The gender equality has been a challenging debate for both proponents and opponents alike with each wanting their opinion to be accorded more so when it comes to women. For a long time now the role of a woman in the society has evolved from the old times and now in the 21st century. The way women are treated or view themselves in the 21st century has taken a gradual shift compared to the way they were treated or viewed themselves before. They are more empowered, and there are several organizations that advocate for the women’s rights and fight for gender equality than there were in the 19th century. There has been a surge in feminism as more women stand to advocate that women deserve equal opportunity just like their male counterparts who had dominated so many areas in society and there was no place for the woman other than her home (Shah, 2016).
Ibsen in the play ‘A Doll’s House’ looks at various themes, but the ones that come out more prominently are the sacrificial role of the woman and feminism. The play is in the German setting back in the 1900s that males dominated and women had little say in society and matters other than respect and support their husband’s or other male’s opinion even if they did not agree. However, things have since changed, and women are domineering in many career fields, in some homes and society in general in the 21st century. They have come up strongly to defend themselves and women today have a voice in society (Shah, 2016). It is for these reasons that the roles of women in the 21st century have changed compared to the 19th century and they play different roles in society.
In Act I of A Doll House the reader is are exposed to some clues that hint the kind of marriage Nora and Torvald have. Nora, the wife of Torvald, is confined to caring for their children, doing house chores, and working on her needlepoint which is quite typical of the Victorian era. A challenge with her responsibilities is that her most important duty was to please Torvald that made her role similar to that of a slave. Women were mostly restricted to the homes and staying behind to look after the home while the man of the house went to work. They were forced to obey and do what their husbands or male counterparts said, even if they believed or wanted differnt. This era was more chauvinistic, and it was the duty of the women to fuel the ego of their husbands no matter the circumstances, it was a form of slavery (Siddall, 2008). However, things have since changed, and women are no longer confined to their homes. In the 21st century, women have careers and now working to earn a living just like their male counterparts. Women are holding more powerful offices in politics, business, law, medicine and many other professions that were male-dominated. In some homes, women are the breadwinners and take care of the family, even in the presence of their husbands. The days when ladies were forced to stay home as the men go to work are long gone. Women have been liberated, and it is no more about the man-pleasing him but they can go out and compete with men, and some do better in their respective fields (Hossain, 2015).
As much as Nora is in a better place financially than the other character’s Linde and Hellen, she still leads an unhappy and difficult life because of society’s dictates that Torvald is the dominant partner in the marriage. Nora is issued with rules and patronizes by her husband that is belittling. One time she is forced to hide her loan from Torvald because she knows that he can never accept the notion that Nora, a woman had saved his life. It is an inferior thought on women of not having a voice in their marriages or their husband’s affairs. Additionally, she is forced to work in secret to net of the debt because it was illegal for women to get a loan without the husband’s authorization (Siddall, 2008). The women in the Victorian era were also not allowed to own any property or perform other bank transactions. It is not the case in the 21st century because women play significant roles in matters of finances in the marriage and more financial opportunities are available. Today, some banks meet the needs of women individually, and they are allowed to access the loans without their husband’s consent as long as they can service the loan. Women are now able to discuss financial matters in the marriage and help their husbands when they are down financially without feeling any inferiorority. Women can also own property today of any value giving them the liberty to trade and have more authority over their finances unlike the past (Hossain, 2015).
Many women in the Victorian society had to be the picture of perfection. They stayed home to raise children in a specific way and perfectly maintain the home. Women were expected to balance the ever busy lives and also keep an active social life. They stayed at home taking care of the children while their husbands took a break to meet with their friends and peers over for coffee, tea or adult beverages. In another instance, Nora had an overbearing father who controlled what she wore, thought or did. In this case, we can observe that the role of women as they respond to the attitude of men and society (Siddall, 2008). When she left her father’s place for her husband’s house, she received the same treatment as she was receiving from her father’s house. It means that she had no mind of her own and had to conform to what society expected of the woman even if it was not what she wanted. It was contributed to the low level of education that hindered them from identifying what worked for them. Things are different in the 21st century because women have access to education and are more aware of who they are and the capabilities they have. Therefore, men cannot control their thoughts or what they do because they are enlightened (Shah, 2016).
In conclusion, the roles of women in the 21st century have changed compared to the 19th century, and they play different roles in the society. In the 19th century, women were subject to the men, were not allowed to work, carry out any bank transactions or own any property without the husband’s consent. Their place was at the home raising the children and maintain the home as vividly illustrated in Ibsen’s A Doll House that brings to light the roles of women in the Victorian era. However, this has since changed as a result of modernization and urbanization that has granted women more power and changed their roles in society. Women can now have careers, own property, access finances and do whatever pleases them without the male dominating over their life or in marriage.
Hossain, A. (2015). Reinterpreting A Doll’s House through Post-modernist Feminist Projections. IRWLE, 11(1), 1-14.
Shah, A. R. (2016). The Concept of Feminism in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. International Multidisciplinary Research Journal. Siddall, S. H. (2008). Henrik Ibsen: A Doll’s House. Humanities-Ebooks.