There are a couple of themes in Henrik Ibsen’s play. Some of the themes in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House are the themes of gender prejudice, the sacrificial role of women, materialism, puerility, and parental responsibilities.
Theme of Gender Prejudice
A Doll’s House focuses on the ways women are perceived in marriage and motherhood. Torvald has a narrow and condescending definition of women’s roles. He believes that it is the paramount duty of a woman to be a good wife and mother. In essence, he sees women as child-like helpless creatures.
Ideas of “manliness” are presented in more subtle ways. Torvald believes a man should be totally independent and he absolutely hates the idea of financial or moral dependence on anyone. It is shown when he learns of Nora’s loan, making him take rash decision of sending her away.
The Sacrificial Role of Women
Ibsen paints a bleak picture of the sacrificial role held by Nora, of all economic classes in the society. For example, Mrs. Linde finds it necessary to abandon Krogstad, her true but penniless love, to marry a richer man.
The nanny (Anne) too had to abandon her own child to support herself by working as Nora’s children’s caretaker.
Though Nora is economically advantaged, she nevertheless, leads a difficult life because the society dictates that Torvald be the dominant partner. Torvald issues decrees and condescends on Nora.
Nora had to hide the source of the loan she borrowed to save his life, as it is illegal to borrow loan without her husband’s permission.
Theme of Materialism
The theme of materialism manifests through Torvald who in particular focuses on money and material goods rather than people.
His sense of manhood depends on his financial independence. He was an unsuccessful barrister because he refused to take “unsavory cases.” As a result, he switched job to the bank where he primarily deals with money.
Theme of Puerility
Nora is called a number of diminutive child-like names by Torvald throughout the play. These include: “little song bird, squirrel, lark, little feather head, little sky lark, little person, little woman.”
Torvald commonly uses the adjective “little” before the names he calls Nora. They are usually followed by the possessive ‘my” signaling the belief that Nora is his. The pattern seems more than just a collection of pet names. He practically regards and treats Nora as his child rather than wife.
Theme of Parental Responsibilities
Nora, Torvald and Dr. Rank each expressed the belief that a parent is obligated to be honest and upstanding because a parent’s immorality is passed on to the children like a disease. In fact, Dr. Rank does have a disease that is a result of his father’s sexual exploits.
Torvald also voices the idea that one’s parent determines one’s moral character when he tells Nora, “Nearly all young criminals had lying mothers.” He also refuses Nora the access to their children after he learns of her deceit, for fear that she will corrupt them.