|A Doll’s House: Key Facts
A Doll's House – Henrik Ibsen
type of work · Play
themes · Romantic love/Parental love
Literary genre · This play is a drama of social realism in three acts – Modern prose drama
Cultural Context: Gender Issues, social class, marriage
language · Norwegian
time and place written · 1879, Rome and Amalfi, Italy
date of first publication · 1879
tone · Serious, intense, sombre
setting (time) · Presumably around the late 1870s
setting (place) · Norway
protagonist · Nora Helmer
major conflict · Nora’s struggle with Krogstad, who threatens to tell her husband about her past crime, incites Nora’s journey of self-discovery and provides much of the play’s dramatic suspense. Nora’s primary struggle, however, is against the selfish, stifling, and oppressive attitudes of her husband, Torvald, and of the society that he represents.
rising action · Nora’s first conversation with Mrs. Linde; Krogstad’s visit and blackmailing of Nora; Krogstad’s delivery of the letter that later exposes Nora.
climax · Torvald reads Krogstad’s letter and erupts angrily.
falling action · Nora’s realization that Torvald is devoted not to her but to the idea of her as someone who depends on him; her decision to abandon him to find independence.
foreshadowing · Nora’s eating of macaroons against Torvald’s wishes foreshadows her later rebellion against Torvald.
The story centers on a married couple, Torvald Helmer and his wife Nora. They have three children. Nora’s husband has been a barrister who has just been made Manager of the Bank. Nora’s husband treats her like a child. He is a perfectionist and cannot tolerate failure. Nora conceals from him the fact that she borrowed the money for a holiday to Italy. Christine Linde is an old school friend of Nora’s who has been a widow for three years. Nora is a spendthrift but she is also very self-sacrificing towards her husband and family. She borrowed money in order that they could go on a holiday to Italy because he was sick. She borrows the money from a man called Krogstad a lawyer who happens to work with Torvald at the bank. He is now a widower and had a relationship with Christine in the past. Nora conceals the fact that she has borrowed the money from Krogstad who is to be dismissed from the Bank by Torvald for having committed a small indiscretion. Krogstad is desperate to retain his position in the Bank so he tries to persuade Nora to intercede with her husband on his behalf. She refuses and so Krogstad writes a letter to Torvald revealing everything. However, Krogstad changes his mind due to the influence of Christine who consents to marry him. Torvald however discovers the letter before he hears about Krogstad’s change of mind, and denounces Nora. He decides to cover up the affair and reinstate Krogstad. Just as it is revealed that Krogstad has changed his mind, Torvald decides to forget about everything and go on as usual with life. Nora however stands up to him and decides to leave. She does not want to be a wife who is treated like a doll in a doll’s house. She leaves her husband and children at the conclusion with the determination to discover who exactly she is and what exactly she thinks about life, because Torvald had been the one who has done this for her all her life.
Biography of Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)
Ibsen, born Henrik Johan Ibsen in 1828 in Skien, Norway, was the eldest of five children after the early death of an older brother. His father, Knud Ibsen, a product of a long line of sea captains, had been born in 1797 in Skein and married Marichen Cornelia Martie Altenburg, a German daughter of a merchant, in 1825. Though Ibsen later reported that Skein was a pleasant place during his youth, his own childhood was not particularly happy. Described as an unsociable child, his sense of isolation was increased at the age of sixteen when his father¹s business was found to be in such disrepair that everything had to be sold to meet his creditors. On top of this, a rumor, to which young Ibsen was privy, began to be circulated that Henrik was the illegitimate son of another man. This fear (never proved) manifested itself in a theme of illegitimate offspring in Ibsen¹s later work. After Knud¹s business was possessed, all that remained of the family¹s former wealth was a dilapidated farmhouse at the outskirts of Skein.
At the farmhouse, Ibsen began to attend a small middle-class school where he cultivated a talent for painting, if nothing else. In 1843, at the age of fifteen, Ibsen was confirmed and taken from school. Though he had declared his interest in becoming a painter, Ibsen was apprenticed to an apothecary shortly before his sixteenth birthday.
Leaving his family, Ibsen traveled to Grimstad, a small, isolated town, to begin his apprenticeship where he studied with the hopes of gaining admissions to the University to study medicine. (He also fathered an illegitimate son by the servant of the apothecary.) Despite his unhappy lot, Grimstad is where Ibsen began to write in earnest. Inspired by the revolution of 1848 that was being felt throughout Europe, Ibsen wrote satire and elegant poetry. At the age of twenty-one, Ibsen left Grimstad for the capitol. While in Christiania (now Oslo), Ibsen passed his exams but opted not to pursue his education, instead turning to playwriting and journalism. It was here that he penned his first play, Cataline. Ibsen also spent time analyzing and criticizing modern Norwegian literature.
Still poor, Ibsen gladly accepted a contract to write for and help manage the newly constituted National Theater in Bergen in 1851. Untrained and largely uneducated, Ibsen learned much from his time at the theater, producing such works as St. John¹s Night. The majority of his writings of this period were based on folksongs, folklore, and history. In 1858, Ibsen moved back to Christiania to become the creative director of the city¹s Norwegian Theater.
That same year, Ibsen married Suzannah Thoresen, with whom he fathered a child named Sigurd Ibsen. Though his plays suggest otherwise, Ibsen revered the state of marriage, believing that it was possible for two people to travel through life as perfect, happy equals. During this period, Ibsen also developed a daily routine from which he would not deviate until his first stroke in 1901: he would rise, consume a small breakfast, take a long walk, write for five hours, eat dinner, and finish the night off with entertainment or in bed. Despite this routine, Ibsen found his life in Bergen difficult. Luckily, in 1864, his friends generously offered him money that they had collected, allowing him to move to Italy. He was to spend the next twenty-seven years living in Italy and Germany. During this time abroad, he authored a number of successful works, including Brand (1866) and Peer Gynt (1867).
Ibsen moved to Dresden in 1868 and then Munich in 1875. It was in Munich, in 1879 that Ibsen wrote his groundbreaking play, A Doll¹s House. He pursued his interest in realistic drama for the next decade, earning international acclaim; many of his works were published in translation and performed throughout Europe. Ibsen eventually turned to a new style of writing, abandoning his interest in realism for a series of so-called symbolic dramas. He completed his last work in exile, Hedda Gabbler, in 1890.
After being away from Norway for twenty-seven years, Ibsen and Suzannah returned in 1891. Shortly afterwards, he finished writing The Master Builder and then took a short break. In late 1893, in need of moist air to help cure her recurring gout, Suzannah left for southern Italy. While his wife was away, Ibsen found a companion in a young female pianist, Hildur Andersen, with whom he spent a great deal of time and corresponded with even after Suzannah¹s return. Ibsen¹s relationship with Andersen was characteristic of his larger interest in the younger generation; he was famous for seeking out their ideas and encouraging their writing.
After suffering a series of strokes, Ibsen died in 1906 at the age of seventy-eight after having been unable to write for the last few years of his life.
Act I: Summary:
Nora enters a late nineteenth-century living room furnished comfortably and tastefully but not extravagantly carrying a Christmas tree and presents. After she nibbles on a few macaroons, she begins unwrapping parcels. Torvald, from his study (adjacent to the living room), hears her and comes out. Nora hides her macaroons. When Torvald sees the numerous purchases Nora has made, he chastises her for being a spendthrift. Torvald's tone is of a father talking to a small child. Nora responds to Torvald's concerns by saying that money is not important and that, should it become so, they will simply borrow money until Torvald gets paid again. Torvald gently objects to the idea of being in debt. Seeing that Nora is put out by his chastisement, Torvald offers her money for housekeeping, much to Nora's excitement.
Nora shows him the presents she has bought. Torvald then asks Nora what she would like for Christmas. After hesitating for a bit, Nora says that she would most like money. Laughing, Torvald again patronizingly accuses Nora of being a spendthrift.
Torvald then asks if Nora has been breaking rules and eating sweets. Nora lies and denies that she has been eating macaroons, protesting that she would never go against Torvald's wishes. Torvald believes her and they begin discussing how much they are looking forward to Christmas. They reminisce about the past, including how Nora locked herself up in a room in order to surprise everyone with homemade ornaments the year before only for them to be torn up by the cat. Nora begins to talk to Torvald about her plans for after Christmas when the maid interrupts with news of visitors.
Torvald retreats to his study where his friend Doctor Rank has gone while Nora receives Mrs. Linde, an old friend from school. At first, Nora does not recognize Mrs. Linde, who she has not seen for about a decade. The two quickly catch up on the events of their lives, including the death of Mrs. Linde's husband. Mrs. Linde reports that she feels that she has become much older but quickly asks Nora to tell her about herself. Nora happily shares that Torvald has been appointed to manager of the bank and that she is relieved that they will soon have heaps of money. Mrs. Linde, smiling, chastises Nora for fixing on money and they reminisce about Nora being a spendthrift when they were younger. Nora qualifies this comment by revealing that she and Torvald have both had to work very hard to make what they have. In fact, she reports that, early in their marriage, Torvald fell ill from overwork and they had to take a very costly vacation to Italy, paid for by Nora's father, in order to allow Torvald to recover. Nora laments the fact that, because she was looking after Torvald and expecting her first child, she could not nurse her father when he fell fatally ill just prior to their departure for Italy. Returning to the present, Nora happily reports that Torvald has been in good health ever since their trip.
The two women then turn to a discussion of Mrs. Linde. At Nora's request, Mrs. Linde explains why she married her husband despite the fact that she did not love him, reporting that the draw of his financial status was too compelling, given her circumstances. Mrs. Linde reports that, unfortunately, her husband died penniless and she has had to work to make ends meet and support her relatives for the last few years. Now that her mother is dead and her brother comfortable, Mrs. Linde says that she feels empty because she has no one for whom to care. She slyly asks Nora if Torvald would be able to secure some work for her. Nora agrees.
Mrs. Linde makes an off-hand remark about how little Nora has had to worry about in life, calling Nora a child. Nora objects, challenging Mrs. Linde's superior attitude. To prove how much she has been through, Nora shares with Mrs. Linde that, despite what she had just told her, it was actually Nora who, through a loan from an undivulged source, procured the money necessary to go to Italy and save Torvald's life. Mrs. Linde wonders aloud if Nora has not acted imprudently, having never shared this secret with her husband. Nora rejects this view, claiming that Torvald and her marriage could not sustain the knowledge of this secret. Mrs. Linde questions Nora as to whether Nora ever plans to tell Torvald. Nora replies that she may some day, if her good looks and charm wear off and she is in need of some compelling way to keep Torvald, but not for quite a while. She then launches into a description of how hard it has been to find the money she has needed to repay this loan and how happy she is that she will be free of its burden thanks to Torvald's promotion.
The doorbell rings and the maid informs Nora that Krogstad desires to see Torvald. Nora, shocked and worried that Krogstad has come to inform Torvald of Nora's secret, questions Krogstad about his business. Krogstad assures her that it is mere bank business and so Nora assents. Mrs. Linde reveals that she once knew the man. When Krogstad goes into the study, Dr. Rank comes out to chat with Nora and Mrs. Linde.
Discussing the human urge to sustain life, Dr. Rank grudgingly admits that he does want to preserve his own despite his physical pain resulting from a disease. He then begins to discourse on the pervasiveness of morally corrupt
characters, including Krogstad. Nora feigns ignorance and inquires about Krogstad about whom Dr. Rank only has unflattering reports.
Nora suddenly breaks out into laughter. Avoiding a direct reply to the questioning looks of Mrs. Linde and Dr. Rank, she asks if the employees of the bank will be under the power of Torvald after his promotion. She revels in the idea. Still happy, she offers a macaroon to Dr. Rank, falsely claiming that they were a gift from an unaware Mrs. Linde after Dr. Rank expresses surprise (knowing that they are forbidden). Nora then impulsively shares with Mrs. Linde and Dr. Rank that there is something that she would very much like to say if Torvald was able to hear: "I'll be damned!" Her companions' reactions are cut short, though, by the emergence of Torvald from the study.
Hiding the macaroons, Nora introduces Torvald to Mrs. Linde after he emerges from the study. After the initial introductions and explanation of Mrs. Linde's situation, Torvald agrees to secure a bookkeeping job for her at the bank. Torvald and Dr. Rank then exit followed by Mrs. Linde, who is going off to look for a room.
As they are leaving, the nurse enters with the children. The maid leaves for a bit and Nora proceeds to play with her children. While they are engrossed in a game of hide-and-go-seek, Krogstad knocks and half enters the room. The game abruptly stops when his presence is recognized. Nora sends the kids to the Nurse and talks to Krogstad at his request.
Krogstad inquires whether Mrs. Linde has been given an appointment at the bank. Nora confirms this and cautions Krogstad to be careful about offending those in power since he is in a subordinate position. Krogstad then asks Nora to use her influence to ensure that he will be able to keep his own position at the bank. Nora is confused and explains that she has no influence on such matters. After making a disparaging remark about Torvald, Krogstad reveals that he is prepared to fight for his position at the bank as if for his life, implying that he will not hesitate to reveal Nora's secret. Torvald explains that his reputation at the bank, sullied by an indiscretion of the distant past, is extremely important to him because it will influence the lot of his maturing sons. Nora again replies that she has no power to influence his status. Krogstad threatens again to reveal her secret to which Nora replies that she is not worried; she believes that Torvald's knowledge would not bring great harm to the family. As a last resort, Krogstad points out the fact that Nora had committed fraud by signing her father's name for him, to which Nora admits. Nora scoffs that surely her indiscretion was not important but Krogstad calls that into question by comparing it to his own problem of the past and the potential reaction of a court of law. Nora is in disbelief that what she sees as an act of love could ever be considered illegal or wrong but is perturbed nonetheless. Krogstad threatens her one last time with legal action and leaves.
When Krogstad leaves, Nora's children enter. Nora tells them not to mention Krogstad's visit to Torvald and reneges on her earlier promise to play with them, shooing them away. She then busies herself with needlework and asks for the Christmas tree.
While Nora is dressing the tree and talking the problem out aloud to herself, Torvald returns and questions whether Krogstad has visited. After first denying it, Nora admits to the meeting because Torvald tells her that he believes that she is acting out of pity for a man who has come begging her to put a good word in for him to Torvald. Torvald reprimands her for participating in a lie and dealing with a man of questionable character. He then dismisses the subject.
Nora, still dressing the tree, weaves a conversation that alternates between discussing the approaching fancy-dress ball (and asking for Torvald's help with it) and Krogstad. Torvald finally takes the bait and reveals that he plans to dismiss Krogstad because he despises Krogstad's character. Divulging that Krogstad's past indiscretion had been a forgery, Torvald admits that he would have forgiven the man had Krogstad owned up to his lie. Instead, Torvald vigorously condemns the lie that Krogstad used to escape his problem, claiming that Krogstad's hypocrisy is treacherous because it even infects his family; Torvald even goes so far as to claim that each breath that Krogstad takes necessarily pollutes his home and children. Nora mildly questions this and Torvald replies that he has often seen this sort of thing. In fact, Torvald claims that all children who go bad do so as a result of bad mothering (and perhaps fathering). Telling Nora never to pled Krogstad's case again, Torvald says that he would be unable to work with Krogstad because Torvald becomes physically ill in his presence. Nora is agitated and comments on how hot she is. Torvald, oblivious, goes off to his study to take care of business while Nora whispers to herself that the situation cannot be real.
The Nurse asks if the children can come in and play, to which Nora strongly refuses. Left alone, Nora is pale with terror and wonders if she can really be depraving her children. As the act closes, Nora tosses her head and states that these fears cannot be true.
Act 1 Analysis:
Act I, in the tradition of the ‘well made play’ in which the first act serves as an exposition, the second an event, and the third an unravelling (though Ibsen diverges from the traditional third act by presenting not an unravelling, but a discussion), establishes the tensions that explode later in the play. Ibsen sets up the Act by first introducing us to the central issue: Nora and her relation to the exterior world (Nora entering with her packages). Nora serves as a symbol for women of the time; women who were thought to be content with the luxuries of modern society with no thought or care of the world in which they lived. Indeed, there is some truth in this (the extent of this is debatable). As the play reveals, Nora does delight in material wealth, having been labelled a spendthrift from an early age. She projects the attitude that money is the key to happiness. By presenting this theme of the relationship between women and their surroundings at the beginning, Ibsen indicates to the reader that this is the most basic and important idea at work in the play.
However, it is also clear that Nora's simplistic approach to the world is not entirely her fault. Torvald's treatment of Nora as a small helpless child only contributes to Nora's isolation from reality. Just as Nora relates to the exterior world primarily through material objects, Torvald relates to Nora as an object to be possessed. The question becomes who is more detached from reality? Though Torvald's attitude pervades every word he speaks to Nora, his objectification of her is most evident in his use of animal imagery. He refers to her as his little "lark" and "squirrel"‹small harmless animals. Similarly, Torvald repeatedly calls Nora his "little one" or "little girl", maintaining the approach of a father rather than husband. Nora is fully dependent on Torvald, from money to diet (the macaroons); and, because she is so sheltered, her perception of the world is romanticized.
Nora's skewed vision of the world is most evident in her interactions with Mrs. Linde. Whereas her old school friend is wizened and sombre, Nora is impetuous. Her choice to tell Mrs. Linde about her secret seems to be more of a boast of a small child than a thoughtful adult; in fact, Nora only reveals her secret after being called a child by Mrs. Linde. Similarly, in her talk with Krogstad, Nora seems unable to accept that what she sees as acts of love could be seen as illegal and wrong. She refuses to believe that she is just as guilty as Krogstad.
However, it is apparent that Nora is at least partly aware of the falseness of her life. When pressed as to whether she will ever tell Torvald about the loan, she replies that she would, but only in time. For now, she believes that it would upset the lies that have built her home: Torvald's "manly independence" and even the basis of their marriage. This suggests that Nora is at least vaguely aware that Torvald's position as the manly provider and lawgiver is just as fabricated as her role as the helpless child-wife and mother. Indeed, it is important to examine the language of the opening scene between Nora and Torvald and realize that Nora's words can be read as both sincere and insincere; the text suggests an ambiguity in Nora's awareness of her situation. However, though Nora is somewhat aware, she does not want to face the implications of this reality, believing that material wealth will render her "free from care", allowing her to play with her children, keep the house beautifully, and do everything the way that Torvald likes. The lie can be preserved. Moreover, it seems that it is her lie, her knowledge that she has done something for Torvald that keeps Nora happy. Mrs. Linde's complaint that she feels unspeakably empty without anyone to care for reinforces the importance of this role for women in general in the text.
Consequently, Nora is content to continue to act as a child, romping with her children as if she is one of them. Indeed, it is clear that, just as she is not as much a wife as a child in her marriage, she is not a mother in any real sense either. It is the nurse who actually takes care of the children; Nora mostly plays with them and occasionally takes on more serious responsibilities but only because she views them as "great fun".
When Nora realizes that all may not go to plan after her talk with Krogstad because she is unable to either influence Torvald or talk to him on a straight level about her predicament, she begins to feel helpless. In the last scene of the act, when Nora is trimming the tree and conversing with Torvald, the full falseness of her situation becomes clear. Acting helpless, Nora tells Torvald that she absolutely needs his help, even with such a trifling thing as picking a costume for the upcoming ball. Torvald is not surprised and is even delighted, promising to help her. When the subject turns to the more serious matter of Torvald's views on Krogstad, it becomes apparent that Torvald is perhaps hopelessly invested in a false and twisted image of the world in which women are charged with the moral purity of the world, claiming that if men turn out badly it is because of poor mothering. As a result, at the end of the scene, when Nora reassures herself that "it must be impossible", she is worried both about the impossibility of her position in the immediate sense (i.e., concerning the loan) as well as the impossibility of her larger situation‹as a participant in a marriage and family built on lies. In fact, it is possible to view her last words of the act‹a defiance of Torvald's views on women‹as the beginning of her rejection of the marriage altogether.
Act II: Summary:
The second Act begins where the first left off--Nora still pacing the living room uneasily, worried that Krogstad will expose her. Still denying the possibility of negative repercussions, Nora is interrupted by the Nurse who brings in Nora's ball dress. Nora asks if her children have been asking for her. The Nurse confirms that they have and Nora, continuing to hint at negative events yet to come, tells the Nurse that Nora will not be able to be with her children as much as before. When the Nurse comments that the children will be able to cope with such a loss, Nora wonders aloud if they would forget her altogether if she were to go away. The Nurse is shocked. Nora then asks her a question she claims to have had for a long time: how the Nurse could have felt comfortable leaving her own children among strangers while she came to work as Nora's nurse when Nora was little. The Nurse tells her that she was grateful for such a good position and, given her financially unstable situation (and her dislike of her husband), something she could not pass up. Nora further probes if the Nurse's daughter, as a result of her absence, had forgotten the Nurse. Nurse says no. Nora throws her arms around the Nurse, telling the Nurse what a wonderful mother she had been for her. Nora also begins to say that she is sure that the Nurse would also be a wonderful mother to Nora's children if they were suddenly without a mother but dismisses her thought as silly and sends the Nurse back to the children, turning the conversation to the ball.
While alone, Nora unsuccessfully tries to concentrate on the ball and forget the problem of the possibility of Krogstad revealing her secret. She is interrupted by Mrs. Linde's arrival. Happy to see her, Nora asks Mrs. Linde to help her repair her dress for the ball the next evening. While sewing, Mrs. Linde thanks Nora for her hospitality and begins to ask about Dr. Rank and whether he is usually as depressing as he had been the day before. Nora reports that, as Mrs. Linde expected, he had been particularly bad and explains to her friend that Dr. Rank suffers from a very dangerous consumption of the spine that he has had from childhood; Nora hints that Dr. Rank's problem is the result of his father's sexual indiscretions (though it is unclear as to whether Nora is really hinting and aware of the fact that they were sexual in nature). Shocked by Nora's understanding of the matter, Mrs. Linde drops her sewing and asks Nora how it is that she knows of such things. Nora dismisses Mrs. Linde's inquiry by telling her that the married women friends that occasionally stop by have a good knowledge of medical problems. Resuming her sewing, Mrs. Linde quietly continues her probe of Nora's relationship with Dr. Rank, asking Nora if he is often at the house. Nora replies that Dr. Rank is a good friend of both she and Torvald and stops by the house daily. Curious about Dr. Rank's motives as well as his familiarity with Mrs. Linde's name (and Torvald's lack of familiarity), Mrs. Linde asks Nora to describe her relationship with the Doctor. Nora confesses that, because of Torvald's own tastes, she does often tell Dr. Rank things that she does not share with Torvald. Suspicious of Dr. Rank, Mrs. Linde, citing her superior experience and knowledge of the world, counsels Nora to end her relationship with Dr. Rank. Puzzled, Nora asks Mrs. Linde exactly what it is that she should be ending. Mrs. Linde explains that she is afraid that Dr. Rank is the rich admirer who Nora described the day before as a potential source of money. Interrupting her, Nora clarifies that such a man does not exist. Still pursuing her line of thought, Mrs. Linde calls Dr. Rank tactless and tells Nora that it is obvious that he is the man from whom Nora has borrowed money. Nora denies this, but muses on the potential help that a man could bring to rectifying the situation. Sensing a change in Nora's disposition, Mrs. Linde asks Nora what has happened in the last day. Hearing
Torvald approaching, Nora does not answer and asks Mrs. Linde to retire to another room with her sewing, explaining that Torvald dislikes seeing dressmaking. Mrs. Linde obliges Nora but warns her that she will not leave the house until Nora explains what has happened.
Torvald enters and asks if it was the dressmaker who had just left. Nora tells him that it was Mrs. Linde and replies that he must be very pleased that she had taken his advice to ask Mrs. Linde for help. Scoffing at the idea that he should be pleased that his wife had done his bidding, he excuses himself, saying that she will probably want to be trying on her dress. Nora remarks that she expects that he will retire to the study with his work. As he leaves, Nora stops him, asking him repeatedly if he would do something for his "little squirrel" or "skylark" if she were to act very "prettily", dancing and singing for him. Torvald answers that, despite these promises, he would still like to hear what the deed would be before he agrees. While Nora continues to promise that she will act like a fairy and dance for him in the moonlight, he abruptly asks her if she is making her request from earlier‹the appeal to not fire Krogstad. When Nora confirms that she is, begging him to reconsider, Torvald grows angry, observing that it is Krogstad's post that he has promised Mrs. Linde; Torvald implies that he is annoyed that Nora seems to think that he would change his mind simply because of Nora's promise to Krogstad. Nora interrupts him, telling him that it is not just her promise that makes the matter so urgent-- she is concerned that Krogstad will besmirch their name in the newspapers. Torvald, thinking that Nora is afraid of libel because of past experiences with her father's name being trashed in the newspapers after his death, reassures Nora that, unlike her father, he is beyond reproach. Nora again pleads, warning that men like Krogstad are certainly capable of contriving things to bring harm to their happy, snug home. Torvald finally replies that Nora's pleas make it all the more impossible for him to change his mind; what would happen to his reputation if word got out that he had reversed his decision simply because of his wife's entreaties? Moreover, Torvald argues that Krogstad is not only morally corrupt, but he also takes advantage of their early childhood friendship to speak to him in what Torvald believes to be an inappropriately familiar manner. Torvald believes that this would make his position as manager intolerable. Incredulous, Nora tells Torvald that he surely must not be so narrow-minded. Angry at being called narrow-minded (which Nora tries to qualify), Torvald orders the maid to send Krogstad his dismissal which Torvald has already composed. Horrified, Nora begs him to call the letter back, warning Torvald that he must do it for the sake of the marriage and family. Torvald says it is too late and Nora agrees. Torvald then launches into a speech on how insulting he finds Nora's alarm but concludes by telling her that he forgives her because her worries are surely only an expression of her great love for him. He assures her that, come what may, he will have the courage to take upon him anything and everything that happens. Nora is particularly intrigued and horrified by this statement and asks Torvald to clarify. He simply repeats that he will take upon everything that comes their way. Nora states that that will never happen. Torvald interprets her statement as a desire to share the burdens as husband and wife and assures her that this is what he has in mind as well. He then dismisses the whole topic, asking her if she feels better and telling her to go back to practicing her dancing for the next night's ball in the tone of a father figure. He also instructs her to direct Dr. Rank to his study, leaving her for work.
Alone, Nora is bewildered with anxiety, whispering the cryptic statement: "he was capable of doing it. He will do it. He will do it in spite of everything. No, not that! Never, never! Anything rather than that! Oh, for some help, some way out of it!" The doorbell interrupts her monologue. Pulling herself together, she welcomes Dr. Rank with whom she converses while it falls dark. Nora detains him from Torvald for a while, telling him that, unlike the busy Torvald, she always has time for him. Dr. Rank replies that he will make as much use of her time as possible. Confused by his statement, Nora asks him to clarify his meaning, asking him if there is anything likely to happen between them. Dr. Rank enigmatically answers that nothing will happen for which he has not long been prepared, though he had not expected anything to happen so soon. Nora, alarmed, grips her friend by the arm, demanding him to tell her what he has found out. Sitting down, Dr. Rank reveals that he expects that he will be dead within a month. Nora is relieved that Dr. Rank has actually been talking about himself and not her own situation and comments on the ugliness of the matter. Dr. Rank agrees and asks Nora to prevent Torvald from entering Rank's sickroom once Rank knows that he is about to enter the final stages of death because Rank does not want Torvald to witness the ugliness of the disease since he knows that Torvald's refined nature gives Torvald an unconquerable disgust of everything ugly. Nora, upset by his pessimistic and ugly tone, comments that she had hoped that he would be in good spirits today. Rank scoffs at the idea of being in good humour (pun probably not intended) when he knows that he is dying for the sins of his father. Besides, he says, such revenge for indiscretion is being exacted in every household. Unclear as to what Rank is talking about, Nora comments that Rank's father must have eaten a lot of unhealthy foods and alcohol when he was younger. The conversation (it is unclear as to whether the two have really understood each other throughout the exchange) peters out with Nora commenting that the biggest tragedy has been that Dr. Rank has not been able to enjoy these pleasures himself. Dr. Rank is intrigued by this nebulous statement and makes a small exclamation. The conversation becomes confused and degenerates into a comment on the silly moods that two are in. Nora, rising and placing her hands on Dr. Rank's shoulders, comments that she and Torvald would hate to lose Dr. Rank to death. Dr. Rank replies that those who are gone are easily forgotten, piquing Nora's interest. Dr. Rank, explaining the matter, observes that Mrs. Linde has already begun to replace him. Nora tells him to be quiet and promises that, if he is nice, she will dance the next day and he will be able to imagine that it is all for him (and, as a quick qualifier, Torvald as well). Nora, continuing (consciously or unconsciously) to flirt with the Doctor, pulls out a pair of silk stockings to show him. They banter a bit about how much leg Nora will have to show him for him to form an opinion of the stockings. Dr. Rank comments on the great deal of intimacy and comfort he has enjoyed with the Helmers and how he would like to leave some token of appreciation for their generosity before he passes away. Nora, interested, begins to ask him about doing her a big favor when Dr. Rank reveals that he is in love with her and would give his life for her, saddening Nora and deterring her from pursuing the favour. Nora, chastising Dr. Rank for making such a comment, leaves the room to bring in a lamp. Steering the conversation back to safer territory, Nora explains why she loves Torvald but seems to enjoy her time with Dr. Rank more. While she is observing how similar her relationship with Torvald is with that of her deceased father, the maid enters with the news that Krogstad is in the house and refuses to leave until he sees Nora. Dr. Rank, unaware of the circumstances, retires to Torvald's study, buying Nora's explanation that she has just received a new dress about which she would prefer Torvald not know.
Temporarily alone while the maid fetches Krogstad, Nora comments to herself that "this dreadful thing is going to happen! It will happen in spite of me! No, no, no it can't happen‹it shan't happen!"
When Krogstad enters, Nora tells him to speak low, warning him that Torvald is home. Krogstad, unperturbed, asks her for an explanation of his dismissal. Nora replies that she did her best pleading his case, but could not sway her husband. Krogstad, assuming that Nora told him everything, comments that Torvald must love her very little to have made such a decision. Nora informs him that Torvald does not know anything about the matter, inspiring Krogstad to make a few derogatory remarks about Nora's husband. Settling down a bit, Krogstad asks Nora if she now has a clearer idea of what she has done than the day before. Nora replies that she does indeed. In fact, she says that she understands more than Krogstad could ever teach her and asks him what he wants of her. Krogstad replies that, despite the words exchanged in their last meeting, he has in fact been concerned about her and wants to know how she is doing. He informs her that he will not make the matter public, but will keep it between he, Nora, and Torvald. Nora protests that Torvald must not know but Krogstad replies that, even if she did have the money to pay the outstanding balance on the loan, he would still need to engage her husband. He also tells her that he will still not part with the bond and counsels her not to think of running away or committing suicide (to which Nora admits considering) because she will not be publicly exposed. To Nora's continued protests, Krogstad explains that he must involve Torvald because his intent is to ask Torvald not for money but for help in rehabilitating himself. Krogstad predicts that, with Torvald's help, he will soon replace Torvald as the manager of the bank. Nora, horrified, threatens him not to do any such thing. Brushing off her threats, he leaves her with the reminder that he holds her reputation in his power and the observation that it is Torvald's actions that have forced Krogstad to act this way again. He then exits and drops his letter to Torvald into the locked letter box for which only Torvald has a key.
Mrs. Linde enters with the dress as Nora watches Krogstad put the letter in the box. Nora seizes Mrs. Linde and reveals her problem, asking her friend to be her witness in case anything should befall Nora. She insists that Mrs. Linde tell everyone that Nora was not insane and, more importantly, was completely responsible for everything. Mrs. Linde, confused, tells Nora that she does not understand what Nora is talking about, prompting Nora to observe that "How should you understand it? A wonderful thing is about to happen," leaving Mrs. Linde even more confused. Nora elaborates, explaining that this wonderful thing is also terrible and "musn't happen for all the world". Mrs. Linde offers to go to Krogstad and convince him to ask for the letter back using her old amorous connection with him as a method of persuasion. Nora says that it is hopeless. However, while Torvald begins knocking on the door, asking to enter, Mrs. Linde resolves to go to Krogstad and exits quickly. As she leaves, Nora unlocks the door for Torvald and Dr. Rank. The two men are surprised because they expected Nora to be trying on her dress. Torvald observes that Nora looks worn out and asks her if she has been practicing too much. Nora replies that she has not been practicing at all and, in fact, she is incapable of practicing without Torvald because she cannot seem to remember anything without him. Hoping to distract him long enough to solve the letter problem, she asks him to help her all day and night until the ball. Torvald agrees. However, before they begin to practice, he begins to go out to the letterbox to check for mail. Nora, afraid, stops him by playing the first bars of the Tarantella she is going to dance; she lures him to play for her and correct her while she dances (Dr. Rank, until now an observer, eventually takes over at the piano so Torvald can stand and correct Nora better). Her dancing is wild, growing more so as it continues until her hair has come all undone. While Nora is still dancing, Mrs. Linde returns and observes to Nora that she is dancing like her life depended on it, to which Nora agrees. Torvald eventually calls everything to a halt, chastising Nora for having forgotten everything he has taught her. Nora replies that she has indeed forgotten everything and needs his help to relearn the dance. She tells him that he must not think of anything else, especially not any letters. Torvald, catching on a bit, remarks that he can tell from her behavior that there is a letter from Krogstad waiting for him. Nora responds that she does not know, but that there might be; she implores him not to let anything horrible come between them until "this is all over". Dr. Rank whispers to Torvald that Torvald must not contradict her and Torvald takes her into his arms, calling her a child that must have her way. He promises to work with her until after the ball but says that, after that, he will be free (the words of Nora). They then all retire to dinner, Nora calling for lots of macaroons. As they leave, Torvald and Dr. Rank exchange a few words on Nora's state of mind, making it clear that they have discussed it before. Dr. Rank, concerned, asks if Nora is expecting something, but Torvald dismisses the concerns as evidence of childish nervousness. They exit.
Alone, Mrs. Linde tells Nora that Krogstad has gone out of town. Nora seems unconcerned, telling Mrs. Linde that she should not have bothered because nothing should impede the "wonderful" thing that Nora claims will soon happen. Mrs. Linde presses Nora to explain this wonderful thing, but Nora dismisses her questions, telling her she would not understand and sends Mrs. Linde into the dining room. Nora alone, composes herself, and checks the time. She observes that she has thirty-one hours to live (until after the tarantella). Torvald's voice is then heard asking for his "little skylark" and the Act ends with Nora going to him with outstretched arms.
Analysis of Act II:
Whereas Act I set up the initial invasion of reality into Nora's world and the rattling of the basic underpinnings of the falseness of Nora's life (i.e., marriage and motherhood), Act II eventually sees her set up a test that will determine whether or not her world is false. In other words, she is confronted with the fact that Torvald will find out about her lie but believes that, if he is the man she thinks he is, his discovery will only strengthen their marriage. Her reaction to Krogstad finally dropping his letter in the letter box is the climax of the play. In the traditional well made play, this would be followed by a unravelling and moral resolution of the dilemma set up in the first act and brought to head in the second. However, Ibsen deviates from this mould, turning the third act into a discussion.
At the beginning of the second Act, before the climax, Nora is still trying to confront the fact that her world can be touched and shattered. Though she is shaken, she still believes that her family and her material comforts will protect her. However, she is worried enough about the matter that she has already begun to consider the idea of both running away and committing suicide (though she admits that she does not have the courage for this last part). Luckily, the ball temporarily distracts her. This ball is extremely important for Nora because, through the costumes and dance, she is able to embrace the basic elements of the basis of her relationship with Torvald that she is still trying to preserve; she can sing and dance for him as a lovely creature. Mrs. Linde refers to Nora's dress as her "fine feathers" reinforcing the general perception of Nora as a non-human entity, a creature free of cares. In fact, the dress itself serves as a potent symbol of Nora's "character". Like Nora, it is torn and in need of repair. However, as in real life, Nora feels she is incapable of fixing the problem herself, giving the dress to Mrs. Linde to mend. The idea of the dress serving as a symbol for Nora's everyday mask is reinforced when Nora reports that Torvald dislikes seeing dressmaking in action. In other words, Torvald enjoys the character that Nora adopts but has no desire to see its origins, the real Nora.
Indeed, Nora tries to maintain her relationship with Torvald, unsuccessfully attempting to manipulate him on behalf of Krogstad through playing the part of his innocent and darling creature. One of the key turning points of the play comes when Torvald tells her that, come what may, he will take everything upon himself. Whereas before, Nora merely sought to find some way to avoid this disaster, now the idea that this episode may prove the strength of her marriage has been planted in her head. An important quotation to look at is Nora's remarks after she is left alone that "He was capable of doing it. He will do it. He will do it in spite of everything. No, not that! Never, never! Anything rather than that! Oh, for some help, some way out of it!" One way to read this is as a comment on Krogstad's actions‹that he will reveal her after all. Another way to read this statement is as a commentary on Torvald's decision to fire Krogstad and the problems it will cause. Still another way to read this is as concern that Torvald will take responsibility for her actions as he promised.
After this realization, Nora begins to act a bit more daring than before, using her awareness of the possibility of Dr. Rank's affection to manipulate him. When things go too far for her, however, and he admits that he is in love with her, she can not continue, her manipulation ruined by the blatant statement of reality. After all, Dr. Ranks' revelation that he, like Torvald, would give his life to save Nora's ruins her belief that Torvald's position is somehow unique.
Nora's hopes of averting disaster are dashed when she sees Krogstad drop the letter into Torvald's box. Perhaps already aware of the inherent problems of the relationship, she exclaims that all is lost for her and Torvald as Krogstad deposits the letter. Nora's fear, now that she knows that there is no turning back, is that the "wonderful thing" will happen: that Torvald will try to take this all upon himself and that, by knowing what she has done for him, they will become equal partners in the marriage. Nora both fears this and wishes for it. But, Nora is not ready to face this just yet. She wants to act out her last chance to be a creature for Torvald, dancing the tarantella. It is only after this dancing that she consents to letting him free. Interestingly, her last statement that she only has thirty-one hours to live can be read two different ways. On the one hand, it can be interpreted as saying that she plans on committing suicide in order to free Torvald from having to take the responsibility on himself; she would die knowing that she had once again saved his life. On the other hand, it may be a comment only that her life as she knows it will be over and that, in thirty-one hours, she will have to embark upon a new, radically different life because her relationship with Torvald will be over.
Act III: Summary:
Act III opens with Mrs. Linde ostensibly trying to read in the living room the next night. As the sounds of dance music suggest, Torvald and Nora are upstairs at the ball. Mrs. Linde is waiting for Krogstad so that she can talk to him about Nora's predicament. When Krogstad arrives, he and Mrs. Linde turn almost immediately to a discussion of why Mrs. Linde jilted him for her now-deceased husband many years ago. Mrs. Linde explains that, though she questioned her decision many times, she had to pursue her former husband's money given the number of people that depended on her at the time for their livelihood. Krogstad reveals that her departure left him a shipwrecked man clinging to wreckage. Mrs. Linde replies that, like him, she is now a shipwrecked woman clinging to wreckage and asks if it would not be smart if they should join forces. She tells him that he is the reason that she came to town and that, since he believes that he could be a better man with her and she wants a family to look after, they should be together. The music of the tarantella is heard above and Mrs. Linde urges Krogstad to be quick. Krogstad grows suspicious, questioning Mrs. Linde as to whether she is saying all of this simply on behalf of Nora (i.e., to get him to take the letter back); she denies it and he offers to take the letter back. However, she urges him not to, admitting that this had been her original intention. She tells him that, since her first discovery of the problem the day before, she has witnessed enough in the house to convince her that Torvald must read the letter. Mrs. Linde observes that, in order for a complete understanding between Nora and Torvald (which she believes to be key to a successful marriage), all secrets must be revealed. Krogstad leaves, promising Mrs. Linde that he will meet her in a few minutes. Mrs. Linde, hearing Nora and Torvald coming, prepares to leave, commenting on what a difference having people to care for makes in her life.
Still in costume (Nora as a Capri maiden and Torvald in evening wear and a domino), Torvald brings Nora into the room, almost by force. She is trying to get him to return to the ball for as long as possible. Torvald refuses, citing their earlier agreement. They greet Mrs. Linde, who explains that she had stayed up in order to see Nora in her dress. Torvald brags about how lovely Nora looks, describing his wife's successful evening. He tells Mrs. Linde that Nora danced the tarantella marvellously, if a bit too realistically for proper artistic appreciation, and that he tried to make her exit (after such a success) equally artistic by ushering her around the room for a last bow and then disappearing into the night; he complains that Nora did not appreciate his attempts. Torvald then goes off to light some candles and air out the house a bit, leaving Nora the chance to ask Mrs. Linde for news from Krogstad. Mrs. Linde tells Nora that Nora must tell Torvald everything. Nora is not shocked and simply thanks Mrs. Linde and tells her that she now knows what she must do.
Torvald returns and gives a short speech on the merits of embroidery over knitting to Mrs. Linde who has forgotten her knitting. Mrs. Linde soon leaves, and Torvald exclaims that he is happy that she is finally gone, calling her a bore. Nora then asks Torvald if he is tired, telling him that she is quite sleepy. Torvald replies that he is in fact, quite awake; moreover, he has been waiting to be alone with his wife all evening. He calls her beautiful and fascinating, telling her that she is his treasure‹all his. Nora tells him that he must speak that way to her tonight, but he only finds this more alluring, observing that she must still have the tarantella in her blood. He then launches into an explanation of why he pretends not to know her at parties: he is fantasizing about meeting and seducing her for the first time; in fact, while they are leaving, he pretends that she is his new bride about to be his for the first time. Nora tries to push him off much to Torvald's confusion and displeasure.
They are interrupted, however, by Dr. Rank who Torvald earlier claimed had been in quite high spirits all night. Annoyed but pretending to be delighted, Torvald welcomes the Doctor into the room. The three talk about the ball and all its finery. Unknown to Torvald, Dr. Rank reveals to Nora through his conversation that he has made his final diagnosis today and that he will soon die. Dr. Rank elaborates on how much he has enjoyed himself this evening, telling them how much he has indulged in the wine and sights; he also asks Torvald for a cigar, further indulging himself. Dr. Rank eventually leaves, with Nora wishing him a good sleep. Torvald, still unaware, comments on what he believes to be Dr. Rank's drunkenness and begins to head out to empty the mailbox so that the morning paper will be able to fit. Nora unsuccessfully tries to stop him. At the mailbox, Torvald is surprised to find that someone has tried to pick the lock with one of Nora's hairpins. Nora tells him that it must have been one of the children and Torvald tells her to keep them away from the box.
Torvald is surprised to find two letters from Dr. Rank, one of which has a black cross through his name. Torvald comments on the morbidity of such a mark and Nora confirms that it is their friend's way of announcing his death. Torvald briefly muses on the sadness of losing their friend but concludes that it is probably better for both Dr. Rank and for he and Nora, for now he and his wife are quite alone. Torvald embraces Nora, telling her how much he cares for her. In fact, he says, he wishes that he could somehow save her from some great danger so that he could risk everything for her sake. Nora disengages herself from his embrace and tells him in a resolved tone that he must now read his letters. Torvald replies that he would much rather be with her, but Nora questions whether this would be appropriate given Dr. Rank's news. Torvald assents that something ugly has come between them because of the news and that it would be best to spend the night apart. Nora hangs on his neck and tells him good night and Torvald goes off to read his letters in another room.
Alone, Nora prepares to rush off to commit suicide by jumping into the icy depths of the river, throwing on Torvald's domino and her shawl. As she bids adieu to her family and rushes out the door, Torvald hurries out of his room and stops her, letter in hand. Torvald asks her if she knows what is in the letter but Nora still tries to leave, telling him that he "shan't save" her. Torvald stops her, locking the door, and continues to wonder out loud how this could be true, dismissing her pleas that all was done out of love and protests that he will not suffer at her hands. When Nora realizes, however, that Torvald has no intention of taking the burden the problem upon himself and only blames Nora for ruining his life (claiming that he should have probably seen this coming given the character of her father), she grows still. Torvald only continues to berate her and her character, going on about how horrible it is that the actions of a thoughtless woman could ruin his life, prompting Nora to only grow colder. Not allowing Nora to speak, Torvald begins to speculate about their future, saying that they will keep up appearances but, of course, Nora will not be allowed near the children nor will their marriage be maintained.
He is interrupted by the maid, who is bearing a note from Krogstad to Nora. Torvald intercepts the letter and reads it himself, learning that Krogstad has had a change of heart and has sent back the bond. Torvald, overjoyed, shouts, "I am saved," prompting Nora to ask whether she is as well. Having a change of heart, Torvald replies that she is also saved. Overcome with relief, he comments on how hard this all must have been for Nora and tells her that he has forgiven her; he tells her that he will think of it only as a bad dream and that, in his mind, it is all over. Realizing perhaps that Nora is not having the same reaction, Torvald explains to her that he knows that she did this all out of love and that he can forgive her because he also knows that, as a woman, she is unequipped to make the proper decisions. In fact, he tells her that her helplessness and full dependency on him make her all the more endearing to him. Nora thanks him for his forgiveness and leaves the room to take off her ball dress.
As she is removing her dress, Torvald stands in the doorway and muses about the comfort of their home and how much he wants to and will protect her, assuring her that everything will soon be as it was before. He tells her that the helplessness of a wife makes the wife even more attractive to a husband because she becomes both a wife and child, doubly his own. And, he continues, when a husband forgives a wife, he gives her new life and becomes even closer to her.
As he is promising to be her will and conscience, he notices that she has changed not into bed clothing but into everyday clothing. Torvald is confused. Nora explains to him that she shall not sleep tonight and asks him to sit down with her at the table for a serious "settling of accounts". Alarmed, Torvald tells her that he does not understand her. Nora agrees, telling him that he has never understood her and that, before tonight, she has never understood him. Torvald asks what she means. Rather than replying directly, Nora points out the fact that, in their eight years of marriage, they have never before sat down to have a serious discussion. Torvald protests that such conversations would not have made sense, given Nora's interests. Nora tells him that she has been greatly wrong by both her father and her husband. Shocked, Torvald asks how this could be possible given that they are the men who have loved her the most. Shaking her head, Nora corrects him, telling him that he has never loved her but has only thought it pleasant to be in love with her. She explains to him that, just as her father did, Torvald has treated her as a doll to be played with, arranging everything to suit himself and forcing her to live only to entertain him. As a result, she has not made anything of her life or even ever been truly happy. Torvald agrees to this analysis, though he qualifies it as exaggerated and strained, and tells her that, from now on, he will stop playing with her and start educating her. Nora refuses, observing that he is not the man to educate her; after all, only a few minutes before, he had told her that she was unfit to raise her children. Nora tells him that she agrees with him about her inability; she acknowledges that she first needs to educate herself before she tries to educate the children and tells him that this is why she is going to leave him. Torvald, shocked, jumps out of his chair, calling her mad and trying to prevent her from leaving. She calmly rebuffs his attempts to forbid her, telling him that she will go to her old home tomorrow. Torvald accuses her of neglecting her "most sacred duties" as wife and mother, refusing to acknowledge Nora's opinion that her duty to herself as a reasonable human being is just as sacred, if not more so. Torvald, at a loss, first appeals to her sense of religion and then morality, both of which Nora shoots down by explaining that she has never had a chance to examine and embrace these things on her own and, as a result, does not know if she agrees with them. Torvald, unable to sway her, tells her that all that he can conclude is that she does not love him. Nora, apologetic, agrees with him, telling him that he lost her love earlier tonight and that, because of this, she cannot stay in the house. She tells him that her love was lost because the wonderful thing did not happen: he did not refuse Krogstad's conditions and try to take all the blame upon himself (which Nora says she would have refused anyway). Torvald replies that, though he would gladly work day and night for her, he would never assent to jeopardizing his honour for a loved one. Nora simply replies that many wives have done just that. Torvald dismisses her words as those of a heedless child. Admitting the possibility of this, Nora describes his selfish perspective and her own horror at earlier realizing that she had lived with and borne children with a stranger for eight years. Sad, Torvald observes that an abyss has opened up between them but asks if there is not a way to fill it up. Nora refuses, telling him that they will both be better off apart. Still trying to appease him, she tells him that she hereby releases him from all obligations to her; she says that there must be perfect freedom on both sides.
Resigned to her leaving, Torvald begs to stay in contact with her, assisting her when she is in need. Nora rejects his offers, telling him that she could never accept anything from a stranger. Torvald then asks her if he could ever be anything more than a stranger to her. Nora replies that that would only be possible if "the most wonderful thing in the world" were to happen but that she no longer believed in the possibility of them. Torvald, still hopeful, presses her for what this would be. She explains that they would both have to be so changed that their life together would be a real wedlock and leaves. Sinking down into a chair with his hand in his face, Torvald moans her name. He then looks up and observes how empty the room has become without her. The play ends with the thought of the most wonderful thing of all flashing across Torvald's hopeful mind followed by the sound of a door shutting below.
Analysis of Act III:
Act III is extremely important in A Doll's House. Rather than presenting the traditional unravelling of the ‘well made play’, it confronts the reader or viewer with a discussion of the themes presented in the first two acts. The act is also the deciding point of Nora's life: will the "wonderful thing" happen or not? It begins with a foil for Nora and Torvald's marriage. In fact, Mrs. Linde and Krogstad's decision to be together can be seen as ironic in the context of Nora and Torvald's marriage because, though Mrs. Linde and Krogstad both suffer from significant personal and moral problems, they have a better chance of a happy and true marriage than Nora and Torvald. Mrs. Linde advocates revealing all to Torvald because, as her union with Krogstad suggests, she believes that it is possible to build a relationship of mutual dependence of unformed characters as long as both parties are fully aware of each other's motives. Mrs. Linde hopes that, through this union, both she and Krogstad can become the better people they know that they can be.
The extent of Torvald's investment in a fantasy world and the importance of Nora's false characterization is revealed when he describes how, at parties, he pretends not to know her so that he may seduce her all over again. And, perhaps more importantly, Nora is quite candid about her understanding of all this, telling him flatly that she knows.
It is important to notice that Nora's time at the party has been the first time that she has left the confines of the one room in the entire play. Moreover, she has to be dragged back in. This suggests that it is Torvald's own desires to have Nora entertain him that necessarily forces Nora to journey into the real world. Also, it is interesting to note that she also temporarily leaves the room to exchange her party dress for everyday clothing, her first lone foray from the room. This new trend is the beginning of her final departure from the room‹a departure that ends the play, shattering the values that had supported the walls of the house.
But, when she leaves for the final time, she is leaving for reasons other than what she had intended at the beginning of the Act. Before Torvald confronts her with the letter, she is on her way to commit suicide, determined that Torvald should not have to sacrifice his life for hers. She considers this the appropriate thing to do because she believes that he would willingly give his life for hers as well. In this way, they have an equal relationship. However, she is extremely disappointed to discover that he clearly has no intention of sacrificing himself for her. Instead of refusing to abide by Krogstad's demands and taking the blame on himself, Torvald accuses Nora of ruining his life, telling her that she will no longer be able to see her children or maintain their marriage except in public appearances. Nora even asks him whether he would give his life for her and her fears are confirmed when he answers that he would never sacrifice his honour for a loved one. Consequently, Nora resolves to leave Torvald, aware that true wedlock is impossible between them because neither of them loves the other, or is even capable of doing so. Nora realizes that, before she can be a wife, she must first discover herself through venturing out into the world. She leaves an unformed soul, determined to become a full person rather than the doll of the male figures in her life.
A Doll’s House: General Notes
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