The Use of Symbolic Language in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House:
A Feministic Perspective
Abdul Baseer, Ph.D. Candidate
Sofia Dildar Alvi
Fareha Zafran, M.Phil. English Candidate
==================================================================== Language in India www.languageinindia.com ISSN 1930-2940 Vol. 13:3 March 2013 ==================================================================== Abstract
This paper is a feministic analysis of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House in Julia Kristeva’s perspective of semiotic and symbolic language. The focus of the paper is to expose the patriarchy and its ruthless exploitation of women. In the light of Kristeva’s semiotic / symbolic language modes appropriate sentences, clauses, phrases and lexemes have been specified and marked out to uncover the social status of woman, and to demonstrate that how a woman is reduced to mere a toy or / and a breathing object to a maximum extent, and a socially constructed phenomenon working for man. The paper concludes that patriarchy establishes the ideas of man’s ascendancy and woman’s relegation on the basis of symbolic concepts associated with male-dominated linguistic code, and not on the basis of semiotic use of language. Key Words: Julia Kristeva, Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House, Feminism, Symbolic Language, Semiotic Language, Patriarchy
The paper is a feministic study of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House in the light of Kristeva’s feministic theory of language. Feminism discusses the injustices against women which “extend into the structure of our society and the contents of our culture and permeates our consciousness” (Barkty, 1990: 63). Kristeva states her opinions through the concepts of semiotic and symbolic modes of language. The semiotic is natural meaning while symbolic, on the other hand, is related to power and dominance; the patriarchal functions in society or culture. Semiotic is pre-oedipal Language in India www.languageinindia.com ISSN 1930-2940
13:3 March 2013
Abdul Baseer, Ph.D. Candidate, Sofia Dildar Alvi and Fareha Zafran, M.Phil. English Candidate The Use of Symbolic Language in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House: A Feministic Perspective 622
phase, inclined to maternal relation and the symbolic is “any social, historical sign system of meaning constitutive of a community of speakers” (Keltner, 2011:19). If a woman identifies with the mother [a female], she guarantees her elimination from the patriarchal order. And in case she identifies with the father [a male], then she ends up backing up the same male-controlled order which marginalizes and relegates her as a woman.
Literary history exposes women’s long and untiring struggle to make them visible and to capsize the patriarchal social order. Kelly is of the view that “one of the most powerful things feminism has done … is to create new language and meanings which provide women with ways of naming and understanding their own experiences” (Kelly, 1994: 178). Language, the product of society, is an emblem of women’s coercion. The most powerful gender, the man, always imposes his own definitions of the masculinity and femininity. Man considers woman ‘the other’ (Beauvoir, 1949) as the one who is not oneself. “If men are active, women must be passive, if men represent good, women must represent evil … all the negative characteristics of humanity, as men perceive them, are projected onto women” (Beauvoir, 1949: 23).
Regarding language and its symbolic meanings, Sree writes that “it is difficult for women to express their feelings in a language which is chiefly made by men” (Sree, 2008: 28). So, a language is needed which at best can facilitate the women to break their silence and to express their feelings and ideas. Butler writes: “she [Kristeva] argues that the semiotic potential of language is subversive, and describes the semiotic as a poetic-maternal linguistic practice that disrupts the symbolic, understood as culturally intelligible rule-governed speech”...
References: Barkty, S. (1990). Feminity and the Modernization of Patriarehal Power. New York: Routledge
Butler, J. (1989). The Body Politics of Julia Kristeva. Hypatia, 3 (3), 104-118. Retrieved from
Kelly, L. (1994). Trouble and Strife. New York: Winter Press
Kristeva, J. (1980). Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. Oxford:
--------------- (1984). Revolution in Poetic Language. New York: Columbia University Press
Sree, S.P. (2008). Alien Among Us: Reflection of Women writer on Women. New Dehli: Sarup
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