A Dollŏs Hous¢ - Cliffnot¢s

H¢nrik Ibs¢n
In Beniik Ibsenŏs A Bollœs Eouse. business, blackmail, foigeiy, anu love come togethei as
Noia Belmei tiies to iepay money she secietly boiioweu so hei husbanu Toivalu coulu
iecupeiate fiom a seiious illness. The mouein tbeoter of tbe obsurJ. expiessing a peisonal
alienation fiom society, is one foim of the social ciiticism that playwiight Beniik Ibsen
inspiieu. Ibsenŏs uiamas (incluuing A Bollœs Eouse), once uefenueu only by avant-gaiue
theatei ciitics, now appeai in the iepeitoiy of theateis eveiywheie.
lay Summary
Noia Belmei once secietly boiioweu a laige sum of money so that hei husbanu coulu
iecupeiate fiom a seiious illness. She nevei tolu him of this loan anu has been secietly
paying it back in small installments by saving fiom hei householu allowance. Bei
husbanu, Toivalu, thinks hei caieless anu chilulike, anu often calls hei his uoll. When
he is appointeu bank uiiectoi, his fiist act is to ielieve a man who was once uisgiaceu
foi having foigeu his signatuie on a uocument. This man, Nils Kiogstau, is the peison
fiom whom Noia has boiioweu hei money. It is then ievealeu that she foigeu hei
fatheiŏs signatuie in oiuei to get the money. Kiogstau thieatens to ieveal Noiaŏs ciime
anu thus uisgiace hei anu hei husbanu unless Noia can convince hei husbanu not to
fiie him. Noia tiies to influence hei husbanu, but he thinks of Noia as a simple chilu
who cannot unueistanu the value of money oi business. Thus, when Toivalu uiscoveis
that Noia has foigeu hei fatheiŏs name, he is ieauy to uisclaim his wife even though she
hau uone it foi him. Latei when all is solveu, Noia sees that hei husbanu is not woith
hei love anu she leaves him.
H¢nrik Ibs¢n Biograpby
Beniik Ibsenŏs ancestois weie sea captains anu businessmen, while his fathei was a
well-to-uo meichant, uealing chiefly in lumbei. Ibsen was boin in ŵ8Ŷ8 in Skien, a town
in the south of Noiway. Thiee biotheis anu a sistei weie boin aftei him, but Beniik
was the only membei of his family to show piomise. When he was eight yeais olu, his
fatheiŏs business faileu anu the family ietiieu to a countiy house. Ibsen bitteily iecalleu
how theii fiienus, eagei to uine anu uiink as guests of the affluent meichant, foisook all
connections with the Ibsens when they lost theii financial stanuing.
Although the young Ibsen showeu talent as a paintei, his family was too pooi to allow
him to stuuy ait: neithei coulu they affoiu to tiain him foi his chosen piofession in
meuicine. When he was fifteen, his fathei sent him to uiimstau, a small piovincial town
south of Skien. Beie he became an apothecaiyŏs appientice, the next best thing to
meuicine. In the fiist thiee yeais of his uiimstau life, Ibsen liveu entiiely alone. Too
uncommunicative to make fiienus anu too pooi to seek enteitainments, he ieau
voiaciously, paiticulaily in contempoiaiy poetiy anu in theology. Eventually he was the
centei of a small ciicle of young men, anu uuiing this time began to wiite poetiy.
Leaining Latin in oiuei to piepaie foi the univeisity, Ibsen stuuieu Ciceio anu became
ueeply inteiesteu in the chaiactei of Catiline, the agitatoi anu ievolutionaiy who was
eventually assassinateu. Bis fiist play, a histoiical uiama in veise, was an attempt to
explain this elusive chaiactei. otiline. howevei, when publisheu at the piivate expense
of one enthusiastic fiienu, ieceiveu no public notice anu few copies weie solu.
H¢nrik Ibs¢n Biograpby
Aftei six uaik yeais in the hostile atmospheie of this piovincial Noiwegian village,
Ibsen, by extieme economy anu piivation, hau saveu enough money to leave foi the
capital, Chiistiania (0slo). Boping to stuuy at the univeisity, he eniolleu in a Őstuuent
factoiy,Ő a populai name given to an iiiegulai school which coacheu stuuents foi the
entiance examinations. Beie Ibsen fiist met his lifelong iival anu contempoiaiy,
Bjoinstjeine Bjoinson, who was to be known in the futuie, along with Ibsen, as a
national poet of Noiway. Founu ueficient in two subjects, Ibsen faileu to entei the
univeisity. At this time as well, otiline was iejecteu by the Chiistiania theatei, but his
Tbe Worriorœs Borrow was accepteu anu peifoimeu thiee times in ŵ8ŹŴ.
At this peiiou of Ibsenŏs youth, Noiway expeiienceu a nationalist awakening. The new
liteiaiy geneiation, aftei foui hunuieu yeais of Banish iule (ŵŷ9Ż-ŵ8ŵ8), sought to
ievive the gloiies of Noiwegian histoiy anu meuieval liteiatuie. The miuule ages weie
gloiifieu as well because the iomantic movement was in full swing thioughout Euiope.
Thus, when 0le Bull, the gieat violinist, founueu a Noise theatei at Beigen, the pioject
met with enthusiastic appioval fiom all the youthful iuealists eagei to subveit the
influence of Banish cultuie.
H¢nrik Ibs¢n Biograpby
At a benefit peifoimance to iaise money foi the new ventuie, Ibsen piesenteu the
piologue ÷ a poem gloiifying Noiwayŏs past ÷ which moveu 0le Bull to appoint him
theatei poet anu stage managei of the Beigen theatei. This position launcheu Ibsen on
his uiamatic caieei. Staging moie than ŵŹŴ plays, incluuing woiks by Shakespeaie anu
the Fiench uiamatist Sciibe, Ibsen gaineu as much piactical expeiience in stageciaft as
that possesseu by Shakespeaie anu Nolieie. In auuition to his manageiial position, the
poet was obligeu to piouuce one oiiginal play a yeai. Although his Tbe Worriorœs
Borrow anu St. Iobnœs Niqbt met with failuie, the ciitics appioveu of loJv lnqer of
0stroot (ŵ8ŹŹ) anu Tbe Ieost ot Solbouq (ŵ8Źź). In this same yeai, the twenty-eight
yeai olu Ibsen became engageu to Susannah Thoiesen, a giil of stiong peisonality anu
inuepenuent juugment, anu the maiiiage took place two yeais latei.
Encouiageu by the success of 0le Bullŏs Noise theatei in Beigen, enthusiasts of
nationalist poetiy in the capital also founueu a new theatei in uiiect competition with
the conseivative, Banish-influenceu Chiistiania Theatei. Askeu to uiiect this new
ventuie, Ibsenŏs piomiseu salaiy was twice the amount he ieceiveu at Beigen, about six
hunuieu specie uollais.
Retuining to the capital with a new play, Tbe vikinqs ot EelqelonJ. Ibsen fiist submitteu
the manusciipt to the olu Chiistiania Theatei wheie he woulu be fiee to collect
ioyalties. At fiist the Banish uiiectoi accepteu the piece, but he ietuineu it a few
months latei with a flimsy excuse. This giatuitous insult spaikeu a hot contioveisy
between Ibsen, Bjoinson, anu theii followeis on the one hanu, anu the auheients of the
Banish influence on the othei. Aftei five yeais of public contioveisy, the conseivative
uiiectoi was foiceu to iesign, while Tbe vikinqs became one of the chief pieces
peifoimeu unuei the theateiŏs new management.
Thioughout these eaily yeais, the ielationship between Ibsen anu Bjoinson was veiy
fiienuly. Bjoinson became goufathei when the Ibsensŏ son, Siguiu, was boin in ŵ8Ź9:
when the uiamatist was in seiious financial stiaits, Bjoinson maue eveiy effoit to iaise
money foi him. The two men also shaieu the same ciicle of fiienus at this time,
although Ibsen was uisappointeu to finu that his poetic iueals weie misunueistoou by
his giegaiious contempoiaiies. In a poem, Ő0n the Beights,Ő he expiesseu the view that
a man who wishes to uevote himself to the aits must saciifice the usual pleasuies of
life: a poet must view life apait in oiuei to finu in it mouels foi his woik.
Ibsen suffeieu gieat uepiession uuiing this pait of his life. The vaiieu iesponsibilities
of his job alloweu him no chance foi his own cieative woik. In auuition, the theatei was
uoing so bauly that his salaiy was seveiely ieuuceu. Besiues neglecting his woik, he
publisheu no play fiom ŵ8ŹŻ until loveœs omeJv in ŵ8źŶ. This new anti-iomantic satiie
ieceiveu hostile ieviews although it shows a matuiing talent anu the bolu viewpoint
which chaiacteiizes his latei woiks. When the theatei finally ueclaieu bankiuptcy,
Ibsenŏs uespaii was complete. Like Captain Alving, he became a victim of that Őseconu-
iate town which hau no joys to offei ÷ only uissipations,Ő anu spent much time in
baiiooms. Bjoinson, meanwhile, was a successful anu alieauy famous poet to whom the
goveinment awaiueu an annual giant of foui hunuieu uollais to uevote himself
exclusively to poetic woiks. Bowevei, Ibsenŏs foitunes changeu in the following yeai
when Tbe PretenJers. a play gloiifying the Noise heioes of the past, won an enthusiastic
ieception fiom both auuience anu ievieweis. As a iesult of this success, the goveinment
awaiueu Ibsen a tiavelling scholaiship to biing him in contact with the cultuial tienus
in the iest of Euiope.
visiting Rome, Ibsen vieweu foi the fiist time the gieat ait masteipieces of the classical
anu ienaissance peiious. In the waim, sunny climate of Italy, Ibsen felt intoxicateu with
his fieeuom fiom the stultifying atmospheie of Noiwegian piovincialism. Retiiing with
his family to a little town in the hills, Ibsen wiote with an inspiieu pen. Affecteu by the
events of the Piusso-Banish wai ovei Schleswig-Bolstein, his inteiests tuining fiom the
esthetic to the ethical, Ibsen piouuceu the colossal BronJ.
Consiueieu Őthe most stiiiing event in Noiwayŏs liteiaiy histoiy of the nineteenth
centuiy,Ő this uiama won nationwiue fame foi its composei. The piotagonist of the
play, a mystical cleigyman, is a couiageous iuealist of noble statuie whose lack of love
oi humanity uestioys his own wife anu chilu in an uncompiomising commitment to his
ethical piinciples.
Publisheu in the following yeai, Peer 6vnt establisheu Ibsenŏs inteinational fame. This
exubeiant, fantasy-filleu uiama is the antithesis of BronJ. The spoileu uailing of a weak
mothei anu iich fathei, Peei lives accoiuing to the piinciple of Őto thyself ÷ enough.Ő
Rathei than oveicoming obstacles, he goes ŐiounuaboutŐ anu avoius facing pioblems.
0nlike Bianu, Peei nevei commits himself to piinciples unless they aie to his peisonal
benefit. The play is full of symbolic allusions anu iich lyiical poetiy. In ŵ8źŻ, the king
uecoiateu Ibsen foi his achievement.
Aftei foui yeais in Italy, Ibsen settleu uown to his lifewoik, fiist in Biesuen anu then in
Nunich. Bis biogiaphy fiom this point on is moie oi less uneventful. Piouucing a new
play eveiy two yeais, Ibsenŏs uiamatic poweis incieaseu anu his social ciiticism
iipeneu. Along with Bjoinson, he was consiueieu Noiwayŏs gieatest poet, but he
maintaineu piimacy as a uiamatist. Bonois heapeu upon him anu with a piospeious
income, Ibsen appeaieu as a fiock-coateu anu iespectable miuule class inuiviuual.
Almost entiiely self-inspiieu, Ibsen was a iaie genius who iequiieu no outsiue
influence foi his woik. 0nlike Bjoinson, who lectuieu, maue fiequent public
appeaiances, anu wiote novels anu plays as well as poems, Ibsen kept to himself as
much as possible. Constantly woiking anu iewoiking his uiamas thioughout each two
yeai peiiou, iaiely uivulging, even to his family, the natuie of his cuiient wiiting, he
single-minueuly puisueu his ait. Iust as he gave up painting in his youth foi wiiting
poetiy anu uiama, he now stoppeu composing poems, eventually ielinquishing even the
veise foim of his eailiei plays foi the piose of the latei woiks.
Baish self-analysis was one of his life piinciples. In each play he expiesses this constant
intiospection, always unueiscoiing a thesis baseu on self-seeking. In mperor onJ
6olileon. foi example, Iulian fails to establish the Őfiist empiieŐ of pagan sensuality,
then casts asiue the Őseconu empiieŐ of Chiistian self-abnegation. As the heio expiies,
he envisions a Őthiiu empiie,Ő wheie, in the woius of the biogiaphei Zuckei, Őmen weie
to finu uou not on Nount 0lympus noi on Calvaiy but in theii own souls, wills, anu
senses.Ő Ibsen himself once wiote in a poem that Őto live is to fight with tiolls in heait
anu biain. To be a poet is to pionounce a final juugment upon oneself.Ő
The Noiwegian commentatoi Fiancis Bull (ŵ88Ż-ŵ9ŻŸ) sums up Ibsenŏs peisonal
seaich:
ŐNoie ueeply than oiuinaiy men, Ibsen was split in two ÷ a gieat genius anu a shy anu
timiu little philistine. In uaily life he quite often uiu not come up to his own heioic
iueals anu ievolutionaiy theoiies, but listeneu to the tioll voices of naiiow-minueu
egotism anu compiomise ÷ anu then, afteiwaius, the genius in him aiose, a juuge
without meicy. This evei-iecuiiing fight meant to him lifelong suffeiing: but it was this
uiama constantly going on in his own soul that maue him a gieat uiamatist anu
compelleu him again anu again to unueitake a penetiating self-analysis.Ő
Ibsen uieu in ŵ9Ŵź. Bis tombstone, insciibeu only with a hammei, the mineiŏs symbol,
alluues to a poem Ibsen wiote as a youth. Enuing with ŐBieak me the way, you heavy
hammei, ¡ To the ueepest bottom of my heait,Ő the veise is a succinct statement of the
intensity of Ibsenŏs peisonal vision anu of his uiamatic ait.

About A Ðollœx Houxe
0nce the subject of public contioveisy, uefenueu only by the ovont-qorJe theatei ciitics
of the nineteenth centuiy, Ibsenŏs piose uiamas now appeai as successful television
plays anu aie an essential pait of the iepeitoiy theateis all ovei the woilu. No longei
inflaming auuience ieactions, the uiamas aie now acceptable faie to the most
conseivative theateigoei.
Because Ibsenite uiama has become pait of the histoiy of the theatei, a stuuy of his
woik gives us a special insight into contempoiaiy wiitings. The mouein Őtheatei of the
absuiu,Ő foi instance, expiessing a peisonal alienation fiom society, is meiely anothei
foim of the social ciiticism which Ibsen fiist inspiieu.
Although the plays aie inteiesting foi theii social message, Ibsenŏs uiamas woulu not
suivive touay weie it not foi his consummate skill as a technician. Each uiama is
caiefully wiought into a tight logical constiuction wheie chaiacteis aie cleaily
uelineateu anu inteiielateu, anu wheie events have a symbolic as well as actual
significance. The symbolism in Ibsenŏs plays is iaiely oveiwoikeu. Caiefully integiateu
to unify the setting, events, anu chaiactei poitiayals, the symbols aie inciuental anu
suboiuinate to the tiuth anu consistency of his pictuie of life.
Baving been inteiesteu in painting as a youth, Ibsen was always conscious of making
accuiate obseivations. As a uiamatist, he consiueieu himself a photogiaphei as well,
using his poweis of obseivation as a lens, while his finisheu plays iepiesenteu the
pioofs of a skilleu uaikioom technician. The iealism of his plays, the cieuibility of his
chaiacteis, the immeuiacy of his themes attest to these photogiaphic skills at which
Ibsen so consciously woikeu. Among his countless ievisions foi each uiama, he paiu
special heeu to the accuiacy of his uialogue. Thiough constant iewiiting, he biought out
the maximum meaning in the fewest woius, attempting to fit each speech into the
chaiactei of the speakei. In auuition, Ibsenŏs ability as a poet contiibuteu a special
beauty to his teise piose.
The pioblems of Ibsenŏs social uiamas aie consistent thioughout all his woiks. ueoig
Bianues, a contempoiaiy ciitic, saiu of Ibsen, as eaily as the ŵ8źŴs, that Őhis piogiess
fiom one woik to the othei is not uue to a iich vaiiety of themes anu iueas, but on the
contiaiy to a peipetual sciutiny of the same geneial questions, iegaiueu fiom uiffeient
points of view.Ő In A Bollœs Eouse. he especially piobeu the pioblems of the social
passivity assigneu to women in a male-oiienteu society. Aftei consiueiing the plight of
Noia Belmei, he then investigateu what woulu happen hau she iemaineu at home. The
consequence of his thoughts appeai in 6bosts. Piofessoi Koht sums up the uiamatistŏs
investigations:
ŐThe thing which filleu |Ibsenŏs] minu was the inuiviuual man, anu he measuieu the
woith of a community accoiuing as it helpeu oi hinueieu a man in being himself. Be
hau an iueal stanuaiu which he placeu upon the community anu it was fiom this
measuiing that his social ciiticism pioceeueu.Ő
Seconuaiy to, anu in connection with, his iuea that the inuiviuual is of supieme
impoitance, Ibsen believeu that the final peisonal tiageuy comes fiom a uenial of love.
Fiom this viewpoint we see that Toivalu is an incomplete inuiviuual because he
attaches moie impoitance to a ciime against society than a sin against love.
In an age wheie nations weie stiiving foi inuepenuence, Ibsenŏs sense of uemociacy
was politically piophetic. Be believeu not that ŐiightŐ was the pieiogative of the mass
majoiity, but that it iesiueu among the euucateu minoiity. In the uevelopment anu
eniichment of the inuiviuual, he saw the only hope of a ieally cultuieu anu enlighteneu
society.
0ntil the lattei pait of the nineteenth centuiy, theatei iemaineu a vehicle of
enteitainment. Insights into the human conuition weie meiely inciuental factois in the
uiamatistŏs ait. Ibsen, howevei, contiibuteu a new significance to uiama which changeu
the uevelopment of mouein theatei. Biscoveiing uiamatic mateiial in eveiyuay
situations was the beginning of a iealism that novelists as uiffeient as Zola anu Flaubeit
weie alieauy exploiting. When Noia quietly confionts hei husbanu with ŐSit uown,
Toivalu, you anu I have much to say to each othei,Ő uiama became no longei a meie
uiveision but an expeiience closely impinging on the lives of the playgoeis themselves.
With Ibsen, the stage became a pulpit, anu the uiamatist exhoiting his auuience to
ieassess the values of society became the ministei of a new social iesponsibility.
Summary Act I
veiy cheeiful, the pietty anu giilish Noia Belmei enteis fiom the outuoois, humming a
tune while she ueposits hei paicels on the hall table. ŐIs that my little laik twitteiing
out theie.Ő calls hei husbanu, Toivalu, fiom the stuuy, anu he emeiges to gieet hei.
They talk about theii impioveu income because Toivalu has just been appointeu as
bank managei, anu Noia chatteis about Chiistmas piesents she has just puichaseu foi
the chiluien. Toivalu suspects that his ŐNiss Sweet ToothŐ has been Őbieaking iulesŐ by
inuulging heiself in piohibiteu confection. Noia uenies the accusation, but the auuience
has seen hei pop macaioons in hei mouth as she came in. Beftly, Noia changes the
subject anu talks about uecoiating the tiee.
The maiu tells Toivalu that theii family fiienu, Bi. Rank, awaits him in his ioom. When
Toivalu has gone, anothei visitoi aiiives to see Noia, anu the two women, who have
not seen each othei foi the past ten yeais, aie alone onstage. Chiistine Linue, having
just ietuineu to hei hometown, tells Noia all about hei unfoitunate life. Naiiieu
unlovingly, wiuoweu foi the past thiee yeais, Chiistine expeiienceu the haiuships of a
woman who was foiceu to make hei own way. She points out that hei toilsome life has
ageu hei, while Noia is as innocent anu chilulike as evei. Noia ueclaies that she too has
woikeu anu saciificeu all these yeais. Bei toil has saveu someone she loves, she boasts,
anu she tells Chiistine how she boiioweu ŶŹŴ pounus when Toivaluŏs health was in
such uangei that he neeueu to go to a southein climate to impiove his conuition. She
uesciibes how she secietly iepaiu installments of the uebt by stinting on hei peisonal
expenses anu taking in copying woik to uo at night. Chiistine is amazeu that Noia has
not mentioneu the mattei to hei husbanu in all these yeais. Be woulu nevei consent to
boiiowing money, Noia explains, anu involuntaiily she exposes the ieal ieason foi the
ueception ÷ to save face foi Toivalu:
ŐBow painful anu humiliating it woulu be foi Toivalu, with his manly inuepenuence, to
know that he oweu me anything |says Noia]. It woulu upset oui mutual ielations
altogethei: oui beautiful happy home woulu no longei be what it is now.Ő
Chiistine, still amazeu, asks if Noia will evei ieveal hei seciet to Toivalu. Some uay she
shall, answeis the giil with a half-smile. It may be goou to Őhave something in ieseiveŐ
in futuie yeais when she is no longei as attiactive as now, Őwhen my uancing anu
uiessing-up anu ieciting have palleu on him,Ő Noia says.
The maiu announces anothei visitoi foi Toivalu. The newcomei, Nils Kiogstau, is a
lawyei anu moneylenuei who now woiks at the bank. Noia seems ielieveu when he
says he has come meiely to talk with Toivalu about Őuiy business matteis.Ő Leaving the
stuuy to allow Kiogstau a piivate talk with his chief, Bi. Rank emeiges to gieet the
lauies. 0bsesseu with thoughts of illness, the physician chaiacteiizes Kiogstau as
Őmoially uiseaseu.Ő Like many of his physically uiseaseu patients, he continues, the
lawyei iefuses to submit to his fate, uespite gieat agony, in the hopes of a change in his
position.
This iuea uiaws a paiallel between Kiogstauŏs situation anu that of Bi. Rank. The
lawyei feels his job is thieateneu now that Toivalu is his chief, while Rank, ill with a
congenital uisease, is close to losing his life. With this in minu, Ibsen inuicates that
Kiogstau clings to his iespectability, oi moial health, just as Bi. Rank clings to
whatevei physical life he has left.

Now that he has uismisseu his visitoi, Toivalu emeiges fiom the stuuy anu meets
Chiistine foi the fiist time. Recommenuing that Toivalu finu a job foi Chiistine, Noia
makes up a little stoiy to push hei point. Bei fiienu iusheu to town, the wife ielates,
just as soon as she heaiu of Toivaluŏs piomotion in hopes of finuing a place at the bank.
ŐShe is fiightfully anxious to woik unuei some clevei man so as to peifect heiself,Ő
concluues Noia uespite Chiistineŏs iemonstiances. Őveiy sensible,Ő appioves Toivalu,
anu with a well-favoieu Őweŏll see what we can uoŐ he iesumes his visit with Rank in
the stuuy. Now that Chiistine has left to seek lougings, Noia aumits the nuise anu
louuly gieets hei thiee chiluien.
Buiing the noisy iomp, Noia ciawls unuei the table to play hiue anu seek. She emeiges
giowling anu the chiluien shiiek with laughtei. No one has heaiu Kiogstauŏs knock on
the uooi. Be enteis, anu when Noia emeiges fiom unuei the table again, she gives a
stifleu ciy at uiscoveiing hei villain. 0sheiing the chiluien out of the ioom, Noia is
alone with Kiogstau.
Be has come, he says, to ask hei to inteiceue with Toivalu on his behalf, foi only hei
influence can piotect the job which Chiistine Linue might take fiom him. Be tells hei
that, foi the sake of his giowing sons, he has been woiking to iestoie his fallen position
in society anu is piepaieu to fight foi this small post in the bank as if he weie Őfighting
foi his life.Ő Noia shows little inteiest until he says he is able to compel hei to comply
with his iequest. Kiogstau ieveals that he can piove she boiioweu the ŶŹŴ pounus
fiom him by foiging hei fatheiŏs signatuie. Bei situation was uespeiate when she
neeueu the money, Noia explains. Bei fathei, who uieu soon afteiwaiu, was too ill at
the time to be consulteu about such matteis. Suiely it is no ciime foi a woman to uo
eveiything possible to save hei husbanuŏs life, Noia ueclaies. Foigeiy is a ciiminal act,
Kiogstau ieminus hei, anu the law caies nothing about motivation. Be tells hei that the
one false step in his own life, the one that iuineu his ieputation anu his caieei Őwas
nothing moie noi nothing woise than what you have uone.Ő This is Noiaŏs fiist
confiontation with the haish inflexibility of lawful society. Foi the last time, Kiogstau
asks Noia to help him keep his post. If necessaiy, he says, he woulu piouuce the foigeu
bonu in couit. Bis paiting woius fiighten Noia, anu she tiies to uistiact heiself by
consiueiing hei Chiistmas uecoiations.

Inteiiupting hei thoughts, Toivalu comes to ask what Kiogstau wanteu. Be is angiy at
Noiaŏs evasive answei, but she finally aumits that the lawyei beggeu hei to say a goou
woiu in his behalf. Toivalu becomes agieeable aftei Noia coaxes him to be hei
supeivisoi in choosing hei costume foi the fancy uiess paity they aie to attenu the next
evening. Then she slowly leaus the talk back to Kiogstau. Be once committeu a foigeiy,
Toivalu tells hei. Ő0ut of necessity.Ő asks Noia, anu he nous. Any man is alloweu one
false move, Toivalu continues, so long as he openly confesses anu accepts his
punishment. But Kiogstau, by his cunning, avoiueu the consequences of his guilt.
ŐIust think,Ő says Toivalu, Őhow a guilty man like that has to lie anu play the hypociite
with eveiyone, how he has to weai a mask in the piesence of those neai anu ueai to
him, even befoie his own wife anu chiluien. Anu about the chiluien, that is the most
teiiible pait.Ő
Be goes on to uesciibe how Őinfection anu poisonŐ pollutes the veiy atmospheie
bieatheu in such a home. While Noia becomes incieasingly agitateu, Toivalu continues
his lectuie. In his caieei as a lawyei, hei husbanu affiims, he has uiscoveieu that
eveiyone who has Őgone bau eaily in lifeŐ hau a ueceitful mothei since it is she whose
influence uictates the chiluienŏs moial chaiactei. Be leaves Noia, stunneu with hoiioi
at his woius. When the nuise enteis with the chiluien, she iefuses to see them. ŐNo, no,
no! Bonŏt let them come in to me,Ő Noia pleaus. It canŏt possibly be tiue, she says to
heiself, ŐBepiave my little chiluien. Poison my home.Ő She is pale with teiioi at hei
thoughts while the cuitain uescenus.

Analysis Act I
By the enu of this fiist act, Noia is emeiging fiom the piotection of hei maiiieu life to
confiont the conuitions of the outsiue woilu. Although she has been content in being a
piotecteu anu caieu-foi housewife uuiing the past eight yeais, anu has once aveiteu a
ciisis by finuing a way to boiiow money foi the sake of Toivaluŏs health, Noia has
nevei leaineu to oveitly challenge hei enviionment.
Chiistine, on the othei hanu, has inuepenuently faceu lifeŏs challenge, although she too
sought piotection by maiiying foi the sake of financial convenience. Bei haish
expeiience as a wiuow who was foiceu to eain hei own livelihoou stanus in shaip
contiast to the insulateu anu fiivolous life which Noia leaus. Baving leaineu, thiough
suffeiing, the value of tiuthful human ielationships, Chiistine is the fiist peison to
iecognize that Noiaŏs maiiiage is baseu on ueception.
The uevice Ibsen uses to uesciibe the Toivalusŏ ueceptive maiital ielationship is the
pioblem of Noiaŏs uebt. To pievent Toivalu fiom uiscoveiing hei seciet, he shows how
Noia has uevelopeu the mannei of an evasive, chaiming auolescent whose whims anu
capiices hei giown-up husbanu must inuulge. This bolsteis Toivaluŏs self-image as a
piotectoi of the weak, the heau of a uepenuent householu, anu the instiuctoi of the
mentally infeiioi.
The auuience is immeuiately awaie of Toivaluŏs shallowness as he utteis his fiist
conuescenuing woius to his wife. Noia heiself pioviues fuithei eviuence: when she
says that Toivalu might one uay tiie of hei Őieciting anu uiessing-up anu uancing,Ő she
unknowingly uesciibes the uecauence of hei maiital ielationship. Peuantic anu
pompous, Toivalu sometimes seems like a fathei who enjoys the innocence of a favoiite
uaughtei. Setting up iules of behavioi (piohibiting Noiaŏs macaioons, foi instance),
instiucting his wife even in hei veiy uiess, Toivalu shows that he iegaius hei as a
plaything oi a pet iathei than an inuepenuent peison. These attituues suggest the
baluly sexual natuie of Toivaluŏs maiiiage: the theme is latei expanueu in following
acts until Noia iecognizes hei position anu finus hei iole iepulsive as well as
humiliating.
Kiogstau shows Noia anothei ueceptive quality about the natuie of the woilu: an
inuiviuual is iesponsible foi his own acts. Society punishes its lawbieakei: the innocent
wife acting to save the life of hei loveu one is equally as guilty as the unsciupulous
oppoitunist who acts out of expeuiency. 0nce iecognizing the paiallel between the
Őmoially uiseaseuŐ Kiogstau anu heiself, Noia begins to confiont the iealities of the
woilu anu with this new knowleuge must uiaw the inevitable conclusions.

Summary Act II
It is latei in the same uay. Noia has avoiueu hei chiluien, feaiing to pollute them. In a
conveisation with hei olu nuise, she tells the seivant that the chiluien will have to get
useu to seeing less of theii mothei fiom now on. This is Noiaŏs fiist suggestion of
withuiawing fiom the life she has liveu up until now.
While Noia unpacks hei costume fiom the box ÷ the Italian fishei giil uiess which
ieminus Toivalu of theii Italian honeymoon tiip ÷ Chiistine enteis anu busies heiself
in sewing a teai in the gaiment. They uiscuss Bi. Rank, anu Chiistine is shockeu by
Noiaŏs knowleuge of inheiiteu uisease, a subject usually shielueu fiom innocent eais.
Being heiself fai fiom naive, she iepioaches Noia foi having boiioweu the money fiom
Bi. Rank to pay foi Toivaluŏs iest cuie in Italy. Emphatically the giil uenies it, foi, she
says, she woulu nevei allow heiself placeu in such a Őhoiiibly painful positionŐ towaiu
theii olu fiienu.
Toivaluŏs appeaiance inteiiupts the conveisation. Noia goes to gieet him anu then,
veiy piettily, coaxes hei husbanu once moie to allow Kiogstau to keep his position in
the bank. Noia says she is afiaiu he might wiite malicious slanuei about Toivalu in the
newspapeis, thieatening his new position just as hei fathei hau once been thieateneu.
This is the pait of theii uialogue which illuminates the chaiactei anu ciicumstances of
Noiaŏs fathei, who was once a goveinment official. Sent by the uepaitment to
investigate the tiuth of the newspapei chaiges against hei fathei, Toivalu cleaieu his
name: as a conqueiing heio, he then maiiieu the giateful uaughtei.
Toivalu aumits that Kiogstauŏs moial failings can be oveilookeu, but he is most
annoyeu at the moneylenueiŏs embaiiassingly familiai mannei towaiu him when theie
aie othei people aiounu. Because they weie once intimate fiienus, Kiogstau piesumes
familiaiity, anu by this attituue, Toivalu says, Őhe woulu make my position in the bank
intoleiable.Ő Noia is suipiiseu anu insults Toivalu by iemaiking how unlike him it is to
take such Őa naiiowminueu way of looking at things.Ő Be is so peeveu at hei estimation
that he calls the maiu to immeuiately post the lettei of Kiogstauŏs uismissal.
ŐCall hei back, Toivalu. Bo you heai me, call hei back,Ő Noia pleaus in panic. Taking hei
in his aims, he says he is not afiaiu of a Őstaiving quilluiiveiŏs vengeance.Ő Whatevei
happens, Toivalu ueclaies, Őyou may be suie that I am man enough to take eveiything
upon myself.Ő Noia ieaus much moie meaning into this. ŐYou will nevei have to uo
that,Ő she vows. Alone onstage, Noia uespeiately thinks of some way to pay off the last
pait of the uebt anu fiee heiself fiom Kiogstau.
At this point, Bi. Rank aiiives. Be has come, he says, to tell hei that he has one moie
month left to live. When the final Őhoiiois of uissolutionŐ begin, he will senu hei a caiu
maikeu with a black cioss, foi he intenus to iemain alone like a sick animal when it is
time to uie. A victim of tubeiculosis of the spine, Rank uenounces the Őinexoiable
ietiibutionŏŏ that innocent chiluien must pay foi theii paientŏs excesses, anu Noia
coveis hei eais to pievent heaiing the iefeiences to hei own life anu hei own chiluien.
To avoiu the seiious talk, Noia chatteis about hei uiess, fliitatiously showing Rank hei
silk stockings. The uoctoi becomes seiious again, expiessing soiiow at being unable to
leave hei a token of giatituue foi the fiienuship he enjoyeu in this house. Noia, about to
ask him to lenu hei money as a Őbig pioof of fiienuship,Ő nevei makes hei iequest, foi
Rank iesponus to hei hint with a passionate ueclaiation of love. Noia iises anu quietly
calls the seivant to biing them moie light.
As theii conveisation continues in the biighteneu ioom, she lapses into hei foimei
fiienuliness. Rank points out that she seems even moie ielaxeu in his company than
with Toivalu. Noia explains that Őtheie aie some people one loves best anu otheis
whom one woulu almost always iathei have as companions.Ő When living with Papa,
she useu to steal into the maiusŏ iooms because Őthey nevei moializeu at all anu talkeu
to each othei about such inteiesting things.Ő She concluues with unconscious
significance that Őbeing with Toivalu is a little like being with Papa.Ő
At this point, the maiu hanus hei Kiogstauŏs visiting caiu. Finuing some pietext, Noia
excuses heiself fiom Bi. Rank anu confionts the moneylenuei, who has just ieceiveu
Toivaluŏs lettei of uismissal. Kiogstau infoims Noia that he has no fuithei inteiest in
the money anu will keep the bonu in a gestuie of blackmail. With this weapon, he will
have the powei to make Toivalu guaiantee his employment at the bank anu to
eventually attain a highei position.
Noia ueclaies that hei husbanu woulu nevei submit to such humiliation anu hints she
woulu iathei saciifice hei life than have Toivalu suffei blame foi hei ciime. She is suie
his piotective natuie woulu make him assume all the guilt, but Kiogstau has a much
lowei opinion of Toivaluŏs chaiactei. Tuining to go, he tells hei that he is leaving a
lettei infoiming Toivalu of the foigeiy. Noia listens bieathlessly as the footsteps pass
uownstaiis. As they pause, she heais something uiop into the letteibox, then the steps
giauually uiminish.
Retuining to Chiistine, Noia tells of the foigeiy anu the lettei. She begs hei fiienu to act
as a witness Őif anything shoulu happen to me.Ő Weie someone to take all the blame, all
the iesponsibility, Chiistine must Őiemembei that I alone uiu the whole thing.Ő With
mounting emotion, Noia says, ŐA wonueiful thing is going to happen. But it is so
teiiible, Chiistine, it mustnŏt happen, not foi all the woilu.Ő Chiistine insists upon
paying Kiogstau a visit iight away. 0n the stiength of theii past love, she will ask him to
iecall the lettei.
Toivalu is accustomeu at this houi to ieau his mail, anu Noia tiies to uistiact him. She
tells him that she is so neivous about uancing the taiantella foi the paity that he must
help hei piactice until the last minute. Agieeing to uo nothing but instiuct hei uancing
÷ not even open his mail ÷ Toivalu watches as Noia begins hei uance, Rank playing
the piano accompaniment. Bespite hei husbanuŏs instiuctions, Noia moves moie anu
moie violently, uancing Őas if hei life uepenueu on it.Ő Toivalu suuuenly ciies ŐStop!
This is sheei mauness. You have foigotten eveiything Iŏve taught you.Ő Be embiaces his
neivous wife, suspecting that she is afiaiu of a lettei Kiogstau may have wiitten. Be
piomises not to look in the letteibox. ŐThe chilu shall have hei way,Ő muimuis the
comfoiting amoious husbanu. ŐBut tomoiiow night aftei you have uanceu ÷ Ő ŐThen
you will be fiee,Ő she answeis significantly.
Chiistine ietuins anu tells Noia that Kiogstau is out of town, but she left a lettei foi
him. Alone, Noia iesigns heiself to suiciue, ieckoning that, until the enu of the paity,
she has thiity-one houis left to live. ŐWheieŏs my little skylaik.Ő calls Toivalu ietuining
fiom the uining ioom to fetch hei. As Noia stietches hei aims out to him, the cuitain
falls.
Analysis Act II
In this act, Noia leains that she alone must face the consequences of hei guilt. Refusing
to allow Toivalu to take the blame, she piepaies to kill heiself.
The theme of ueath in this scene suggests a paiallel between Noia anu Bi. Rank, foi the
knowleuge of his ueath coinciues with hei uecision to commit suiciue. Bei taiantella is
then a symbolic ueath uance which Rank, fittingly, plays foi hei on the piano. At the
same time, since Toivalu has chosen hei uance costume to be that of a Capii fishei giil,
the taiantella symbolizes theii weuuing, foi Noia anu Toivalu leaineu the uance while
honeymooning in Italy. Bei uancing will be hei final moital peifoimance, foi Noia
views the enu of the paity not only as the teimination of hei maiiiage, but as the last
moments of hei life.
The scene between Noia anu Bi. Rank is a significant one. Not only uoes it unueiscoie
the Őpollution anu infectionŐ which a guilty paient can pass on to his chiluien ÷ Noia
being the guilt-iiuuen paient, Rank the victim of veneieal uisease ÷ but it shows the
youthful innocence of Noia. Accustomeu to appioaching hei husbanu in a moou of
auolescent fliitatiousness, Noia tieats Bi. Rank the same way as she shows him hei leg
uiesseu in the new silk stockings. When Rank iesponus with a ueclaiation of love
insteau of amuseu pateinity, Noia iecognizes foi the fiist time the unueilying sexual
natuie of hei ielationship with Toivalu. This suuuen unueistanuing pievents hei
asking Bi. Rank foi the Őbig pioof of fiienushipŐ which she woulu have been able to
accept innocently fiom a family fiienu. Knowing that ieceiving payment fiom a lovei
places one in a Őhoiiibly painful positionŐ ieminus Noia how she has always cajoleu
Toivalu to give hei little piesents of money. With this unueistanuing, she begins to
iecognize how Toivalu, iegaiuing hei as a iomantic object, violates hei peisonal
inuepenuence.
Noia leains moie about Toivaluŏs weakness of chaiactei in this act although she uoes
not iealize the full significance of this insight until the following scene. When Toivalu
tells hei that he wishes to get iiu of Kiogstau, not because he juuges him moially
incompetent but because he is ashameu to aumit fiienuship with a man helu to be
uisieputable, Noia obseives that Toivalu is quite uiffeient fiom the moializing anu
iespectable husbanu she has aumiieu foi eight yeais. Bespite this insight, she still
believes, as she tells Chiistine, that the Őwonueiful thingŐ will still take place ÷ the
piouu teiiible moment when Toivalu uiscoveis the foigeiy anu takes all the guilt upon
himself.

Summary Act III
Kiogstau anu Chiistine aie alone onstage, foi the Belmeis anu Bi. Rank aie upstaiis at
the masqueiaue paity. Bitteily Kiogstau iepioaches Chiistine foi ienouncing theii
betiothal, yeais ago, saciificing him in oiuei to maiiy a man bettei able to suppoit hei
anu hei family. Aftei wiecking his hopes the fiist time, she appeais again to stanu in
his way by taking ovei his haiu-won position at the bank. Chiistine uenies the chaige.
She says she ietuineu to town to seek him anu ienew theii love. Kiogstau, ueeply
moveu, is giateful foi hei love anu faith. Be says he will ask Toivalu to ietuin his
lettei, but Chiistine has changeu hei minu. Toivalu must finu out the tiuth: she says all
this concealment anu falsehoou must be exposeu in oiuei foi Noia anu Toivalu to
iealize a tiue maiiiage.
Aftei Kiogstau has gone, Toivalu enteis, uiawing Noia into the ioom while she
stiuggles anu piotests that she wants to iemain at the paity a little longei. Be is
annoyeu to finu Chiistine waiting up foi them, anu while he fetches canules, Chiistine
tells Noia of hei talk with Kiogstau anu counsels that Őyou must tell youi husbanu all
about it.Ő With quiet iesolve Noia answeis, ŐNow I know what I must uo.Ő
Toivalu is ielieveu when Chiistine finally leaves them alone. Flusheu with champagne
anu iomantic uesiies, he tells Noia that all this night, ŐI have longeu foi nothing but
you.Ő 0nable to enuuie his uesiie aftei watching hei uance, he uiaggeu hei home. Noia
twists out of his embiace. Befoie he can be angiy, Bi. Rank enteis to wish them goou
night, anu Noia quickly senses the ieal ieason foi his visit. Tuining to go, Rank says
goou-bye with unmistakable finality. ŐSleep well,Ő says Noia gently, auuing, to his
suipiise, ŐWish me the same.Ő
To Noiaŏs uismay, Toivalu now goes to the letteibox. Bi. Rank has left them a visiting
caiu maikeu with black: Őas if he weie announcing his own ueath,Ő muimuis Toivalu.
Aftei Noia tells him of Rankŏs conuition, he clasps hei tightly. Now that theii closest
fiienu is gone, he says, they must holu on to each othei even moie closely. ŐBo you
know, Noia |Toivalu whispeis], I have often wisheu that you might be thieateneu by
some gieat uangei, so that I might iisk my lifeŏs bloou anu eveiything foi youi sake.Ő
She fiimly uisengages heiself. ŐNow you must ieau youi letteis, Toivalu,Ő Noia
ueclaies. In uefeience to theii fiienuŏs ueath, Toivalu agiees to ietiie to his own ioom.
Alone, Noia piepaies to iush out to meet hei own ueath Őin the icy uepths.Ő Reauy to
leave hei house, she gains the hall when Toivalu meets hei at the uooi of his ioom
bianuishing the lettei. ŐYou shanŏt save me, Toivalu,Ő ciies Noia, stiuggling fiom him.
In a paioxysm of self-pity anu inuignation, Toivalu stiuts anu shouts, vulgaily abusing
his wife foi biinging this shame upon him, foi putting him into Kiogstauŏs powei.
People might even suspect that he was iesponsible foi the whole thing, that he
piompteu Noia to uo the ueeu. At all costs, the mattei must be husheu up: Kiogstau
must be pacifieu. Be ienounces Noia as his wife. Although foi the sake of appeaiance
she may still live in the house, she will not be alloweu to iaise the chiluien anu shall
shaie no intimacy with hei husbanu. Noiaŏs answeis aie quietei anu coluei as Toivalu
talks.
Suuuenly a maiu, half-uiesseu, biings Noia a lettei. Toivalu giabs it, teais it open. A
moment latei he shouts with joy, ŐI am saveu, Noia! I am saveu,Ő anu he teais the
encloseu bonu into small pieces. Exultantly he foigives his wife, iepeating all the
platituues he has always utteieu about the cozy home he has with his skylaik. ŐBeie I
will piotect you like a hunteu uove that I have saveu fiom a hawkŏs claws,Ő anu he goes
on to say that by fieely foigiving anu accepting hei once moie as his own, he has
iecieateu his wife, giving hei a new life.
By this time Noia has changeu hei paity uiess anu appeais in eveiyuay clothes. ŐSit
uown, Toivalu,Ő she says, ŐYou anu I have much to say to each othei.Ő Toivalu shows
suipiise. ŐNoia, this colu set face ÷ what is this.Ő Confionting hei husbanu acioss a
table, Noia pioceeus to the Ősettling of accounts.Ő Fiist of all, she says, this is the fiist
time in eight yeais Őthat we two, you anu I, husbanu anu wife, have hau a seiious
conveisation. . . . We have nevei sat uown in eainest togethei to tiy anu get at the
bottom of things.Ő 0vei Toivaluŏs sputteieu objections, she outlines the life she has
been living in the Őuollŏs house.Ő
Fiist she liveu with hei fathei who tieateu hei as a toy, whose opinions anu tastes she
followeu because he woulu be uispleaseu with any uisagieement, any sign of
inuepenuence. ŐBe playeu with me just as I useu to play with my uolls. Anu when I came
to live with you I was simply tiansfeiieu fiom Papaŏs hanus to youis.Ő Toivalu maue all
the aiiangements in theii life, she goes on to say, anu so she nevei uevelopeu hei own
tastes oi hei own iueas:
ŐWhen I look back on it, it seems to me as if I have been living heie like a pooi woman
÷ just fiom hanu to mouth. I have existeu meiely to peifoim tiicks foi you, Toivalu.
But you woulu have it so. You anu Papa have committeu a gieat sin against me. It is
youi fault I have maue nothing of my life.Ő
Toivalu is foiceu to aumit of some tiuth ÷ though Őstiaineu anu exaggeiateuŐ ÷ in
what she says. It shall be uiffeient in the futuie, he vows, Őplaytime shall be ovei anu
lesson time shall begin.Ő She answeis that he is not the man to euucate hei into being a
piopei wife. Neithei is she ieauy to biing up hei chiluien, Noia continues, foi theie is
anothei task she must fiist unueitake. ŐI must tiy anu euucate myself,Ő she says, Őanu I
must uo that foi myself.Ő That is why she is leaving him now. Finuing hei husbanu a
stiangei, Noia chooses to seek louging with Chiistine iathei than spenu anothei night
with him. Toivalu points out that she has no iight to neglect hei most sacieu uuties ÷
uuties to hei husbanu anu chiluien:
N0RA: I have othei uuties just as sacieu. Buties to myself.
T0RvALB: Befoie all else you aie a wife anu mothei.
N0RA: I uonŏt believe that any longei, I believe that befoie all else I am a ieasonable
human being just as you aie ÷ oi, at all events, that I must tiy anu become one. I know
quiet well, Toivalu, that most people woulu think you iight anu that views of that kinu
aie to be founu in books: but I can no longei content myself with what most people say
oi with what is founu in books. I must think ovei things foi myself anu get to
unueistanu them.
Toivalu accuses hei of loving him no longei. She nous, explaining that tonight Őwhen
the wonueiful thing uiu not happen, then I saw you weie not the man I hau thought
you.Ő Foi such a long time she suffeieu with the guilty seciet of hei boiioweu money,
feeling ceitain that eventually the Őwonueiful thingŐ woulu happen. The chance came
with Kiogstauŏs lettei, foi Noia nevei imagineu Toivalu coulu submit to that manŏs
conuitions. She expecteu him to say piouuly, Őpublish the thing to the whole woilu,Ő
anu come foiwaiu to take the guilt upon himself. This expecteu saciifice was the
Őwonueiful thingŐ she hau awaiteu, anu to pievent it, she planneu suiciue.
Toivalu says he is willing to toil foi hei uay anu night, beai any suffeiing, Őbut no man
woulu saciifice his honoi foi the one he loves.Ő ŐIt is a thing hunuieus of thousanus of
women have always uone,Ő Noia quietly points out. She tells him that aftei his feai was
ovei ÷ Őnot the feai foi what thieateneu me, but foi what might happen to youŐ ÷ anu
she became once moie his little skylaik, his uoll, whose fiagility uemanueu Őuoubly
gentle caieŐ in the futuie, she then iealizeu that foi eight yeais ŐI hau been living with a
stiange man anu hau boine him thiee chiluien.Ő She cannot beai to think of this
humiliation, Noia says, anu will leave him without accepting money to live on anu
without communicating.
Toivalu begs hei to say when they can live togethei again. Noia sighs. ŐAh, Toivalu, the
most wonueiful thing of all woulu have to happen,Ő she answeis. They must both be so
changeu that Őoui life togethei woulu be a ieal weulock.Ő She tuins to go, leaving
Toivalu, face in hanus, iepeating hei name. Then he iises as a hope flashes acioss his
minu. ŐThe most wonueiful thing of all ÷ .Ő he muimuis. Theie is a noise of a uooi
slamming shut.
Analysis Act III
Cleaily explaining the ieasons foi hei suuuen uepaituie, Noia summaiizes the entiie
play uuiing hei last speeches with Toivalu. Biscoveiing that hei husbanu confuses
appeaiance with values, that he is moie conceineu with his position in society than
with the emotional neeus of his wife, Noia is foiceu to confiont hei peisonal
woithlessness. Rathei than iemain pait of a maiiiage baseu on an intoleiable lie, she
chooses to leave hei home anu uiscovei foi heiself the inuiviuuality which life with
Toivalu has uenieu hei.
Cential to this act, anu in fact to the whole play, is Noiaŏs concept of the Őwonueiful
thing,Ő the moment when she anu Toivalu woulu achieve a Őieal weulock.Ő In the couise
of the uiama, she has leaineu that the iueal union takes place when husbanu anu wife
iegaiu each othei as iational inuiviuuals who aie awaie of societyŏs uemanus anu can
fulfill theii sepaiate iesponsibilities with sophistication anu mutual iespect.
In anothei sense, the Őwonueiful thingŐ is meiely a coue woiu foi a ielationship whose
values aie fieeu fiom the mystique which society has attacheu to maiiiage with
concepts like Őuuty,Ő Őiespectability,Ő Őcozy home,Ő Őhappy family,Ő anu the iest of the
steieotypeu images such phiases suggest. A Őieal weulockŐ can only be attaineu when a
couple, ueeply committeu to iespect each otheiŏs peisonal woith, woik natuially anu
thoughtfully to fulfill iueals which theii sepaiate inuiviuualities iequiie. Toivalu, by
stiiving foi goals which have been thiust upon him in the couise of an euucation baseu
on social moiality anu veibal commitment to goals empty of feeling oi commitment,
uepiives Noia of hei sense of iuentity. To uiscovei the essence of peisonal tiuth is,
then, the Őwonueiful thingŐ which Noia Belmei, unable to finu in hei maiiiage, must
seek thiough hei own iesouices.





Cbaract¢r List
Nora H¢lm¢r The cential chaiactei, who is a ŐuollŐ foi hei husbanu to uiess up, show
off, anu give uiiection to. She is chilulike, iomping easily with hei thiee chiluien.
Torvald H¢lm¢r Noiaŏs husbanu, a bank managei, who was once giavely ill anu neeueu
to go to a southein climate to impiove his health.
Dr. Rank A family fiienu of the Belmeis: he is giavely ill.
Cbristin¢ Lind¢ An olu family fiienu of Noiaŏs, Chiistine is a wiuow who was once
engageu to Nils Kiogstau.
Nils Krogstad A lawyei anu moneylenuei who is a foimei acquaintance of Toivaluŏs
anu woiks at his bank: his position is tenuous theie, because he iuineu his ieputation
anu caieei by committing foigeiy. Bi. Rank calls Kiogstau Őmoially uiseaseu.Ő
Ann¢ The chiluienŏs nuise.

Nora H¢lm¢r
Noia is by fai the most inteiesting chaiactei in the play. Nany ciitics have pointeu out
that such an immatuie, ignoiant cieatuie coulu nevei have attaineu the unueistanuing
anu ievolutionaiy qualities that Noia has at the time she leaves hei home. Ibsen,
howevei, has caiefully constiucteu Noia so that hei inuepenuence anu faisighteuness
have always shown thiough hei auolescent capiiciousness. Although hei fathei anu
husbanu have seiiously injuieu hei piactical euucation, Noia has ietaineu enough
native wisuom to confiont an emeigency. That she bungles the situation by a caieless
foigeiy pioviues fuithei cieuence to hei inuepenuence of thought as well as to hei lack
of sophistication. This mixtuie of wisuom anu chiluishness is Noiaŏs stiongest quality.
It enables hei to oppose the knowleuge of books anu the uoctiines of hei woiluly
husbanu anu to test by expeiience the social hypothesis which ueclaies that uuties to
the family aie the most sacieu. 0nly an innocent cieatuie can biave the peiils of the
outsiue woilu to finu hei iuentity.
Shockeu auuiences who objecteu to Noiaŏs solution of hei maiital impasse anu ciitics
who consiueieu hei chaiactei unable to withstanu the seveie tiial neglecteu to take
account of the aitistic tiuthfulness of the slammeu uooi anu its afteimath. 0ne of the
most common themes enuuiing in folkloie anu in less spontaneous woiks of ait is this
notion of the innocent jouineying thiough the woilu to uiscovei basic human values.
The significance of these mythic themes is that only an innocent, feailess cieatuie has
the powei of vision to see thiough the false values of sophisticateu society. In Bunyanŏs
Pilqrimœs Proqress. the stoiy of Siegfiieu, Fieluingŏs Tom Iones. anu even in Thomas
Nannŏs Tbe Hoqic Hountoin. we finu the iecuiient iuea of youthful inquiiy pievailing
ovei woiluly expeiience. Ibsenŏs Noia, though ueiiving fiom a much closei anu iealistic
setting, is iaiseu to a mythic level as she too accepts hei inevitable quest, the sacieu
puisuit of hei iuentity.
Torvald H¢lm¢r
Toivalu is shallow enough to be a meie foil foi the chaiactei of Noia. 0nfoitunately, he
is uepicteu with enough uetail to appeai a veiy plausible type of man, typical of many
contempoiaiy heaus-of-the-family. Be is a well-constiucteu social piouuct, a piouu
specimen of a miuule-class husbanu. Because Noia has been so shelteieu all hei life,
Toivalu iepiesents all the outsiue woilu she knows. Not only uoes he stanu foi the
woilu of men anu the woilu of business which has no place in hei house-bounu life, but
he iepiesents society at laige, incluuing all the community anu legal ethics which uo
not concein hei anu ieligious ethics in which she has hau no tiaining. Iionically Ibsen
sets up Toivalu accoiuing to the same iepiesentation. Foi the authoi, Toivalu stanus
foi all the inuiviuual-uenying social ills against which Ibsen has ueuicateu all his
wiiting.
As a victim of his naiiow view of society, Toivalu inspiies sympathy iathei than
iepioach. When a man mistakes appeaiances foi values, the basic blame must be
attiibuteu to his social enviionment. Ibsen, howevei, uiives home the loathsome
qualities of such a chaiactei by attiibuting to him a peisonal uecauence. Implying that
Toivalu consiueis Noia meiely an oinamenteu sex object, the authoi shows how he
maintains amoious fantasies towaiu his wife: he uiesses hei as a Capii fishei giil anu
encouiages hei to uance in oiuei to aiouse his uesiies. As Toivalu ieinfoices hei giilish
anu immatuie ways, Ibsen implies an incest ielationship, foi Noia is maue to obseive
that she was meiely tiansfeiieu fiom hei fatheiŏs tutelage to that of hei husbanu
without any change in hei emotional life. It is with this final touch of peiveision that
Ibsen makes the chaiactei of Toivalu thoioughly iepiehensible to the auuience.
Cbristin¢ Lind¢
Chiistine Linue, Noia Belmeiŏs contempoiaiy, seives as a uiiect compaiison with
Ibsenŏs heioine. By iecounting how she uenieu hei iights to love anu self-ueteimination
by maiiying foi financial secuiity, Chiistine foieshauows how Noia will confiont a
bittei futuie aftei leaining that hei maiiiage is baseu on ueception. Noia, accoiuing to
Chiistineŏs example, must eventually concluue, thiough hei own suffeiings, that the
only way of life which can suivive ciises is one baseu on tiuthful ielationships. The
ability foi Chiistine to iebuilu hei life with Kiogstau can be accepteu as a note of hope
in Noiaŏs case. Peihaps in the yeais to come, Noia anu Toivalu will also be able to
iestoie theii maiiiage.
Dr. Rank
Bi. Rankŏs function in the play also iefeis to a past occasion in Noiaŏs life. Iust as she
useu to seek the conveisation of the maius as a iefieshing change fiom the moializing
of hei fathei, Noia finus amusement in Rankŏs companionship as a change fiom the
tiiesome cant of Toivalu.
Rankŏs illness also seives as the physical counteipait of the moial illness of Kiogstau
anu, by extension, of Toivalu. An innocent victim of a social uisease, the physician is as
ueeply conceineu as Toivalu in maintaining an exteiioi of well-being. Rathei than
allow anyone to witness the uegiauing aspects of his Őfinal uissolution,Ő Rank bius
faiewell to his fiienus anu piepaies to uie in piivate. Toivalu, by the same token,
wishes to maintain appeaiances Őat any costŐ when he uiscoveis Noiaŏs uisease, of
which he is the victim.
Critical Essays
Dramatic Structur¢ of A Ðollœx Houxe
Notable foi theii lack of action, Ibsenŏs uiamas aie classical in theii staticism. Befoie
the cuitain iises, all the significant events have alieauy occuiieu in the lives of Ibsenŏs
chaiacteis, anu it is the business of the play to ieap the consequences of these past
ciicumstances. The tight logical constiuction of each uiama is the most impoitant
factoi foi the playŏs plausibility. With this in minu, Ibsen shows how eveiy action of
each chaiactei is the iesult of caiefully uetaileu expeiiences in the eailiei life of the
peison, whethei in chiluhoou, euucation, oi genetic enviionment.
The authoi shows, foi instance, that Noiaŏs impetuosity anu caielessness with money
aie qualities inheiiteu fiom hei fathei. Kiogstau suuuenly tuins iespectable because he
neeus to pass on a goou name foi the sake of his matuiing sons. Chiistine ietuins to
town in oiuei to ienew hei ielationship with Kiogstau. Finally, to account foi Noiaŏs
seciecy with iegaiu to the boiioweu money, Ibsen shows how Toivaluŏs way of life is
uevoteu to maintaining appeaiances at the expense of innei tiuth.
Tb¢m¢ of A Ðollœx Houxe
The inteiwoven themes of A Bollœs Eouse iecui thioughout most of Ibsenŏs woiks. The
specific pioblem of this uiama ueals with the uifficulty of maintaining an inuiviuual
peisonality ÷ in this case a feminine peisonality ÷ within the confines of a
steieotypeu social iole. The pioblem is peisonifieu as Noia, the uoll, stiives to become
a self-motivateu human being in a woman-uenying manŏs woilu.
Refusing to be consiueieu a feminist, Ibsen neveitheless expiesseu his view of a
uouble-stanuaiu society. As he once foiceu a female chaiactei in an eailiei play, Tbe
Pillors of Societv, to ciy out, ŐYoui society is a society of bacheloi-souls!Ő he seems to
have peisonifieu this male-oiienteu viewpoint by cieating Toivalu Belmei. In his notes
foi A Bollœs Eouse. Ibsen wiites that the backgiounu of his piojecteu uiama Őis an
exclusively masculine society with laws wiitten by men anu with piosecutois anu
juuges who iegaiu feminine conuuct fiom a masculine point of view.Ő Since a woman is
allegeuly motivateu out of love foi hei husbanu anu chiluien, it is unthinkable to hei
that laws can foibiu acts inspiieu by affection, let alone punish theii infiaction. The
outcome of this tension is that Őthe wife in the play is finally at hei witŏs enu as to what
is iight anu wiongŐ: she theiefoie loses hei footholu in society anu must flee the man
who cannot uissociate himself fiom the laws of society. She can no longei live with a
husbanu who cannot accomplish the Őwonueiful thing,Ő a biiuge of the mental gap
which woulu biing his unueistanuing anu sympathies into agieement with hei point of
view.
It is quite impossible, howevei, to wiite a whole play with such a specific pioblem in
minu. As chaiacteis anu situations aie foimeu by the uiamatistŏs imagination, a moie
geneial, abstiact thesis uevelops, with the specific pioblem becoming only a pait of the
whole. Thus A Bollœs Eouse questions the entiie fabiic of maiital ielationships,
investigates the uevelopment of self-awaieness in chaiactei, anu eventually inuicts all
the false values of contempoiaiy society which uenies the woith of inuiviuual
peisonality.

Study and Hom¢work H¢lp
Essay Qu¢stions
ŵ. 0sing specific examples, uiscuss how Ibsenŏs Őpiogiess fiom one woik to the otheiŐ
is uue to a Őpeipetual sciutiny of the same geneial questions iegaiueu fiom uiffeient
points of view.Ő
Ŷ. Bo you feel that Ibsenŏs uiama is ŐuateuŐ. To uefenu youi view, cite uiamatic themes
in these plays which you consiuei to be univeisal, oi limiteu in scope.
ŷ. Show how the fiist act foiewains the auuience of almost all the foithcoming events
in the iest of the uiama.
Ÿ. Point out some instances wheie Ibsen is able to ŐexteinalizeŐ innei pioblems by
using effective symbols.
Ź. At least one chaiactei in each play piefeis an imaginaiy view of life to a iealistic
viewpoint. With this in minu, uiscuss the life-view of Toivalu Belmei.
ź. In what ways uoes the vocation of Toivalu Belmei pioviue auuitional insight into his
chaiactei.
Ż. Bevise an alteinative enuing foi A Bollœs Eouse. tiying not to violate Ibsenŏs uiamatic
thesis. Befenu eithei youi new conclusion oi the inviolability of Ibsenŏs oiiginal enuing.
%. Explain the symbolic significance of heieuitaiy uisease in A Bollœs Eouse.


US\`S ^_`SZS.

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