How did Ibsen's writing in A Doll's House influence the James Joyce character Molly Bloom? Richard Ellmann in his book James Joyce mentions Joyce reading and getting influenced by Ibsen many times:

He became more actively different from his parents and teachers. At the beginning he read Erckmann-Chatrian's nostalgic novels and at the end of his schooldays he read Ibsen's sardonic plays.

But the principal new pressure upon him was the work of Ibsen, another genius who arose from a small, parochial people. Ibsen was then seventy years old, and his name was of course well known in England.

Through Ibsen, largely, Joyce became convinced of the importance of drama; and, while he did not yet try playwriting,

In particular, what other authoritative commentators, besides Richard Ellmann, provide illuminating insights into said influence and related themes?


1 Answer 1


While Ibsen was indeed a great influence on Joyce in many ways,

there is no evidence that Ibsen's writing in A Doll's House influenced Joyce's character Molly Bloom from Ulysses.

While the onus really falls on the OP to provide evidence that someone claims this, I will attempt to prove the negative.

Personally, as a Joyce head, it was only when I read Finnegans Wake that the Ibsen influence became apparent, in particular The Master Builder, and one should definitely read/watch this play (a noir?) before continuing with paragraph five and our first introduction to Finnegan, here archetyped as "Bygmester Finnegan". With respect to Ulysses however, the commentary I read regarding Ibsen pertained mostly to style and Stephen. I do not recall any special mention of Molly nor A Doll's House.

Recall that in the "Eumaeus" Chapter 16 of Ulysses, it is Stephen's thoughts that turn to Ibsen explicitly, in contrast to Bloom’s thoughts of smells and sounds.

Between this point and the high at present unlit warehouses of Beresford place Stephen thought to think of Ibsen, associated with Baird’s the stonecutter’s in his mind somehow in Talbot place, first turning on the right, while the other who was acting as his fidus Achates inhaled with internal satisfaction the smell of James Rourke’s city bakery, situated quite close to where they were, the very palatable odour indeed of our daily bread, of all commodities of the public the primary and most indispensable.

Personal memories aside, the only way to prove this negative is to demonstrate that none of the authoritative commentators have picked up on this. We organize these commentaries into two groups. First we consider commentaries on Ulysses, and discover no links between Molly and A Doll's House, and while most mention Ibsen, none mention A Doll's House. Secondly we consider texts particularly focused on Joyce and Ibsen. None of these mention A Doll's House and make little reference to Molly, if at all.

Commentaries on Ulysses

Turning to my long time Ulysses companion, Hugh Kenner's Ulysses, there is precisely one mention of Ibsen, in Chapter 5 on Leopold Bloom as The Hidden Hero, and in this case the reference is to Joyce's style in general.

Speech for Joyce, as for men of the Renaissance, is the distinctively human act. Silence, a failure of role, is the stuff of drama (so Shakespeare, compared to Ibsen, is merely 'literature in dialogue' - Critical Writings, 3 9).

There is no other mention of Ibsen!

After spending the evening in the library, we have the following further authoritative texts on Ulysses that too fail to notice any Ibsen relationship with Molly, nor make any mention of A Dolls House. Of course if I had found an example linking Molly and A Doll's House I would change my answer to this question.

In James Joyce's Ulysses: A Study (1955), Gilbert's only reference to Ibsen occurs in the "Hades" chapter, with a note that the non-existent character "Mackintosh" on the list of signatures is "as one of those ominous and more-than-unnecessary persons in an Ibsen play".

In James Joyce's Ulysses: A Reference Guide (1966), McKenna mentions Ibsen only once, merely highlighting that Joyce wrote a review of an Ibsen play and that in turn, Ibsen wrote to Joyce.

The only mention of Ibsen by Blamires in The New Bloomsday Book: A Guide Through Ulysses (1997), pertains to the Stephen thought quoted above.

If the hypothesis had any support, we should surely find it in Crispi's Joyce's Creative Process and the Construction of Characters in Ulysses: Becoming the Blooms (2015). There is however, not a single mention of Ibsen.

Commentaries on Joyce and Ibsen

From the opposite direction we have Macleod's The Influence of Ibsen on Joyce (1945), although it must be mentioned that the analysis of Ibsen and Finnegans Wake is incomplete given the date and complexity of Finnegans Wake. Macleod makes many references to Ibsen's influence on Joyce generally. Particularly mentioned is Ibsen's Brand. Of the Joyce characters, it is Stephen that Macleod finds many parallels from Ibsen (17 mentions), Leopold Bloom far less (2 references), while Molly is not mentioned at all. Further, Macleod makes no mention of A Doll's House

While I don't have a copy of Tysdahl's Joyce and Ibsen: A Study in Literary Influence, there is a review by Mooney in the James Joyce Quarterly available online. Consistent with Macleod, it is Stephen with whom most Isben character references are made. There is no reference to Molly whatsoever. Again, there is no mention of A Doll's House.

  • I have added four more authoritative counter examples after visiting the library.
    – fundagain
    Dec 3, 2021 at 16:25

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