Victorian England made a clear division between gender roles of men and women. The only life for a Victorian woman was marriage and family, Nora exists solely within the house and her purpose is to maintain it. Young girls were brought up to be perfectly innocent, sexually ignorant and vain; ‘What wonderfully blue eyes you have ‘I hope you will always look at me just like that, especially when there are other people present.’ This reveals her as a vain woman concerned about her appearance in the eyes of others, throughout the play there are constant reminders of how superficial Victorian society was. It is also implying that Gwendolen wants men to look at her with desire, as if she specifically needs the male sex to validate her and to make her feel secure within herself. Wilde illustrates in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ how love is forced, and not heart felt ‘I am not in favour of long engagements. They give people the opportunity of finding out each other's character before marriage, which I think is never advisable.’ This highlights how marriage in the Victorian era was more like a contract not a meaningful devotion, Wilde uses this to mock Victorian society and adds an element of humor. He also uses this to suggest that you don’t want to get to know the person you are going to marry because you probably won’t like them as they’re a product of society.
In many cases women were not allowed to choose who they marry ‘you are not engaged to anyone. When you do become engaged to someone, I, or your father, will inform you of the fact’ Lady Bracknell’s comments suggest that girls are not capable or experienced enough to prudently choose husbands. This further enforces the little level of intelligence women were perceived to have.
Women were expected to marry and to have children however; Ibsen questions this passive role of women using his character Mrs Lind, she’s unusual in the fact that she isn’t married and also works. He uses Nora to be the voice of society ‘and no children?’ This would be unusual as it was a woman’s job to have children and without it she doesn’t have anything ‘Nothing at all, then.’ as she hasn’t fulfilled her role or as many men would view it, her usefulness. A modern day audience would feel that Nora was being rude or that she lacks a phenomenological view. The pace of the conversation shows there is tension and it makes the audience feel uncomfortable as if they are intruding, Ibsen uses this naturalistic approach to give the audience an insight to what they characters are thinking and how they are behaving, whereas in the importance of being earnest they play moves around a lot, it’s not just set in the home like A Doll’s house.
In a Doll’s house from the outset Nora defies classic expectations women by doing things that would go against her husband; ‘takes a packet of macaroons from her pocket and eats one or two; then goes cautiously to