You are on page 1of 20

THE DOLL’S HOUSE – HENRIK IBSEN CONTEXT HENRIK IBSEN, considered by many to be the father of modern prose drama

, was born in Skien, Norway, on March 20, 1828. He was the second of six children. Ibsen’s father was a prominent merchant, but he went bankrupt when Ibsen was eight years old, so Ibsen spent much of his early life living in poverty. From 1851 to 1864, he worked in theaters in Bergen and in what is now Oslo (then called Christiania). At age twenty-one, Ibsen wrote his first play, a five-act tragedy called Catiline. Like much of his early work, Catiline was written in verse. In 1858, Ibsen married Suzannah Thoreson, and eventually had one son with her. Ibsen felt that, rather than merely live together, husband and wife should live as equals, free to become their own human beings. (This belief can be seen clearly in A Doll’s House.) Consequently, Ibsen’s critics attacked him for failing to respect the institution of marriage. Like his private life, Ibsen’s writing tended to stir up sensitive social issues, and some corners of Norwegian society frowned upon his work. Sensing criticism in Oslo about not only his work but also his private life, Ibsen moved to Italy in 1864 with the support of a traveling grant and a stipend from the Norwegian government. He spent the next twenty-seven years living abroad, mostly in Italy and Germany. Ibsen’s early years as a playwright were not lucrative, but he did gain valuable experience during this time. In 1866, Ibsen published his first major theatrical success, a lyric drama called Brand. He followed it with another well-received verse play, Peer Gynt. These two works helped solidify Ibsen’s reputation as one of the premier Norwegian dramatists of his era. In 1879, while living in Italy, Ibsen published his masterpiece, A Doll’s House. Unlike Peer Gynt and Brand, A Doll’s House was written in prose. It is widely considered a landmark in the development of what soon became a highly prevalent genre of theater—realism, which strives to portray life accurately and shuns idealized visions of it. In A Doll’s House, Ibsen employs the themes and structures of classical tragedy while writing in prose about everyday, unexceptional people. A Doll’s House also manifests Ibsen’s concern for women’s rights, and for human rights in general. Ibsen followed A Doll’s House with two additional plays written in an innovative, realistic mode: Ghosts, in 1881, and An Enemy of the People, in 1882. Both were successes. Ibsen began to gain international recognition, and his works were produced across Europe and translated into many different languages.

In his later work, Ibsen moved away from realistic drama to tackle questions of a psychological and subconscious nature. Accordingly, symbols began to gain prominence in his plays. Among the works he wrote in this symbolist period are The Wild Duck (1884) and Hedda Gabler (1890). Hedda Gabler was the last play Ibsen wrote while living abroad. In 1891, he returned to Oslo. His later dramas include The Master Builder (1892) and Little Eyolf (1896). Eventually, a crippling sickness afflicted Ibsen and prevented him from writing. He died on May 23, 1906. A Note on the Title Though most English translations of the play are titled A Doll’s House, some scholars believe that “A Doll House” is a more accurate translation of the original Norwegian. They feel that it is more suggestive of the doll-like qualities of the entire cast of characters. This SparkNote preserves the more common title—A Doll’s House—for consistency. Plot Overview A DOLL’S HOUSE opens on Christmas Eve. Nora Helmer enters her well-furnished living room—the setting of the entire play—carrying several packages. Torvald Helmer, Nora’s husband, comes out of his study when he hears her arrive. He greets her playfully and affectionately, but then chides her for spending so much money on Christmas gifts. Their conversation reveals that the Helmers have had to be careful with money for many years, but that Torvald has recently obtained a new position at the bank where he works that will afford them a more comfortable lifestyle. Helene, the maid, announces that the Helmers’ dear friend Dr. Rank has come to visit. At the same time, another visitor has arrived, this one unknown. To Nora’s great surprise, Kristine Linde, a former school friend, comes into the room. The two have not seen each other for years, but Nora mentions having read that Mrs. Linde’s husband passed away a few years earlier. Mrs. Linde tells Nora that when her husband died, she was left with no money and no children. Nora tells Mrs. Linde about her first year of marriage to Torvald. She explains that they were very poor and both had to work long hours. Torvald became sick, she adds, and the couple had to travel to Italy so that Torvald could recover. Nora inquires further about Mrs. Linde’s life, and Mrs. Linde explains that for years she had to care for her sick mother and her two younger brothers. She states that her mother has passed away, though, and that the brothers are too old to need her. Instead of feeling

and Dr. slowly repaying the debt. and soon it will be fully repaid. Krogstad points out that he has in his possession a contract that contains Nora’s forgery of her father’s signature. Rank. Linde to guess that Dr. Rank is the source of Nora’s loan. Act Two opens on the following day. Linde says she feels empty because she has no occupation. and Nora plays with them until she notices Krogstad’s presence in the room. Nora denies Mrs. she told Torvald that the money had come from her father. Krogstad leaves. and when Torvald returns. Linde at the bank. Nora tries to convince him not to fire Krogstad. Rank has a mortal illness that he inherited from his father. For years. arrives and proceeds into Torvald’s study. Christmas. a low-level employee at the bank where Torvald works. says Krogstad is “morally sick. Nora illegally borrowed money for the trip that she and Torvald took to Italy. coming out of the study. Linde then depart. Torvald. Linde arrives and helps sew Nora’s costume for the ball that Nora will be attending at her neighbors’ home the following evening. He declares Krogstad an immoral man and states that he feels physically ill in the presence of such people.relief. but again Torvald refuses. threatening to reveal her crime and to bring shame and disgrace on both Nora and her husband if she does not prevent Torvald from firing him. Nora’s children return with their nanny. He asks Nora to use her influence to ensure that his position remains secure. leaving Nora by herself. but Torvald will hear nothing of it. Torvald arrives. Nora paces her living room. Linde—without Torvald’s knowledge. Nora reveals. Torvald comes into the living room and says that he can probably hire Mrs. Nora tells Mrs. and Nora again begs him to keep Krogstad employed at the bank. Alone. She attempts to cheer him up and begins to flirt with him. When Nora presses him. Krogstad states that Torvald wants to fire him from his position at the bank and alludes to his own poor reputation. Nora promises to speak to Torvald and then reveals a great secret to Mrs. and Mrs. Dr. she hopes that Torvald may be able to help her obtain employment. filled with anxiety.” Once he has finished meeting with Krogstad. and Krogstad is revealed to be the source of Nora’s secret loan. Nora reacts uneasily to Krogstad’s presence. Mrs. Torvald and Nora argue until Torvald sends the maid to deliver Krogstad’s letter of dismissal. Rank arrives and tells Nora that he knows he is close to death. Mrs. Krogstad. The two converse. Linde that Dr. She seems to be preparing to . Dr. Nora’s suspicious behavior leads Mrs. Anne-Marie. Torvald leaves. Linde’s charge but refuses to reveal the source of her distress. Rank. she has worked and saved in secret. When she refuses. Krogstad blackmails Nora. he admits that Krogstad’s moral behavior isn’t all that bothers him—he dislikes Krogstad’s overly familiar attitude.

Krogstad is overjoyed and says he will demand his letter back before Torvald can read it and learn Nora’s secret. as the costume party takes place upstairs. Linde in the Helmers’ living room. Linde. Krogstad meets Mrs. Mrs. Nora tells Mrs. Helene then brings in a letter. and Mrs. Rank. back from the costume ball. displeasing Torvald. who was also at the party and has come to say goodnight. Dr. In order to distract Torvald from the letterbox. Torvald finds in his letterbox two of Dr. Once Dr. Linde everything. Rank for anything. He then puts a letter detailing Nora’s debt and forgery in the -Helmers’ letterbox. Soon after Krogstad’s departure. but his harsh words have triggered something in Nora. Linde soon returns and says that she has left Krogstad a note but that he will be gone until the following evening. because she believes both Torvald and Nora will be better off once the truth has been revealed. Rank leaves. she dances wildly and violently. promptly interrupts Torvald’s advances on Nora. Torvald attempts to dismiss his past insults. Nora refuses to ask Dr. Linde. each with a black cross above the name. Dr. Suddenly. Nora begins to practice the tarantella she will perform at that evening’s costume party. She declares that despite their eight years of marriage. Nora and Torvald enter. Rank’s visiting cards. In light of this revelation. Rank reveals to Nora that he is in love with her. Rank’s cards constitute his announcement that he will soon die. He wants respectability and has changed the terms of the blackmail: he now insists to Nora that not only that he be rehired at the bank but that he be rehired in a higher position. Overjoyed. Their conversation reveals that the two had once deeply in love. After saying goodnight to Mrs. Torvald reads the letter and is outraged. Torvald opens it and discovers that Krogstad has returned Nora’s contract (which contains the forged signature). Mrs. He calls Nora a hypocrite and a liar and complains that she has ruined his happiness. Nora manages to make Torvald promise not to open his mail until after she performs at the party. Torvald tells Nora how desirable she looked as she danced. Nora knows Dr. After Dr. however. and she informs Torvald of this fact. insists he leave the letter. In a panic. She then insists that Torvald read Krogstad’s letter. He declares that she will not be allowed to raise their children. Krogstad arrives and demands an explanation for his dismissal. but Mrs. The next night. they do not understand . Linde left Krogstad for a wealthier man who would enable her to support her family. In her agitated emotional state.ask him to intervene on her behalf in her struggle with Torvald. Rank leaves. She tells Krogstad that now that she is free of her own familial obligations and wishes to be with Krogstad and care for his children. Linde instructs Nora to delay Torvald from opening the letter as long as possible while she goes to speak with Krogstad.

He is also notable for his . His willingness to allow Nora to suffer is despicable. whereas Nora abandoned her father when he was ill.” Similarly. down-to-earth woman. and her sensible worldview highlights Nora’s somewhat childlike outlook on life.” in others. Mrs.” She walks out. Kristine Linde is a practical. Linde . in some editions. they refer to him as “Helmer. we learn that Mrs. Linde’s account of her life of poverty underscores the privileged nature of the life that Nora leads. Mrs. in a manner that is both kind and patronizing. but his claims to feel sympathy for her and the hard circumstances of his own life compel us to sympathize with him to some degree. Torvald is overly concerned with his place and status in society. slamming the door behind her.A lawyer who went to school with Torvald and holds a subordinate position at Torvald’s bank. Mrs. He treats Nora like a child. Torvald delights in his new position at the bank.The protagonist of the play and the wife of Torvald Helmer. has treated her like a “doll” to be played with and admired.Nora’s husband. Torvald. Nora asserts. Character List In some editions of A Doll’s House. Krogstad . declaring that she must “make sense of [her]self and everything around her. and he allows his emotions to be swayed heavily by the prospect of society’s respect and the fear of society’s scorn. She does have some worldly experience. Krogstad’s character is contradictory: though his bad deeds seem to stem from a desire to protect his children from scorn. and the small acts of rebellion in which she engages indicate that she is not as innocent or happy as she appears. just as he delights in his position of authority as a husband. Dr.Torvald’s best friend. Also. He does not view Nora as an equal but rather as a plaything or doll to be teased and admired. She comes to see her position in her marriage with increasing clarity and finds the strength to free herself from her oppressive situation. Nora initially seems like a playful. She decides to leave Torvald. Rank .one another. the speech prompts refer to the character of Torvald Helmer as “Torvald. Dr.Nora’s childhood friend. Linde took responsibility for her sick parent. Linde’s first name is spelled “Christine” rather than “Kristine. he is perfectly willing to use unethical tactics to achieve his goals. Torvald Helmer .” Nora . naïve child who lacks knowledge of the world outside her home. Rank stands out as the one character in the play who is by and large unconcerned with what others think of him. however. In general.

Anne-Marie seems to be a kindly woman who has genuine affection for Nora. Krogstad’s blackmail and the trauma that follows do not change Nora’s nature. Torvald. and Ivar . the fact that she was willing to break the law in order to ensure Torvald’s health shows her courage. She responds affectionately to Torvald’s teasing. in which she is coddled. Nora reveals that she is not just a “silly girl. and patronized. Unlike Torvald and Nora. she has been putting on a . She does not seem to mind her doll-like existence. Anne-Marie . Additionally. the characters refer to him throughout the play. Her description of her years of secret labor undertaken to pay off her debt shows her fierce determination and ambition. She had to give up her own daughter in order to take the nursing job offered by Nora’s father. Nora seems completely happy. That she understands the business details related to the debt she incurred taking out a loan to preserve Torvald’s health indicates that she is intelligent and possesses capacities beyond mere wifehood. Thus.stoic acceptance of his fate. For the most part. Nora shows herself to be a loving mother. Though she clearly loves and admires her father. Rank admits to the diseased nature (literally. Nora comes to realize that in addition to her literal dancing and singing tricks. speaks with excitement about the extra money his new job will provide. and takes pleasure in the company of her children and friends.Nora and Torvald’s three small children.The Helmers’ nanny. Analysis of Major Characters Nora Helmer At the beginning of A Doll’s House. Emmy. In her brief interaction with her children. Nora’s father . in his case) of his life. Bob. Nora also comes to blame him for contributing to her subservient position in life.” she says during her climactic confrontation with him.Though Nora’s father is dead before the action of the play begins.” as Torvald calls her. Linde the act of sacrificing her own happiness out of economic necessity. they open her eyes to her unfulfilled and underappreciated potential. As the play progresses. When she later refuses to spend time with her children because she fears she may morally corrupt them. she shares with Nora and Mrs. pampered. he avoids talking to Torvald about his imminent death out of respect for Torvald’s distaste for ugliness. Dr. Though Ibsen doesn’t fully develop her character. Nora acts on her belief that the quality of parenting strongly influences a child’s development. “I have been performing tricks for you.

moralistic sayings. Torvald reveals himself to be childishly petty at times. Rank’s explanation for not wanting Torvald to enter his sickroom—”Torvald is so fastidious.” He is also eager to teach Nora the dance she performs at the costume party. asking her after the party.show throughout her marriage. Torvald further demonstrates his deep need for society’s respect in his reaction to Nora’s . her father. and society at large have expected of her. he cannot face up to anything ugly”—suggests that Dr. His explanation for rejecting Nora’s request that Krogstad be kept on at the office—that retaining Krogstad would make him “a laughing stock before the entire staff”—shows that he prioritizes his reputation over his wife’s desires. He instructs her with trite. apparently just for the pleasure she derives from minor rebellion against societal standards. She has pretended to be someone she is not in order to fulfill the role that Torvald. He clearly enjoys the idea that Nora needs his guidance. her need for rebellion escalates. Krogstad’s overly friendly and familiar behavior. “[D]o you know that I’ve often wished you were facing some terrible dangers so that I could risk life and limb. culminating in her walking out on her husband and children to find independence. for instance. Torvald’s decision to fire Krogstad stems ultimately from the fact that he feels threatened and offended by Krogstad’s failure to pay him the proper respect. As the drama unfolds. risk everything. Torvald is very conscious of other people’s perceptions of him and of his standing in the community. Torvald’s severe and selfish reaction after learning of Nora’s deception and forgery is the final catalyst for Nora’s awakening.” it seems that Torvald is actually the weaker and more childlike character. rather. Furthermore. His real objection to working with Krogstad stems not from -deficiencies in Krogstad’s moral character but. Torvald Helmer Torvald embraces the belief that a man’s role in marriage is to protect and guide his wife. She defies Torvald in small yet meaningful ways—by eating macaroons and then lying to him about it. and he interacts with her as a father would. Torvald likes to envision himself as Nora’s savior. Dr. for your sake?” Although Torvald seizes the power in his relationship with Nora and refers to her as a “girl. Nora shows that she is not totally unaware that her life is at odds with her true personality. and as Nora’s awareness of the truth about her life grows. She also swears. Rank feels Torvald must be sheltered like a child from the realities of the world. But even in the first act. such as: “A home that depends on loans and debt is not beautiful because it is not free.

Unlike Torvald. As he says. Krogstad has reasonable motives for behaving as he does: he wants to keep his job at the bank in order to spare his children from the hardships that come with a spoiled reputation. One could argue that society forced Mrs. Themes. he insists that she remain in the house because his chief concern is saving “the appearance” of their household. but he is not necessarily a villain. Krogstad’s crime was relatively minor. The nanny had to abandon her own child to support . In general. Moreover. hacks. well. and marry a richer man. Though he did break the law. Though his willingness to allow Nora’s torment to continue is cruel. who seems to desire respect for selfish reasons. Linde found it necessary to abandon Krogstad. Ibsen paints a bleak picture of the sacrificial role held by women of all economic classes in his society. Linde abandoned him for a man with money so she could provide for her family makes it possible for us to understand Krogstad as a victim of circumstances. Krogstad is not without sympathy for her. a man like me. can have a little of what you call feeling. you know. “Even money-lenders. the play’s female characters exemplify Nora’s assertion (spoken to Torvald in Act Three) that even though men refuse to sacrifice their integrity. Additionally. Krogstad is a person who has been wronged by society.” He visits Nora to check on her. Krogstad Krogstad is the antagonist in A Doll’s House. The Sacrificial Role of Women In A Doll’s House. Krogstad desires it for his family’s sake. Krogstad’s claim that his immoral behavior began when Mrs. “hundreds of thousands of women have. Like Nora. and he discourages her from committing suicide. Though society’s unfair treatment of Krogstad does not justify his actions. her true—but penniless —love. but society has saddled him with the stigma of being a criminal and prohibited him from moving beyond his past. Motifs & Symbols Themes Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.deception.” In order to support her mother and two brothers. Mrs. and both Nora and Krogstad have committed the same crime: forgery of signatures. it does align him more closely with Nora and therefore tempers our perception of him as a despicable character. Linde away from Krogstad and thus prompted his crime. Although he says that Nora has ruined his happiness and will not be allowed to raise the children.

and Dr. she must work in secret to pay off her loan because it is illegal for a woman to obtain a loan without her husband’s permission. but he does use the idea of a child’s debt to her parent to demonstrate the complexity and reciprocal nature of familial obligations. Nora recognized this obligation. . for fear that she will corrupt them. Torvald voices the idea that one’s parents determine one’s moral character when he tells Nora. Despite Nora’s great love for her children—manifested by her interaction with them and her great fear of corrupting them—she chooses to leave them. because a parent’s immorality is passed on to his or her children like a disease. “Nearly all young criminals had lying -mothers. Parental and Filial Obligations Nora. Torvald issues decrees and condescends to Nora.” He also refuses to allow Nora to interact with their children after he learns of her deceit. abandoned her hopes of being with Krogstad and undertook years of labor in order to tend to her sick mother. on the other hand. she nevertheless leads a difficult life because society dictates that Torvald be the marriage’s dominant partner. choosing to be with—and sacrifice herself for—her sick husband instead of her sick father. since she was “a poor girl who’d been led astray. Ibsen does not pass judgment on either woman’s decision. Nora truly believes that the nanny will be a better mother and that leaving her children is in their best interest. causing Dr. Torvald. but she ignored it. Yet. Mrs. Dr. In fact.herself by working as Nora’s (and then as Nora’s children’s) caretaker. and Nora must hide her loan from him because she knows Torvald could never accept the idea that his wife (or any other woman) had helped save his life.” Though Nora is economically advantaged in comparison to the play’s other female characters. Linde. Nora’s abandonment of her children can also be interpreted as an act of self. Rank each express the belief that a parent is obligated to be honest and upstanding. Furthermore. As she tells Nora.sacrifice. Rank does have a disease that is the result of his father’s depravity. Rank implies that his father’s immorality—his many affairs with women— led him to contract a venereal disease that he passed on to his son. the nanny considers herself lucky to have found the job. the attitudes of Torvald—and society—leave Nora vulnerable to Krogstad’s blackmail. the play suggests that children too are obligated to protect their parents. Dr. Rank to suffer for his father’s misdeeds. By motivating Nora’s deception.

she reconsiders her conception of freedom and questions whether she is happy in Torvald’s house. Nora’s Definition of Freedom Nora’s understanding of the meaning of freedom evolves over the course of the play. benevolent husband. In the first act. she believes that she will be totally “free” as soon as she has repaid her debt. petty. Torvald. and selfish when he fears that Krogstad may expose him to scandal. and Krogstad are all eventually undercut. Any disrespect—when Nora calls him petty and when Krogstad calls him by his first name. motivated. After Krogstad blackmails her. Because Torvald craves respect from his employees. The seeming hatred between Mrs. The seemingly villainous Krogstad repents and returns Nora’s contract to her. as we and Mrs. status and image are important to him. Linde and Krogstad turns out to be love. Situations too are misinterpreted both by us and by the characters. Nora as an intelligent. Dr. Our first impressions of Nora. a strong-willed. contrasts. because she will have the opportunity to devote herself fully to her domestic responsibilities. Linde ceases to help Nora and forces Torvald’s discovery of Nora’s secret. confesses that he is in love with her. appearances prove to be misleading veneers that mask the reality of the play’s characters and -situations. The instability of appearances within the Helmer household at the play’s end results from Torvald’s devotion to an image at the expense of the creation of true happiness. we see that Torvald’s obsession with controlling his home’s appearance and his repeated suppression and denial of reality have harmed his family and his happiness irreparably. Rank. subjected to his . however. sad man. childish woman. reveals himself to be cowardly. By the end of the play. for example—angers Torvald greatly. we see that she is intelligent. Linde suppose. by the play’s conclusion. and. Nora initially seems a silly. and Torvald as a simpering. The play’s climax is largely a matter of resolving identity confusion—we see Krogstad as an earnest lover. Dr. to Nora’s and our surprise. independent thinker. though he plays the part of the strong. brave woman.The Unreliability of Appearances Over the course of A Doll’s House. Motifs Motifs are recurring structures. friends. Rank. Krogstad too reveals himself to be a much more sympathetic and merciful character than he first appears to be. and wife. but as the play progresses. or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes. Torvald. Nora’s creditor turns out to be Krogstad and not. while the seemingly kindhearted Mrs.

The second letter releases Nora from her obligation to Krogstad and represents her release from her obligation to Torvald. Dr. Nora seeks a new kind of freedom. characters. and she can no longer participate in the illusion of a happy marriage. which function within the play as the subtext that reveals the true. a festive object meant to serve a decorative purpose. they have exposed the truth about Torvald’s selfishness. “Torvald is so fastidious.orders and edicts. or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. Upon reading it. Rank reveals his understanding of Torvald’s unwillingness to accept reality when he proclaims. “We are lost. figures. Rank’s method of communicating his imminent death is to leave his calling card marked with a black cross in Torvald’s letterbox. In an earlier conversation with Nora.” By leaving his calling card as a death notice. Symbols Symbols are objects. Just as Nora instructs the maid that the children cannot see the tree until it has . unpleasant nature of situations obscured by Torvald and Nora’s efforts at beautification. Letters Many of the plot’s twists and turns depend upon the writing and reading of letters. Krogstad writes two letters: the first reveals Nora’s crime of forgery to Torvald. beliefs. symbolizes Nora’s position in her household as a plaything who is pleasing to look at and adds charm to the home. represents the truth about Nora’s past and initiates the inevitable dissolution of her marriage—as Nora says immediately after Krogstad leaves it. By the end of the play. which initiates her -lifechanging meeting with him. The first letter. but Nora recognizes that the letters have done more than expose her actions to Torvald. Rank politely attempts to keep Torvald from the “ugly” truth. and identity. Dr. Torvald attempts to return to his and Nora’s previous denial of reality. The Christmas Tree The Christmas tree. Dr. There are several parallels drawn between Nora and the Christmas tree in the play. She wishes to be relieved of her familial obligations in order to pursue her own ambitions. the second retracts his blackmail threat and returns Nora’s promissory note. and Torvald’s letter of dismissal to Krogstad. he cannot face up to -anything ugly. Other letters include Mrs. Linde’s note to Krogstad.” Nora’s attempts to stall Torvald from reading the letter represent her continued denial of the true nature of her marriage. which Krogstad places in Torvald’s letterbox near the end of Act Two.

been decorated. a time will come when Torvald is not as devoted to me. In the new year. not quite so happy when I dance for him. even as early as Act One. however. because she will finally be able to repay her secret debt to Krogstad.” New Year’s Day The action of the play is set at Christmastime. and play with him. Don’t laugh. Nora describes to Mrs. happier phase in their lives. Hence. it is likely that Torvald’s interest in her will fade as well. One day I might. after Nora’s psychological condition has begun to erode. I mean. She has an insightful. when I’ve lost my looks a little. the stage directions indicate that the Christmas tree is correspondingly “dishevelled. In this quotation from Act One. if only in a small way. and Nora and Torvald both look forward to New Year’s as the start of a new. the new year comes to mark the beginning of a truly new and different period in both their lives and their personalities. . and manipulative side that acknowledges. and dress for him. Also. she tells Torvald that no one can see her in her dress until the evening of the dance. the troubling reality of her existence. By the end of the play. at the beginning of the second act. and she knows that when her looks fade. Nora also looks forward to Torvald’s new job. Important Quotations Explained 1. Her claim that she might consider telling him when she gets older and loses her attractiveness is important because it shows that Nora has a sense of the true nature of her marriage. Many years from now. the nature of the new start that New Year’s represents for Torvald and Nora has changed dramatically. Linde the circumstances under which she would consider telling Torvald about the secret loan she took in order to save his life. She recognizes that Torvald’s affection is based largely on her appearance. of course. Torvald will start his new job. intelligent. They both must become new people and face radically changed ways of living. yes. and he anticipates with excitement the extra money and admiration the job will bring him. Her suggestion that in the future she may need something to hold over Torvald in order to retain his faithfulness and devotion to her reveals that Nora is not as naïve as she pretends to be.

To have a clean. Something glorious is going to happen. She claims that freedom will give her time to be a mother and a traditional wife who maintains a beautiful home. As the play continues. By the end of the play. Nora highlights the very factors that constrain her. In this quotation from her conversation with Mrs. From now on. Nora claims that she will be “free” after the New Year—after she has paid off her debt to Krogstad. Once the illusion of Torvald’s nobility is crushed. and her understanding of the word “free” evolves accordingly. To be free. Torvald speaks these words in Act Three after learning of Nora’s forgery and Krogstad’s ability to expose her. Torvald’s reaction to Krogstad’s letter solidifies his characterization as a shallow man concerned first and foremost with appearances. Linde toward the end of Act Two as she tells her about what will happen when Torvald reads Krogstad’s letter detailing Nora’s secret loan and forgery. and beliefs. he states explicitly that the appearance of happiness is far more important to him than happiness itself. Nora becomes increasingly aware that she must change her life to find true freedom. Nora’s other illusions about her married life are crushed as well. 3. absolutely free. Now it’s just about saving the remains. when Nora reveals the nature of the “glorious” happening that she anticipates. she sees that freedom entails independence from societal constraints and the ability to explore her own personality. forget happiness. The meaning of Nora’s statement remains obscure until Act Three. . Nora speaks these prophetic-sounding words to Mrs. When Torvald eventually indicates that he will not shoulder the blame for Nora. and her disappointment with Torvald triggers her awakening.2. He has also shown himself to be obsessed with appearing dignified and respectable to his colleagues. the appearance. Free. the wreckage. Torvald’s conversations with Nora have already made it clear that he is primarily attracted to Nora for her beauty and that he takes personal pride in the good looks of his wife. But the message of the play is that Nora cannot find true freedom in this traditional domestic realm. the way Torvald likes it. goals. Here. To spend time playing with the children. While describing her anticipated freedom. Torvald will take all the blame on himself and gloriously sacrifice his reputation in order to protect her. Nora’s faith in him is shattered. 4. beautiful house. She believes that when Torvald learns of the forgery and Krogstad’s blackmail. as her husband likes it. Linde in Act One.

Nora leaves Torvald in order to make something of her life and—for the first time—to exist as a person independent of other people. intense.These words are important also because they constitute Torvald’s actual reaction to Nora’s crime. which express the truth that she has gleaned about her marriage. It’s because of you I’ve made nothing of my life. Key Facts FULL TITLE AUTHOR · A Doll’s House · Henrik Ibsen · Play TYPE OF WORK GENRE · Realistic. Italy · 1879 LANGUAGE TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION TONE · Serious. child-like wife for Torvald and. Torvald seeks to ensure that his reputation remains unsullied. I have been performing tricks for you. to Torvald at the end of Act Three. in contrast to the gallant reaction that she expects. His desire to hide—rather than to take responsibility—for Nora’s forgery proves Torvald to be the opposite of the strong. You and Papa have done me a great wrong. You wanted it like that. noble man that he purports himself to be before Nora and society. Rather than sacrifice his own reputation for Nora’s. Rome and Amalfi. She now sees that her father and Torvald compelled her to behave in a certain way and understands it to be “great wrong” that stunted her development as an adult and as a human being. That’s how I’ve survived. She has made “nothing” of her life because she has existed only to please men. modern prose drama · Norwegian · 1879. she acted the part of the happy. Torvald’s character. Following this -realization. Nora speaks these words. before that. She recognizes that her life has been largely a performance. childlike daughter for her father. somber · Presumably around the late 1870s SETTING (TIME) . She has acted the part of the happy. and her life in general. 5. Torvald.

and of the society that he represents. Krogstad’s delivery of the letter that later exposes Nora. FORESHADOWING Quiz The correct answer is highlighted in green. incites Nora’s journey of self-discovery and provides much of the play’s dramatic suspense. the unreliability of appearances THEMES MOTIFS · Nora’s definition of freedom. and oppressive attitudes of her husband. 1. FALLING ACTION · The sacrificial role of women. Your incorrect answers (if any) are highlighted in red. Krogstad’s visit and blackmailing of Nora. Nora’s primary struggle. From whom did Nora borrow money? . MAJOR CONFLICT · Nora’s first conversation with Mrs. RISING ACTION CLIMAX · Torvald reads Krogstad’s letter and erupts angrily. parental and filial obligations. New Year’s Day SYMBOLS · Nora’s eating of macaroons against Torvald’s wishes foreshadows her later rebellion against Torvald. · Nora’s realization that Torvald is devoted not to her but to the idea of her as someone who depends on him.SETTING (PLACE) PROTAGONIST · Norway · Nora Helmer · Nora’s struggle with Krogstad. click the reset button at the end of the test. her decision to abandon him to find independence. letters · The Christmas tree. who threatens to tell her husband about her past crime. is against the selfish. stifling. If you'd like to take the test over again. Torvald. Linde. however. To what country did Torvald need to travel for his health? (A) Germany (B) Norway (C) Italy (D) Sweden 2.

Whom did Mrs. Rank (C) Krogstad (D) Her nanny’s father 7. Linde work many years to support? (A) Her dying mother (B) Her children (C) Her husband . Rank 3. Which of the following nicknames is not a nickname Torvald uses for Nora? (A) Squirrel (B) Skylark (C) Silly girl (D) Peaches 6. How many children do Torvald and Nora have? (A) One (B) Three (C) None (D) Seven 5. Rank’s calling card signify? (A) He is in love with Nora (B) He is in a bad mood (C) He is deeply religious (D) He will soon die 4. Whom did Mrs. Linde (D) Dr. What does the black cross on Dr. Linde abandon for a richer man? (A) Torvald (B) Dr.(A) Krogstad (B) Torvald (C) Mrs.

Where is the play set? (A) Dr. What is Mrs.(D) Her mad uncle 8. Rank’s study (B) The Helmer home (C) Krogstad’s house (D) Mrs. Linde’s apartment 12. Rank get his disease? (A) He inherited it from his mother (B) He inherited it from his father (C) He caught it during the war (D) He caught from a very ill patient 9. Linde (C) Helene (D) Nora’s grandmother 10. What does Nora eat against Torvald’s wishes? (A) Dates (B) Bacon (C) Shellfish (D) Macaroons 11. How did Dr. Linde’s first name? . Whose signature did Nora forge? (A) Krogstad’s (B) Torvald’s (C) Her father’s (D) Her daughter’s 13. Who helped raise Nora? (A) Her nanny (B) Mrs.

To what does Nora compare herself at the end of the play? (A) A squirrel (B) A slave (C) A prisoner (D) A doll 16.(A) Kristine (B) Diane (C) Henrik (D) Hedda 14. During what holiday is the play set? (A) All Hallow’s Eve (B) New Year’s (C) Easter (D) Christmas 18. With whom is Dr. Rank secretly in love? (A) Helene (B) Nora (C) Krogstad (D) Mrs. Linde 17. What crime earned Krogstad his bad reputation? (A) Forgery (B) Murder (C) Robbery (D) Counterfeiting 15. What does Nora do too wildly and too violently for Torvald’s taste? (A) Play with her children (B) Cook and clean (C) Dance .

What does Nora expect Torvald to do when he learns about her forgery? (A) Take the blame himself (B) Leave her for another woman (C) Take the children away from her (D) Kill her 23. How does Nora feel about Dr. What will be the benefit of Torvald’s new job at the bank? . What does Torvald tease Nora about at the beginning of the play? (A) Losing her purse (B) Spending too much money (C) Forgetting to do the laundry (D) Mispronouncing the word “metempsychosis” 22. What kind of party do the Helmers attend? (A) A birthday party (B) A going-away party for Dr. How does Torvald learn about Nora’s forgery? (A) Krogstad’s letter informs him (B) Mrs. Rank and Nora (D) Nora tells him 20. Rank? (A) She thinks that he is boring (B) She thinks that he is creepy (C) She doesn’t know him very well (D) She likes him very much 21. Rank (C) An Easter party (D) A costume party 24.(D) Argue with Krogstad 19. Linde tells him (C) He overhears a conversation between Dr.

(A) He will work shorter hours (B) He will earn more money (C) He will be able to take more vacations (D) He will be able to spend more time at home. taking care of the kids 25. What is the last thing the audience of A Doll’s House hears? (A) A door slamming (B) A gunshot (C) A train whistle (D) A dog barking .