Feminism or Humanism?

In the 140 years since its initial performance, Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, the latest addition to my literature website, has been viewed as a proto-feminist document by advocates and critics alike.  Ibsen, however, denied that he was a feminist and insisted that he wrote instead of all humanity, portraying the forces in society that kept people from becoming the free individuals they ought to be.  The play pictures a late nineteenth-century middle-class household that is completely dominated by the husband, who treats his wife like a child.  She is pampered and spoiled and has no idea that life can be lived in any other way.  By the end of the play, she insists that she must leave her husband and children in order to achieve self-realization. which Ibsen believed was essential for all people.  From a Christian pespective, however, Ibsen’s approach to men and women, marriage, and society is deeply flawed.  The relationship between Torvald and Nora Helmer at both the beginning and the end of the story is far from the biblical ideal and demonstrates innate selfishness, even when they try to give of themselves for the benefit of the other.  The play is worth reading, both as a way of understanding some of the roots of modern humanism and feminism and as a basis for discussing how both fall far short of what God wants people to be, both in their individual lives and in their relationship to one another.