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Feminist or Humanist, the Nature of Henrik Ibsen

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Feminist or Humanist, the Nature of Henrik Ibsen

When I was in teens I used to joke almost everything. As a result I was considered as a player. That bothered me because in many things I was an absolutely serious person. When I tried to discuss something sincerely people always thought I was telling another cold joke. Having this experience makes me easier to understand it is possible that Ibsen is misunderstood because of the strong feminist elements in the play A Doll’s House gives a remarkable impression even thought Ibsen claimed that he was not a feminist. In this paper I am going to figure out what Ibsen’s standing is.

Ibsen disclaims “the honor of having consciously worked for women's rights.” Instead, he claims “to me it has been a question of human rights” (Ibsen Interview). This could be used as en evidence of Ibsen is a humanist. Then why many people, at his time till now, still believe that Ibsen is a feminist? Likewise my personal experience, I was considered as a player because my behavior, Ibsen is considered as a feminist because his play A Doll’s House. The story of Nora is a story of a woman’s struggling with her fate of being a woman at the time that females were not respected. Finally Nora realizes that her father “called me his doll-child, and he played with me just as I used to play with my dolls” (Ibsen 3). And she realizes that she has been Torvald’s “doll-wife, just as at home I was papa's doll-child” (Ibsen 3). Then Nora makes the decision of leaving her life of being a doll. If the whole play is all about Nora, a woman’s self liberation, then the author of the play Ibsen could be considered as a feminist. In this case, neither people’s view of Ibsen nor his claim can be used to define his standing. Then how to explain Ibsen’s declaration of being a humanist could become the key of whether he is a feminist or a humanist.

The question of how to understand Ibsen’s word of being a humanist but not a feminist has two answers: first one is he means what he says, second one is he does not mean what he says. Then it brings the following question instead: If Ibsen was a feminist, why does he disclaim that? The reason why Ibsen wrote the second ending could answer this question. A Doll’s House was banned in Britain, was refused to play by actress in Germany because in 19th century’s Europe it was unacceptable to portray the action of leaving husband which represents breaking the covenant of marriage. It was not respected to be a feminist at that time in Europe. Therefore the explanation of Ibsen does not claim he is a feminist is because the social pressure is reasonable. By the way, Ibsen’s another play An Enemy of the People is all about justice and truth, it could be taken as an evidence that he was a humanist.

Back to A Doll’s House, which is the reason why Ibsen is supported as a feminist. Nora is enlightened by her self-awareness.



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