he always knows best. He was so sexist that I wanted to jump into the book and slap him. He calls his wife almost exclusively increasingly demeaning pet names, sometimes even referring to her as "it" or a "little person," and he treats everything she does independently as a direct violation of his wishes. He even gives her a curfew and tells her when to leave parties they go to. She is a grown woman and the mother of his children; what authority does he have to tell her when to come home from parties and dinners? I hated him so much, and his extremeness, clearly written on purpose, took away from me enjoying the book. He's obviously supposed to represent the evils of the patriarchy, but is in no way subtle and just made me aggravated.
The ending, which was supposed to be a big scandalous ending for the time this play was first put on, just made me a little frustrated. (highlight for spoilers) I mean, it's great that Nora was all empowered and left her husband. You go girl, live your best life. But she had 3 kids. 3 kids, all under 8 years old, who now have a mother who up and left in the middle of the night. And it's not like she's just going off for a time to find herself, she fully admits she will probably never see her children again. I understand the book is trying to say there's more than a woman's life than just being a wife and mother, but there's a thin line between being your own person and abandoning your children with your ass of a ex-husband forever with no warning. The idea that a mother can leave her children with no guilt really irked me, and Nora's character felt so selfish.
I've got to say, for all this writing's flaws, I did genuinely want to know what was going to happen to the characters, but this might be due to me wanting to know if any of the characters would just snap and rightfully slap all the people around them. was interested in seeing how people got out of the holes they dug themselves into.
The low rating is also in part due to me not being a big play-reading person. My favorite part of books is often the little details, but plays are just dialogue and the occasional stage direction. There is a little bit of a "it's not you, it's me" aspect to this review.
I can't rate this play 1 star, since I appreciate what it was trying for the time it was published, but it's just too heavy-handed. A good comparison is how I felt about the book Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill (which I made a review for). It was well-written and had powerful messages about women, but as much as I appreciated what it was trying to say, I hated the extreme characters and the blatantness of the story.
Maybe I'd like this play better if I saw it rather than read it.
And unrelated, I think this cover is really clever. A cage that's being help up by an engagement ring? Almost like a metaphor for being kept in an unhealthy marriage due to feelings of duty!
Some other reviews for "The Doll's House" (may contain spoilers):
The Blue Bookcase
Opinions of a Wolf