Henrik Ibsen in the search for women's identity

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O'Reilly, Kate
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BA in English Literature and Drama
Dublin Business School
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Henrik Ibsen's drama is famous for its concentration of the social lives of bourgeois people. These dramas are said to be naturalist as they take place in one setting, and in short space of time. Any events that happen outside the time and place structure are told through anecdotes and stories. This is a 'fly on the wall' kind of drama. What is clear in Ibsen's work, however, is that this is not an attempt to accurately present the complications real life in a restricted format. Ibsen used the mode of naturalism to communicate larger ideas and mimicked the 'real world' only to provide a vehicle for the critical analysis of his society. Ibsen used situation drama to talk about the nature of the human condition and the inadequacy of society to accommodate this. One of the most common devises the Ibsen used to convey these ideas is the use of women as protagonists. There is no doubt that Ibsen was concerned about the struggle that women were facing to be recognised as autonomous beings in his society. However, Ibsen's main concern was with humanity in general and saw every inequality as unjust. He used the plight of women in his time to speak of a much wider concept. Women in the late Nineteenth Century were trying to find an accurate identity, but so were the entire human race, as Ibsen saw it. Not only were women's modes of identity insufficient, so were every man's and this is not as far as the insufficiency extended. For Ibsen the entire structure of his society's thinking was flawed and this is what he wished to repair with his drama. This Final Year Project deals with the examples of women caught in false identities from three of Ibsen's plays; A Doll's House (1879), Rosmersholm (1880), and Hedda Gabler (1890), and shows how Ibsen used the model of women's search for identity to communicate his ideas about humanity in general.