Why Did European Audiences Find the Character Nora in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House Scandalous?

The mentality and perspective of people change with time. Therefore, we shouldn’t be shocked by the fact that the audience saw Nora as scandalous in the Victorian era. Back then, the whole of Europe had pretty traditional views on marriage, and women who leave their families behind just to self-explore were considered crazy.

Henrik Ibsen wrote his masterpiece in 1879. It was the Victorian era, and women’s rights were so limited that they were barely considered individuals. Those few lucky ones had to go against socially accepted norms and stay single to keep their businesses’ income. The rest of the women had to get married, stay away from any financial operations, and be housewives. It became the central scene of A Doll’s House where Nora is merely a trophy wife for Torvald. She has to pretend that their marriage is happy and full of love. However, deep inside, Nora knows that something isn’t right. 

Social norms and laws dictate Nora be an obedient wife and only deal with money on the household level after receiving an allowance from her husband. However, an unexpected situation forced her to borrow a large sum of money some time ago. At that point, she realized that such a rebellious act brought her more joy and satisfaction. Throughout the play, Nora shows more and more signs that she strives for independence. At last, Torvald proves to have no love or interest for her, so she decides to leave. She abandons her husband and children for the sake of self-exploration and equal rights. It was too ridiculous for the European audiences back then. Nora was considered a crazy woman who could create a scandalous issue out of nowhere. 

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