We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

A Doll’s House

The whole doc is available only for registered users
  • Pages: 15
  • Word count: 3618
  • Category: Love Wife

A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteed

Order Now

As a play focused around the marriage between Nora and Torvald, A Doll’s House can be seen as an exploration of love and marriage, or even, more profoundly, on whether there can be love in marriage. At the beginning of the play, Nora and Torvald appear to be very happily married, even to themselves. Nora talks joyfully about her love for Torvald, and Torvald refers to Nora using affectionate pet names. Their loving marriage stands in stark contrast with the lives of the other characters: the marriages of Krogstad and Mrs. Linde were based on necessity rather than love, and were unhappy. While Dr. Rank was never married, and, it is revealed, has silently loved Nora for years. Yet although Nora and Torvald’s marriage is based on love (as opposed to necessity, as was the case with Krogstad and Mrs. Linde), it is nonetheless still governed by the strict rules of society that dictated the roles of husband and wife.

It is clear that Nora is expected to obey Torvald and allow him to make decisions for her; meanwhile, it is important for Torvald’s career that he is able to show off a successful marriage to a dutiful woman. At first it seems that Nora and Torvald both enjoy playing the roles of husband and wife in a way that is considered respectable by society. However, Nora soon reveals to Mrs. Linde that she went behind Torvald’s back by borrowing the money from Krogstad, and therefore has already broken both the law and the rules of marriage at the time. This creates a dilemma: Nora broke the rules of marriage, yet did so in order to save her husband’s life—a true act of love. Yet this is an act of love that society condemns, thereby placing the rules of marriage above love. In the final moments of the play, it’s revealed that Nora’s fear of the secret getting out is not a fear that she will end up shamed and punished, but rather is based on her certainty that Torvald will protect her by taking the blame, and in so doing will ruin himself.

Nora is certain that beneath the role Torvald is playing, that he loves her just as deeply as she loved him when she secretly broke the rules of society. Of course, Torvald’s reaction reveals that he’s not in fact “playing a role” at all—he really does put his reputation first, and he would never sacrifice it to protect Nora. What Nora thought was role-playing was in fact the entire reality. This cements Nora’s disillusionment with her marriage, and with marriage in general—she comes to the conclusion that not only does Torvald not love her, but that the institution of marriage, as it is conceived and practiced in her society, may make love impossible. While Krogstad and Mrs. Linde’s joyous choice to marry may suggest that the play does not entirely share Nora’s view, it is important to note that their marriage does not at all conform to the norms of society. Mrs. Linde yearns for the purpose she would get by truly caring form someone she loves, while Krogstad sees Mrs. Linde not as some ornament to augment his reputation but as the source of the salvation of his integrity. More help on this theme…

A Doll’s House exposes the restricted role of women during the time of its writing and the problems that arise from a drastic imbalance of power between men and women. Throughout the play, Nora is treated like a child by the other characters. Torvald calls her his “pet” and his “property,” and implies that she is not smart or responsible enough to be trusted with money. Neither Krogstad nor Dr. Rank take her seriously, and even Mrs. Linde calls her a “child.” While this treatment does seem to mildly frustrate Nora, she plays along with it, calling herself “little Nora” and promising that she would never dream of disobeying her husband. However, there are clues that she is not entirely happy with the limited position she has as a woman. When revealing the secret of how she borrowed money to finance the trip to Italy, she refers to it as her “pride” and says it was fun to be in control of money, explaining that it was “almost like being a man.”

Although she comes to regret her decision to borrow money, Nora’s dissatisfaction with her status as a woman intensifies over the course of the play. In the final scene she tells Torvald that she is not being treated as an independent person with a mind of her own. Her radical solution to this issue is to leave domestic life behind, despite Torvald’s declaration that he will change. Nora’s decision suggests that she, and the play, see the issue as only partially with Torvald. The more fundamental issue is with domestic life as it was conceived and lived at the time, in the way it legally and culturally infantilized women and made it impossible for them to be recognized or treated as full individuals. Meanwhile, the men of the play are also expected to fill a certain role.

Both Torvald and Krogstad are very ambitious, driven not only by the need to provide for their families but also by a desire to achieve higher status. Respectability is of great concern to both of them; when Nora’s borrowing is revealed, Torvald’s first thoughts are for his reputation. Meanwhile, Krogstad is fixated on achieving success now that he has “gone straight,” and intends to one day take over Torvald’s job and run the bank. More help on this theme…

Money and Work
A need for money affects all the major characters in A Doll’s House. In the beginning of the play it is revealed that Torvald was recently promoted and will receive “a big fat income,” however he still chastises Nora for spending too much, arguing that they need to be cautious financially. Mrs. Linde is in desperate need of a job following the death of her husband, and after her replacement ofKrogstad at the bank leaves him threatening to turn Nora in in order to get his job back. Indeed, the bank works as a symbol for the pervasive presence of money in the characters’ lives. In the play, money symbolizes the power that the characters have over one another. In the first scene, Torvald’s ability to dictate how much Nora spends on Christmas presents shows his power over her.

Meanwhile, the debt that Nora owes Krogstad allows him to have power over her and Torvald. Both Nora and Mrs. Linde cannot earn large incomes because they are women; their inability to access significant amounts of money is one way that they are oppressed by the sexism of the time. The play also shows that, while earning money leads to power, it can also be dangerous. In the beginning of the play, Nora is proud of the fact that she “raised” the money for her and Torvald’s trip to Italy herself—however the debt she owes soon becomes a source of terror, dread, and shame. The thrill of obtaining money is therefore shown to have a downside. More help on this theme…

At the beginning of the play, Nora appears to be a dutifully obedient and honest wife, however it is quickly revealed that she is hiding a serious secret from him—the fact that she borrowed money from Krogstad to finance a trip to Italy that she claims saved Torvald’s life. This renders all her statements about never disobeying him or hiding anything from him deceitful. When she reveals her dishonesty to Mrs. Linde, Mrs. Linde insists that she ought to confess to Torvald immediately, insisting that a marriage cannot succeed when husband and wife are not completely honest with each other. A parallel occurs between Nora and Krogstad when it is revealed that they both committed forgery.

Their acts of deception spark the unravelling of both their lives—Krogstad’s reputation is ruined, and Nora is forced to re-evaluate everything about herself and the society around her, eventually leading her decision to leave her husband and family at the end of the play. In some ways, deceit is presented as a corrupting and corroding force in the people’s lives; however, in Nora’s case, it is clear that the motivation for her dishonesty was love—she lied in order to save her husband’s life. Furthermore, her actions wouldn’t have had to be deceitful if it weren’t for societal law dictating that women were not allowed to handle financial matters independently. Therefore Nora’s deceit was not the result of a personal flaw, but rather the only means necessary of overcoming restrictions in order to commit a noble act. More help on this theme…

Individual vs. Society
Nora, a dutiful mother and wife, spends most of the play putting others before herself. She thinks little of how her act of forgery and debt to Krogstad affect her personally, opting instead to worry about how they might impact the lives of her husband and children. Even when she plans to kill herself near the end of the play, it is not to hide her shame but rather because she thinks that if she is alive then Torvald will ruin himself in trying to protect her. In a similar vein, admits that, without a husband or any family members to care for, she feels that her life is pointless. Therefore both women find a sense of meaning in their lives through serving others and performing the caring, obedient role that society requires of them. During the play, however, Nora learns that prioritizing her duty as a wife and mother cannot lead to real happiness. She realizes, when it becomes clear that Torvald would never have sacrificed his reputation to protect her, that while she thought she was sacrificing herself to protect her love, that in fact no such love existed, and that the structure of society makes the love she had imagined to be real to actually be an impossibility.

She therefore decides to leave him in order to develop a sense of her own identity. The play ends with Nora choosing to put herself as an individual before society’s expectations of her. Throughout most of the play it seems that Krogstad cares more about his reputation than anything else. Punished by society for his act of forgery, he is desperate to reclaim respectability in the eyes of others. However, his conversation with Mrs. Linde in the third act shows him that he will only achieve happiness through truly reforming himself and regaining the personal integrity that he lost rather than the outward respectability. In a similar way to Nora, Krogstad learns that society’s view of him is meaningless if he doesn’t respect himself as an individual.

The Characters
Nora Helmer – Nora Helmer is the heroine of the play. Still a young woman, she is married toTorvald Helmer and has three children. At the play’s outset, she is bubbly and carefree, excited about Christmas and her husband’s recent promotion. Although she is frustrated by the fact that the other characters believe she is a “spendthrift,” she does not seem to really mind, and happily plays along with Torvald’s pet names for her, which include “skylark,” “songbird,” “squirrel,” and “pet.” Torvald also regularly refers to her and treats her as a child, for example, by forbidding her from eating macaroons, something she does anyway despite her promises of total obedience to him. The animal and child imagery both reflect Nora’s apparently innocent, carefree nature, and suggest that her husband does not think of her as a proper adult because she is a woman.

As the play progresses, it is revealed that Nora’s disobedience consists of more than simply eating the occasional macaroon: at the beginning of her marriage, she secretly borrowed money from Nils Krogstad and forged her father’s signature in order to finance a trip to Italy that was necessary to save Torvald’s life. When Torvald finds out about the debt and fails to forgive her until he is sure that his reputation is safe, Nora realizes that her understanding of herself, her husband, her marriage, and even her society was all wrong. She decides that she can no longer be happy in her life and marriage, and resolves to leave Torvald and her home in order to find a sense of self and learn about the world. The play’s final image of Nora is of an embittered yet sophisticated, intelligent, and newly empowered woman boldly escaping the infantilizing clutches of her old life. •See Nora Helmer quotes.

Torvald Helmer – Torvald Helmer is a lawyer who at the play’s outset has recently been promoted to Bank Manager. He is married to Nora Helmer, with whom he has three children. He does not seem particularly fond of his children, even once saying that their presence makes the house “unbearable to anyone except mothers.” Straightforward and traditional in his beliefs about marriage and society, he loves and is very affectionate towards Nora, but often treats her more as a pet, child, or object than as a real person. His best friend is Dr. Rank, who visits him every day. However, towards the end of the play this friendship is revealed to be something of a façade, as Torvald seems untroubled and even a little relieved at the thought of Dr. Rank’s death.

A similar occurrence happens when he finds out about Nora’s secret debt and instantly turns on her until he realizes that his reputation is safe. Torvald’s focus on status and being treated as superior by people like Nils Krogstad, highlights his obsession with reputation and appearances. When Nora tells him she is leaving him, Torvald at first reacts by calling her mad and saying she is acting like a stupid child. However, when he realizes how resolute she is in her decision, Torvald offers to change and desperately searches for a way to stay with her. His despair as Nora exits at the very end of the play suggests that, despite his patronizing and unjust treatment of her, Torvald really does love Nora (or at least the idea of her). •See Torvald Helmer quotes.

Kristine Linde – Mrs. Linde, as she is generally known to the other characters, is an old friend of Nora’s. She is a woman whose marriage was loveless, and based on a need for financial security, and who doesn’t have any children. She and Krogstad had been in love at the time, but he was too poor to support her family. She arrives in town in search of a job in order to earn money and survive independently. In this way, she is a fairly modern woman; towards the end of the play, she explains toKrogstad that she finds joy and meaning in work. However, in other ways she is more traditional. She tells both Krogstad and Nora that she is miserable without other people to take care of, thereby fitting into the traditional role of women as caretakers and nurturers.

It is this conviction that causes her to marry Krogstad towards the end of the play. She believes very deeply in honesty and stops Krogstad from taking the letter he wrote to Torvald back, thereby ensuring that Torvald find out about Nora’s secret. Although this at first seems like a betrayal of Nora, it turns out to ultimately be a decision to Nora’s benefit as it is after Torvald finds out about the debt that Nora is able to see the true nature of her marriage. This twist confirms Mrs. Linde’s belief that honesty is always better than deceit, even if Mrs. Linde’s expectation was that it was Nora’s deceit that needed to be exposed, not the shallowness of Torvald’s feelings. •See Kristine Linde quotes.

Nils Krogstad – Nils Krogstad is, at least at the beginning, the antagonist of the play. Known to the other characters as unscrupulous and dishonest, he blackmails Nora, who borrowed money from him with a forged signature, after learning that he is being fired from his job at the bank. In the past, he too committed the crime of forgery, an act that he did not go to prison for but that nonetheless ruined his reputation and made it extremely difficult to find a respectable job.

Later in the play it is revealed that he was once in love with Kristine Linde, who ended up marrying another man in order to have enough money to support her dying mother and young brothers. This left Krogstad lost and embittered, unhappy in his own marriage, and is presented as the reason behind his moral corruption. At first he treats Nora without mercy on the basis that no mercy has been shown to him in life; however, after he and Mrs. Linde decide to marry, he becomes happier and rescinds his threats to Nora, saying he regrets his behavior. He is one of several examples in the play of a person being forced into morally questionable action as a result of the rigid and unmerciful forces of society. •See Nils Krogstad quotes.

Dr. Rank – Dr. Rank is a doctor who is best friends with Torvald and Nora, who he visits every day. Dr. Rank suffers from spinal tuberculosis, a condition he believes was caused by his father’s vices, which included having extramarital affairs and consuming too much luxurious food and drink. Dr. Rank is unmarried and lonely, and over the course of the play it is revealed that he is in love with Nora. Cynical about life, he rejoices when he finds out that his illness is terminal, and insists that neither Torvald nor Nora visit him in his dying days. As he predicted, he is not particularly missed by the other characters. •See Dr. Rank quotes.

The nursemaid – Nurse to both Nora and Nora’s children, the nursemaid, whose name is Anne Marie, is a kind woman who was forced to give up her own child, who it is suggested was born out of wedlock. The nursemaid is an example of a woman in bad circumstances forced to do anything in order to survive. When Nora first thinks of leaving she considers the fact that her children will be raised by the nursemaid and, remembering what a good mother the nursemaid had been to her, decides that she would also raise Nora’s children well. •See The nursemaid quotes.

The maid – The maid, whose name is Helene, is a servant in the Helmers’ household. The porter – The porter delivers the Helmers’ Christmas tree. The children – Nora and Torvald have three children, whose names are Ivar, Bobby, and Emmy. Still fairly young, they delight in playing with their mother. Although they are referred to by the others very frequently, they are only once seen on stage.

The Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree is delivered in Nora’s flurry of excitement for Christmas. It symbolizes family happiness and unity, as well as the joy Nora takes in making her home pleasant and attractive. At the beginning of Act Two, the tree has been stripped and the candles burned out; the stage directions dictate that it should look “bedraggled.” This represents the end of Nora’s innocence and foreshadows the Helmer family’s eventual disintegration. •Look for the red text to track where The Christmas Tree appears in: Act One, Act Two Macaroons

Torvald has banned Nora from eating macaroons. Although Nora claims that she never disobeys Torvald, this is proved false in the very opening of the play when Nora eats macaroons while she was alone in the living room. The macaroons come to represent Nora’s disobedience and deceit. She lies to Dr. Rank about having been given some by Mrs. Linde, and after giving a particularly tempestuous performance of the tarantella asks that macaroons be served at dinner, indicating a relationship between the macaroons and Nora’s inner passions, both of which she must hide within her marriage. •Look for the red text to track where Macaroons appears in: Act One, Act Two The Tarantella

Like the macaroons, the tarantella symbolizes a side of Nora that she cannot normally show. It is a fiery, passionate dance that allows Nora to drop the façade of the perfect mild-mannered Victorian wife. Throughout the play, Nora uses performance to please Torvald, and the tarantella is no exception; he admits that watching her perform it makes her desire her. However, this is only under very controlled circumstances, and Torvald seems to enjoy the fact that it is a performance that impresses other people more than anything. •Look for the red text to track where The Tarantella appears in: Act Two, Act Three The Doll’s House

There are a few mentions of doll’s houses early on in the play, for example when Nora shows Torvaldthe dolls she bought for her daughter, and says that the fact that they are cheap doesn’t matter because she will probably break them soon anyway. This is interesting as it suggests that Nora is raising her daughter for a life similar to Nora’s own, yet simultaneously foreshadows Nora breaking up her family life by leaving Torvald. When Nora plays with her children she also refers to them as her “little dollies.” However, it is not until the end of the play that the metaphor becomes explicitly clear. Nora tells Torvald that both he and her father treated her like a doll, and cites this as one of the reasons why she has become dissatisfied and disillusioned with her life with him.

Climax: When Torvald discovers the letter from Krogstad revealing Nora’s secret

Related Topics

We can write a custom essay

According to Your Specific Requirements

Order an essay
Materials Daily
100,000+ Subjects
2000+ Topics
Free Plagiarism
All Materials
are Cataloged Well

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
Sorry, but only registered users have full access

How about getting this access

Your Answer Is Very Helpful For Us
Thank You A Lot!


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?

Can't find What you were Looking for?

Get access to our huge, continuously updated knowledge base

The next update will be in:
14 : 59 : 59