Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House has long been considered one of the finest plays ever written. After its first performance in 1879, the play sparked controversy with its realistic depictions of marriage and the role of men and women in middle-class society. It has since become one of the world's most performed plays.

One of the play's recurring themes is the idea of appearance vs. reality. At the beginning of A Doll's House, Nora Helmer appears to live a comfortable life. However, she lives with a secret, one that could ruin her happy life if anyone were to find out. When reading the play, it is important to note what information is revealed during the course of the play and how those revelations affect each character.

While teaching A Doll's House, make sure students understand that strict societal expectations were in place at the time of the play's creation. The relationship between Nora and Torvald encapsulates Ibsen's critique of nineteenth-century moral values and gender relations. Understanding the expectations of the time will help students grasp the play's tension and its conclusion.

Summary of A Doll's House

Key Facts

  • Publication Date: 1879
  • Length: 88 pages
  • Recommended Grade Band: 9-10

Nora Helmer seems to have everything she wants and needs, but she also hides a great secret from her husband, Torvald. As the play unfolds, the audience learns the consequences of keeping up appearances for the sake of societal image. This groundbreaking drama tackles issues that plagued the middle-class of Ibsen's time, such as the expectations of women, the importance of money, and the need for individual freedom.

What Your Students Will Love About A Doll's House

  • Witnessing Nora's journey from the suffocating nature of her home to the freedom she finds in the end
  • Reading a play about the real issues and problems concerning the middle class

Potential Student Struggles With A Doll's House

  • Understanding Nora's motives and actions, especially the fact that she leaves her children in the end
  • Understanding the expectations of nineteenth-century society

Learning Objectives for A Doll's House

  • Discuss how Nora and Torvald's marriage is a critique of nineteenth-century society and gender norms.
  • Discuss Nora's character development in relation to the play's title.
  • Analyze the role of minor characters, such as the Helmer children and Anne.
  • Discuss how certain objects in the play are symbols for the play's essential themes.
  • Determine how each character's sense of responsibility influences his or her decisions.

Literary Elements in A Doll's House

  • Foil
  • Foreshadowing
  • Irony
  • Litotes
  • Metaphor
  • Symbol
  • And more!

Major Themes in A Doll's House

Gender — The play critiques gender expectations of the time period, especially in terms of Nora who fights against them.

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Responsibility — A theme that concerns most characters in the play, from Nora who is responsible for her children's welfare and paying her debt, to Christine who married a man she did not care for because he provided financial security.

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Freedom — Though it upset many audiences, Nora's eventual departure meant freedom for her because she felt suffocated in her marriage.

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Other Resources for A Doll's House

Order A Doll's House Resources from Prestwick House

Resource Format
A Doll's House Paperback Student Edition
A Doll's House Teaching Unit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
A Doll's House AP Teaching Unit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
A Doll's House Activity Pack Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
A Doll's House Response Journal Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
A Doll's House Multiple Critical Perspectives Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
A Doll's House Complete Teacher's Kit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set