Henrik Ibsen really captures the way women are portrayed in 1879 with the play A Doll's House. The play focuses on the way that women are seen, especially in the context of marriage and motherhood. In the 1973 film adaptation of the play by director Joseph Losey, we see are able to see how insignificant women are looked at in the 1800's. Torvald (David Warner), in particular, has a very clear and narrow definition of a woman's role. He believes that it is the sacred duty of a woman to be a good wife and mother. Moreover, he tells Nora (Jane Fonda) that women are responsible for the morality of their children. He sees women as both child-like, helpless creatures detached from reality and influential moral forces responsible for the purity of the world through their influence in the home.
The perception of manliness is also discussed, though in a much more subtle way. Nora's description of Torvald suggests that she is partially aware of the lies inherent in the male role as much as that of the female. Torvald's conception of manliness is based on the value of total independence. He abhors the idea of financial or moral dependence on anyone. His desire for independence leads to the question of whether he is out of touch with reality.
Tied to the discussion of men and women are the frequent references to Nora's father. Throughout the play, there are references to Nora's father. Furthermore, Nora's actions are frequently equated with his less respectable ways, like squandering money. Although people, including Torvald, think that Nora's father had given Nora and Torvald the money for their trip to Italy, it was actually Nora, who had borrowed the money from Krogstad behind Torvald's back, while forging her dead father's signature, since she had needed a male's permission to obtain the loan. Nora goes so far as to say: "Ah, I wish I had inherited some of Papa's better qualities." Her desire suggests a deeper understanding of the confinement she faces than might otherwise be apparent.
We might even equate from that quotation that really she wishes not only to have some of the more desirable qualities like her father but maybe even qualities like a man.