The Criticism Of The Family Structure Of The Victorian Period In “Doll Casa”

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The criticism of the family structure of the Victorian period in "Doll Casa"

"Casa de Dolls" is a dramatic work written by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, which was published in 1879. This drama, written in the Victorian period, has Nora as the protagonist. This lady belongs to a bourgeois family formed by her, her husband Torvaldo Helmer and her three little children called Bobby, Ivar and Emmy. Nora requested a loan without her husband’s permission in order to save the life of this. However, she is blackmailed by her lender Krogstad, who threatens to inform Torvaldo about the money owed by Mrs. Helmer years ago and warns to take legal measures against her, since she falsified her father’s signature, which was a requirement to obtain such credit. The work "Casa de Dolls" is a criticism of the family dynamics of the Victorian period. The Victorian period (1837-1901) was a time of great apogee for the British empire. The industrial revolution had given way to the strengthening of the bourgeoisie. The double moral of society was the distinctive aspect of this period. The family was considered the fundamental pillar of society itself, therefore, the values imposed in this should be rigorous, in order to show adequate behavior and impeccable moral;Being the man the family and woman’s leader was in charge of home care and their children.

Ruiz (2019) indicates that the role of the mother consisted of the care of the family, the home and their personal care;Being perfect for her husband and with themselves … the goal of every woman was to marry, therefore, they had to be delicate and intelligent, so that her husband can presume them. The role played by women within the family varied according to the social class to which it belonged, however, the control that the man exercised was a constant. The women belonging to the bourgeoisie, as is the case of the protagonist of the work, were not dedicated to domestic work, since, they had servitude for both these tasks and for the care and education of their children. In act II, Nora establishes a conversation with her husband:

Nora. – Magnificent! But I at the time have the merit of trying to please you.

Helmer. – (caressing the chin)

Merit … for please your husband ..? Well, well, Locuela;I know that is not what you wanted to say. But I don’t want to hinder you anymore, because you’ll go try, I suppose.

In these dialogues it is demonstrated that, for a married woman it was an obligation to satisfy her husband. Nora describes her husband’s idea as "magnificent". According to the SAR, this word means "splendid, sumptuous". The author uses the resource of the hyperbole, which exaggerates the characteristics of something, so that the character represents the common characteristics of the Victorian period’s wives. The Mrs. Helmer Alaga to her husband in an excessive way, however, her answer is very different. As indicated in the dimension, he caresses his chin and qualifies it as "Locuela". Henrik Ibsen uses sarcasm in order to combine a derogatory expression with a burlesque tone. The gesture of caressing his wife’s chin is a sample of compassion which can also be interpreted as a way to humiliate her. Through the use of these resources, the author marks the contrast between the dialogues of Nora and Torvaldo.

"In the family field, man served as the main pillar of the home, both authoritatively and financially" [Footnoteref: 1]. In Victorian society, the father was considered the home leader, since, unlike the mother, it was possible to obtain a job and maintain their family economically, for that reason such level of authority was attributed. Marriage, in the Victorian period, was considered the process through which a man obtained a woman [Footnoteref: 2]. Marriage, the institution that gives way to family formation, was manipulated by men. The father agreed to the delivery of his daughter with his future son -in. Torvaldo, the father of the Helmer family, is a character who, throughout the work has proven to be a representation of the common characteristics of the married men of Victorian society. Mr. Helmer never establishes a dialogue with his children. This omission is a resource used by IBSEN to represent the situation of children in the Victorian family. As was common in the society of that time, the issues related to the education and care of children were of exclusive responsibility for mothers, in the case of bourgeois families, whose income was enough to have the services of a nanny, this function was fulfilled by said employees. Torvaldo fulfilled his role as a father, obtaining economic resources for his home and trying to achieve a better social status.

As Miguel Anxo-Hurtado points out "when you want to talk about a rigid, suffocating moral, there is talk of" Victorian moral ". And it is true that Queen Victoria’s time was obsessed with morals ”(La Voz de Galicia, 2018). In the Victorian period, moral demands were one of the factors that were most rooted in the population regardless of the discontent of this. The Victorian family was governed to strict values, since it was considered the basis of society;He had to project perfection and be discreet in his shortcomings. However, it is important to highlight that there was great inequality within the family, being the dominant man within this, forming frustrated women. Aspects like this are the main foundation for Victorian society to be qualified as contradictory. A clear example of this is shown in the dialogue between Nora and her husband in the first act where they discuss the situation of Krogstad, Helmer indicates that: “A man with the awareness of his fault has to lie, hide and pretend in allparts;He has to mask even as a family, in front of his woman’s own and his own children, and to mix his children in all this is the worst of all, Nora ”(Ibsen P.114-115). With these words Torvaldo Helmer expresses the repudiation he feels towards Krogstad;The lender of Nora, known of the youth of Torvaldo and a lawyer under his command whose dismissal is in discussion. The reasons that he has mentioned are directly related to the values of the morals of Victorian society, an aspect that, as mentioned above, was a fundamental part of a family. He feels contempt for that lawyer because he does not meet the values imposed by Victorian society and points out that the worst of his actions is the involvement of his children. Mr. Helmer issues these quite derogatory statements ignoring that his wife goes through a similar dilemma;leave what is considered moral and decent.

The protagonist experiences a purification process which is called catharsis, a quite used dramatic technique. According to Aristotle, catharsis is "emotional, bodily, mental and spiritual purification". Nora decides to leave her home, emancipate the yoke of an oppressor subject to Victorian canons. She renounces her "more sacred duties" claiming that these are the ones who have with himself;She experiences a state of purification after having faced a conflict. Before the surprise attitude of his wife, the MR. Helmer is more concerned with the opinion of others, than by the fact that Nora leaves her house, thus showing her anguish because her "perfect family" has been destroyed;Helmer’s discretion and sophistication was broken by his own wife.

In conclusion, the work "Casa de Dolls" is a criticism of the family dynamics of the Victorian period;His contradictions and shortcomings. This fact is evident in the representation of the family’s institution with that of the Helmer, a bourgeois family, subject to Victorian values and in a privileged position of society, demonstrating that the deficiencies of this family model affected all classessocial of that time. The roles performed by Torvaldo Helmer and Nora show how family dynamics were subject to strict norms that caused great disagreement in women, since they did not enjoy the same freedoms that men had;They could not be independent in any way. The conversations between MR and Mrs. Helmer in the third act explicitly show the discontent of the female sex with the canons of Victorian homes, which sought to hide the defects under the mantle of suffocating moral.


Primary sources:

  • Ibsen, h. (2018). Doll’s House. Quito, Ecuador: Free. Retrieved on June 18, 2019

Secondary sources:

  • Anxo-Hurtado, m. (February 4, 2018). Victorian morals;Queen Victoria’s time of the Time of Time was obsessed with morality, especially sexual. The voice of Galicia. Retrieved on June 19, 2019, from https: // www.the voice of
  • Aristotle. (s.F.). EDUCALINGO. Retrieved on October 13, 2019, from https: //
  • (s.F.). Retrieved on July 19, 2019, from http: // www.England.Net/Epoca-Victoriana-Iterra/
  • Royal Spanish Academy: Dictionary of the Spanish Language, 23.ª ed.,
  • [Version 23.2 Online]. [October 13, 2019].
  • Ruiz, g. (May 16, 2019). ATHISTORY.COM. Retrieved on June 15, 2019, from https: //


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