A Doll's House Drama

‘A Doll’s House’ Full Study Guide


After eight years of marriage, Nora realizes that she has never been a partner in her marriage and Helmer treated her like ‘Doll’. Nora’s husband was so rude person. The feminist showing of a good middle-class wife and mother. At the end, she
leaves her husband in order to show an identity for herself that is separate from her identity as a wife and mother.

Main Characters

Torvald Helmer

1-Torvald Helmer

He is an argument person who is the husband She is Torvald’s wife who is treated like a child by her husband. She leaves her husband and children at the end. Nora borrowed money from that person. He is an admired of Nora. He has a disease of TB. At the end of play, announces his death.

2- Nora
She is Torvald’s wife who is treated like a child by her husband. She leaves her husband and children at the end.

3- Krogstad
Nora borrowed money from that person.

4-Dr. Rank
He is an admired of Nora. He has a disease of TB. At the end of play, announces his death.

Minor Characters

1- Christine Linde
2- The children
1- Christine Linde

Nora’s friend who comes to Nora and insists her to ask her husband for a job.

2- The children

Nora treats her children like dolls and play with them.


Helmer’s Apartment. The play takes place at the apartment.


There some off-stage action takes place. A door leads from the stage into an imaginary room.


The place where Nora danced the Tarantella.


While she eats macaroons, Dr. Rank and Mrs. Linde enter. Rank starts speaking with Torwald while Linde speaks with Nora. Linde insists her to ask her husband to give Linde a job at the bank. Actually she needs a job because her husband has died. At that time, Nora tells her about borrowing money to pay for the trip to Italy for her and her husband. She also says to her , Torvald doesn’t know that she paid for it. Rank speaks with Nora and Linde, He complains about the moral corruption in society. Krogstad arrives and talk to Torvald about keeping his job. A few minutes later, he leaves and Rank comments that Krogstad is one of the most corrupt people in the world. Ranks leaves and Nora asks her husband not to fire Krogstad. But her husband says that he must fire him because of his dishonesty and because he gave Krogstad’s job to Linde. The Nurse, Anne-Marie, enters and gives Nora her ball gown. Anne-Marie explains that she had to leave her children to take the job taking care of Nora. Anne-Marie leaves. Linde returns and begins to help Nora with stitching up her dress. They talk for a while about Dr.Rank. Nora asks Torvald again not to fire Krogstad but Torvald refuses. He gives Krogstad’s pink slip to the maid to be mailed to Krogstad. Rank enters and tells Nora about his worsening illness. They talk and flirt for a while. Rank tells Nora that he loves her. Nora said that she never loved Rank and only had fun with him. Rank leaves and Krogstad enters. He is angry about his dismissal and leaves a letter to Tarvald explaining Nora’s entire crime in the letter box. Nora is frightened, Nora tells Linde about the matter and Linde assures her that she will talk to Krogstad and set things straight. Linde leaves after Krogstad and Rank and Torvald enter. They help Nora practice the Tarantella.
After practice, Rank and Tarvald exists. Linde enters and tells Nora that Krogstad left town, but she left a note for him.
Nora tells Linde that she’s waiting for a miracle to happen. That night, during the dance, Linde talks to Krogstad in Helmer’s apartment. She explains to him that she left him for money, but that she still loves him. They get back together and Krogstad decides to forget about the whole matter of Nora’s borrowing money. Linde requests Krogstad not to ask for his letter back since she thinks Torvald needs to know of it. Both leave and Torvald and Nora enter from the dance.
Torvald checks his letter box and finds some letters and two Business cards from Dr.Rank with black crosses on them. Nora explains that they mean that Rank is announcing his death. After the bad news, Tarvald enters and Nora prepares to leave. Before, she can get out the door; she is stopped by Torvald who read Krogstad’s letter. He is angry and disavows his love for Nora. The maid comes with a letter. Torvald read the letter which is from Krogstad. It says that he forgives Nora of her crime and will not reveal it. Torvald burns the letter along with the IOU that came with it. He is happy and tells Nora that everything will return to normal. Nora changes and returns to talk with Helmer. She tells him that they don’t understand each other and she leaves him.


  • ‘Black hat’ and ‘black cross’ Symbolizes ‘death’
  • ‘Fisher girl costume’ Symbolizes ‘pretending to enjoy her life’
  • ‘Italy’ Symbolizes ‘the good false image of Nora’s life’
  • ‘Norway’ Symbolizes ‘reality’
  • ‘Doll House’ Symbolizes ‘the tendency of the characters to play roles’
  • ‘Toys’ Symbolizes ‘the act of pushing the roles into Nora’s children’
  • ‘Macaroons’ Symbolizes ‘Nora’s deceit to her husband’
  • ‘Tarantella’ Symbolizes ‘Nora’s agitation at her struggle with Krogstad and with her husband’
  • ‘Christmas tree’ Symbolizes ‘the mood of the play’
  • ‘Stockings’ Symbolizes Nora’s attitude trying to please men and her flirting with Rank’
  • ‘Letter box’ and letter Symbolizes ‘a trap for Nora and the cause of her demise’
  • ‘Embroidery’ Symbolizes ‘the stereotypes pressed on woman’
  • ‘Ring’ Symbolizes ‘the marriage, and the end of it’
  • ‘Skylark’ Symbolizes ‘the way that Tarvald treats Nora like a child’

By: Aqsa Riaz

A Doll's House

Henrik Ibsen

An Overview of Henrik Ibsen:

Norwegian playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen (1828 – 1906) created twenty-six plays and a volume of poetry. He is noted for his nationalistic spirit and for exploring Europe’s social problems during the 1800s. Critics both past and present have praised his realistic approach to drama and his well-developed characters. He is best known for creating strong female characters in dramas such as A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler.

Ibsen’s Birth and Childhood:

Henrik Ibsen was born on March 20th, 1828 in Skein, Norway. His wealthy father, Knud Ibsen, owned several shops including a grocery store. However, after a series of poor financial decisions, the family was severely in debt by the time Henrik was seven.

The family was forced to move to a small farm house, and then shared a residence in the crowded home of a family friend. To make matters worse, Knud’s wife grew distant and dissatisfied with the marriage.

It is therefore no coincidence that the themes of debt, marriage, society, and independence play a prominent role in many of Henrik’s plays.

Creative Perseverance:

In 1853, a small Norwegian theater gave a hopeful young playwright (and part-time pharmacy assistant) a wonderful opportunity. The Bergen Theatre produced St. John’s Night, Henrik Ibsen’s first publicly performed play.

It was a whimsical combination of Scandinavian folk tales filled with trolls and fairy creatures. It was also a miserable disappointment that closed after only one performance. Yet, Ibsen never let failure deter him. Despite all of his obstacles in his personal and literary life, he rose to become one of the greatest dramatists of the 19th century.

Early Career:

In 1850, Ibsen failed his entrance exam, dashing hopes of becoming a doctor. His friends admired his sense of humor and encouraged him to pursue writing as a career.

That same year his first play, Catiline, was rejected by editors, but a generous friend printed a few hundred copies. Only 40 were sold; the rest of the copies were used as gift wrapping. Still, he earned the respect of the Bergen Theatre, the company that produced his first works.

Audiences rejected his first three plays, but in 1856 he finally found success with his lyrical saga, The Feast of Solhaug.

Decorated Playwright:

Prompted by his first success, Ibsen wrote constantly. Many of his earlier plays dealt with a pride for his homeland, and a desire to maintain Norway’s virtues. Some failed both critically and financially; others succeeded remarkably.

His artistic endeavors generated several government grants, allowing him enough funds to raise a family and travel abroad.


In 1869, the King of Norway and Sweden knighted Ibsen. From then on, Ibsen’s career soared, and his plays became even more serious. Eventually, his writing shifted from poetic folktales to realistic examinations of controversial social issues.

Ibsen’s Social Commentary:

In 1877, his play, Pillars of Society, extolled the virtues of freedom and truth. Next, his 1879 classic A Doll’s House questioned the suppressed role of women in society. Thirteen years later, feminist issues were again explored in another hard-hitting drama, Hedda Gabler.

Toward the end of his life, his later plays, The Master Builder (1892) and When We Dead Awaken (1899), became more self-reflective. Ibsen began contemplating what it meant to dedicate one’s life to art.

What Writer’s Have Said About Henrik Ibsen:

“All of Ibsen is visionary drama… His mastery of inwardness is second only to Shakespeare’s.” — Harold Bloom

“Had the gospel of Ibsen been understood and heeded, these fifteen millions might have been alive now.” — George Bernard Shaw (Discussing the loss of life during World War I)

“His characters may hate one another or be happy together, but they will generate nobility or charm.” — E. M. Forster

Henrik Ibsen’s Death:

From 1900 to 1903 Ibsen suffered several strokes that left him unable to write creatively or speak clearly. Although his final years were quiet and bedridden, the playwright was not lonely. In 1906 his family and friends were at his bedside when he died in his sleep. He was seventy-eight years old. His last written words were, “Thanks.”

Quotes from Henrik Ibsen’s Plays:

“The majority is never right. Never, I tell you! That’s one of these lies in society that no free and intelligent man can help rebelling against. Who are the people that make up the biggest proportion of the population—the intelligent ones or the fools? I think we can agree it’s the fools.”

— from Enemy of the People

“Our home has been nothing but a play-room. I’ve been your doll-wife here, just as at home I was Papa’s doll-child. And the children have been my dolls in their turn.”

— from A Doll’s House

“The spirit of truth and the spirit of freedom—these are the pillars of society.”

— from Pillars of Society



A Doll's House

“A Doll’s House” Nora Helmer’s Monologue

In this definitive scene, the naïve yet often contriving Nora has a startling epiphany. She once believed that her husband was a proverbial knight in shining armor, and that she was an equally devoted wife.

Through a series of emotionally draining events, she realizes that their relationship and their feelings were more make believe than real.

In this monologue from Henrik Ibsen’s play, she opens up to her husband with stunning frankness as she realizes that she has been living in “A Doll’s House.”

It is perfectly true, Torvald. When I was at home with papa, he told me his opinion about everything, and so I had the same opinions; and if I differed from him I concealed the fact, because he would not have liked it. He called me his doll-child, and he played with me just as I used to play with my dolls. And when I came to live with you—

I mean that I was simply transferred from papa’s hands into yours. You arranged everything according to your own taste, and so I got the same tastes as you–or else I pretended to, I am really not quite sure which–I think sometimes the one and sometimes the other. When I look back on it, it seems to me as if I had been living here like a poor woman–just from hand to mouth. I have existed merely to perform tricks for you, Torvald. But you would have it so. You and papa have committed a great sin against me. It is your fault that I have made nothing of my life.

You neither think nor talk like the man I could bind myself to. As soon as your fear was over–and it was not fear for what threatened me, but for what might happen to you–when the whole thing was past, as far as you were concerned it was exactly as if nothing at all had happened. Exactly as before, I was your little skylark, your doll, which you would in future treat with doubly gentle care, because it was so brittle and fragile. Torvald–it was then it dawned upon me that for eight years I had been living here with a strange man, and had borne him three children–. Oh! I can’t bear to think of it! I could tear myself into little bits!



A Doll's House

“A Doll’s House” Torvald Helmer’s Monologue

Torvald Helmer, the male lead in A Doll’s House, can be interpreted in several ways. Many readers view him as a domineering, self-righteous control freak. Yet, Torvald can also be seen as an cowardly, misguided but sympathetic husband who fails to live up to his own ideal. In either case, one thing is for certain: He does not understand his wife.

In this scene, Torvald reveals his ignorance. Moments before this monologue he declared he no longer loved his wife because she had brought shame and legal calamity to his good name. When that conflict suddenly evaporates, Torvald recants all of his hurtful words and expects the marriage to go back to “normal.”

Unbeknownst to Torvald, his wife Nora is packing up her things during his speech. As he speaks these lines, he believes he is repairing her wounded feelings. In truth, she has outgrown him and plans to leave their home forever.


Torvald:(Standing at Nora’s doorway.) Try and calm yourself, and make your mind easy again, my frightened little singing-bird. Be at rest, and feel secure; I have broad wings to shelter you under. (Walks up and down by the door.) How warm and cozy our home is, Nora. Here is shelter for you; here I will protect you like a hunted dove that I have saved from a hawk’s claws; I will bring peace to your poor beating heart. It will come, little by little, Nora, believe me. Tomorrow morning you will look upon it all quite differently; soon everything will be just as it was before.

Very soon you won’t need me to assure you that I have forgiven you; you will yourself feel the certainty that I have done so. Can you suppose I should ever think of such a thing as repudiating you, or even reproaching you? You have no idea what a true man’s heart is like, Nora. There is something so indescribably sweet and satisfying, to a man, in the knowledge that he has forgiven his wife—forgiven her freely, and with all his heart. It seems as if that had made her, as it were, doubly his own; he has given her a new life, so to speak; and she is in a way become both wife and child to him.

So you shall be for me after this, my little scared, helpless darling. Have no anxiety about anything, Nora; only be frank and open with me, and I will serve as will and conscience both to you—. What is this? Not gone to bed? Have you changed your things?


Edited by E. Haldeman-Julius.



A Doll's House

“A Doll’s House” Character Study: Torvald Helmer

Upon seeing a production of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, audiences are left with an important question: Should we feel sorry for Torvald Helmer?

At the play’s end, his wife, Nora Helmer, abandons him, leaving behind her three young children as well. She claims that she does not love him. She can no longer be his wife. He begs her to stay, yet Nora denies him, walking off in the middle of the winter night, slamming the door behind her.

When the curtain closes upon a pathetic, defeated husband, some viewers find that Torvald has received his comeuppance. Toravld’s demeaning personality and his hypocritical actions justify Nora’s harsh decision to leave.

Torvald’s “Sweet Talk”:

Torvald Helmer possesses many obvious flaws. For one, he constantly talks down to his wife. Here is a list of his pet names for Nora:


  • “My little skylark”
  • “My little squirrel”
  • “My little singing bird”
  • “My pretty little pet”
  • “My little sweet-tooth”
  • “My poor little Nora”

Notice with every term of endearment, the word “little” is always included. Torvald views himself as the emotional and intellectual superior of the household. To him, Nora is a “child-wife,” someone to watch over, to instruct, nurture and censure. He never considers her an equal partner in the relationship. Of course, their marriage is one typical of 1800s Europe, and Ibsen uses his play to challenge this status quo.

What About Nora?

To Torvald’s credit, Nora is a willing participant in their dysfunctional relationship. She understands that her husband sees her as an innocent, child-like persona, and she struggles to maintain the façade. Nora uses the pet names whenever she tries to persuade her husband: “If a little squirrel were to ask every so nicely?”

She puts away her sewing needles and unfinished dress because she knows that her husband does not wish to see a woman toiling away. He wishes to see only the final, beautiful product. In addition, Nora keeps secrets from her husband. She goes behind his back to obtain her ill-gotten loan. Torvald is too stubborn to ever borrow money, even at the cost of his own life. Essentially, Nora saves Torvald by borrowing the money so that they can travel to Italy until her husband’s health improves.

Throughout the play, Torvald is oblivious to his wife’s craftiness and her compassion. When he discovers the truth at the end, he is outraged when he should be humbled.

Torvald’s Ego

Perhaps Torvald’s most dislikeable quality is his blatant hypocrisy. Many times throughout the play, Torvald criticizes the morality of other characters. He trashes the reputation of Krogstad, one of his lesser employees (and ironically the loan shark that Nora is indebted to). He speculates that Krogstad’s corruption probably started in the home. Torvald believes that if the mother of a household is dishonest, then surely the children will become morally infected. Torvald also complains about Nora’s late father. When Torvald learns that Nora has committed forgery, he blames her crime on her father’s weak morals.

Yet, for all his self-righteousness, Torvald is a hypocrite. In the beginning of Act Three, after dancing and having a merry time at a holiday party, Torvald tells Nora how much he cares for her. He claims to be absolutely devoted her. He even wishes that some calamity would befall them, so that he could demonstrate his steadfast, heroic nature.

Of course, a moment later, that wished-for conflict arises. Torvald finds the letter revealing how Nora has brought scandal and blackmail into his household. Nora is in trouble, but Torvald, the supposedly shining white knight, fails to come to her rescue. Instead, here is what he yells at her:


“Now you have ruined my entire happiness!”“And it’s all the fault of a featherbrained woman!”

“You will not be allowed to bring up the children, I can’t trust you with them.”

So much for being Nora’s dependable knight in shining armor!

Room for Pity?

Despite his many flaws, some readers and audience members still feel tremendous sympathy for Torvald. In fact, when the play was first performed in Germany and America, the ending was changed. It was believed by some producers that theater-goers would not want to see a mother walk out on her husband and children. So, in several revised versions, “A Doll’s House” ends with Nora reluctantly deciding to stay. However, in the original, classic version, Ibsen does not spare poor Torvald from humiliation.

When Nora calmly says, “We two have a lot to talk about,” Torvald learns that Nora will no longer be his doll or “child-wife.” He is astounded by her choice. He asks for a chance to reconcile their differences; he even suggests that they live as “brother and sister.” Nora refuses. She feels as though Torvald is now a stranger. Desperate, he asks if there is the smallest hope that they might be husband and wife once again.

She responds:


Nora: Both you and I would have to change to the point where… Oh, Torvald, I don’t believe in miracles any more.Torvald: But I will believe. Name it! Change to the point where…?

Nora: Where we could make a real marriage of our lives together. Goodbye!

Then she promptly leaves. Grief-stricken, Torvald hides his face in his hands. In the next moment, he lifts his head up, somewhat hopeful. “The miracle of miracles?” he asks himself. His longing to redeem their marriage seems sincere. So perhaps, despite his hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and his demeaning attitude, the audience may feel sympathy for Torvald as the door slams shut on his tear-stained hopes.



A Doll's House

“A Doll’s House” Character Study: Dr. Rank

At first, Dr. Rank appears to be an extraneous supporting character. He does not further the plot the way Krogstad or Mrs. Linde do. Krogstad initiates the conflict by attempting to blackmail Nora Helmer. Mrs. Linde gives Nora an excuse to leap into exposition in Act One, and she also tames the heart of the antagonistic Mr. Krogstad.

But What Does Dr. Rank Do?

Not too much. He visits with Torvald Helmer in his office. He flirts with a married woman. Oh, and he is slowly dying of an unnamed illness (he does hint at his disintegrating spine—and most scholars suggest he is plagued with a case tuberculosis). Even Dr. Rank believes himself to be easily replaceable:


Dr. Rank: The thought of having to leave it all… without being able to leave behind even the slightest token of gratitude, hardly a fleeting regret even… nothing but an empty place to be fulfilled by the first person that comes along. (Act Two)

More than any other character in the play, Dr. Rank reflects the dawning of “Modern Drama.” Torvald and Krogstad could just as easily appear in a sappy melodrama. However, Dr. Rank might well fit into one of Anton Chekhov’s plays. Before Ibsen’s time, many plays focused on characters facing and solving problems. As plays became more realistic, characters began spending more time being reflective rather than getting caught up in convoluted plot lines. Dr. Rank, like characters found in the works of Chekhov, Brecht, and other modern dramatists, ponders aloud about his inner misgivings.

Many scholars see Dr. Rank as a symbol of moral corruption within society. However, because of the many sincere aspects of his character, that view is debatable. Basically, Dr. Rank adds to the somber mood of the play, yet he is not essential to the conflict, climax, or resolution. He chats with the other characters, admiring them, all the while knowing he will never be important to any of them.

Dr. Rank’s Friendship with Torvald and Nora

When the Helmers find Dr. Rank’s letter that indicates he has gone home to await death, Torvald says, “His suffering and his loneliness seemed almost to provide a background of dark cloud to the sunshine of our lives. Well, perhaps it’s all for the best. For him at any rate. And maybe for us as well, Nora. Now there’s just the two of us.” It doesn’t sound like they will miss him too much. Believe it or not, Torvald is the doctor’s closest friend!

When students first read the play, some feel immense sympathy for Dr. Rank. Other students are disgusted by him. They believe that he fits his name. offers a few vile definitions for the adjective “rank.” It is a word that means, “highly offensive; disgusting; vulgar; or indecent.”

More Than Just Friendly?

Does Dr. Rank fit those negative dictionary descriptions? That depends on how the reader interprets Dr. Rank’s affection for Nora.


Dr. Rank: Nora…Do you think he’s the only one who…? Who wouldn’t gladly give his life for your sake. I swore to myself you would know before I went. I’ll never have a better opportunity. Well, Nora! Now you know. And now you know too that you can confide in me as in nobody else. (Act Two)

One could view this as an honorable love-from-afar, or it could be grounds for a restraining order! Most actors portray Dr. Rank as soft-spoken and well-meaning. He does not mean to be vulgar, but instead confesses his feelings for Nora mainly because he only has a few days left to live.

Sadly, Nora responds to his forwardness by summoning her maid, turning up the lights, steeping away from him and quickly dismissing the conversation. When Dr. Rank suggests that his love is just as strong as Torvald’s, Nora recoils from him. She never again looks to him as a possible solution to her problem. The fact that she would consider suicide before accepting Dr. Rank’s endearments speaks volumes about the way the poor doctor is perceived by others.

He Doesn’t Rank Very Highly

Consider one last time the name of Rank. One of the definitions of the word in its noun form is: “a high position or station in the social scale.” Perhaps Ibsen has chosen this name to be ironic; none of the characters place him highly in their thoughts.



A Doll's House

“A Doll’s House” Character Study: Nils Krogstad

In melodramas of the 1800s, villains wore black capes and laughed menacingly while they curled their long mustaches. Oftentimes these sinister men would tie damsels to railroad tracks or threaten to kick old ladies out of their soon-to-be-foreclosed homes.

Although on the diabolic side, Nils Krogstad from A Doll’s House does not have the same passion for evil as your typical bad guy. He seems ruthless at first, but experiences a change of heart early on in Act Three. The audience is then left to wonder: Is Krogstad a villain? Or is he ultimately a decent guy?

Krogstad the Catalyst

At first it may seem that Krogstad is the play’s main antagonist. After all, Nora Helmer is a happy-go-lucky wife. She’s been out Christamas shopping for her lovely children. Her husband is just about to receive a raise and a promotion. Everything is going well for her until Krogstad enters the story.

Then the audience learns that Krogstad, a co-worker of her husband Torvald, has the power to blackmail Nora. She forged the signature of her dead father when she obtained a loan from him, unbeknownst to her husband. Now, Krogstad wants to secure his position at the bank. If Nora fails to prevent Krogstad from being fired, he will reveal her criminal actions and desecrate Torvald’s good name.

When Nora is unable to persuade her husband, Krogstad grows angry and impatient. Throughout the first two acts, Krogstad serves as a catalyst. Basically, he initiates the action of the play. He sparks the flames of conflict, and with each unpleasant visit to the Helmer residence, Nora’s troubles escalate. In fact, she even contemplates suicide as a means of escaping her woes. Krogstad senses her plan and counters it:


Krogstad: So if you are thinking of trying any desperate measures… if you happen to be thinking of running away…Nora: Which I am!

Krogstad: …or anything worse…

Nora: How did you know I was thinking of that?!

Krogstad: Most of us think of that, to begin with. I did, too; but I didn’t have the courage…

Nora: I haven’t either.

Krogstad: So you haven’t the courage either, eh? It would also be very stupid.

Act II


Criminal on the Rebound?

The more we learn of Krogstad, the more we understand that he shares a great deal with Nora Helmer. First of all, both have committed the crime of forgery. Moreover, their motives were out of a desperate desire to save their loved ones. Also like Nora, Krogstad has contemplated ending his life to eliminate his troubles, but was ultimately too scared to follow through.

Despite being labeled as corrupt and “morally sick,” Krogstad has been trying to lead a legitimate life. He complains, “For the last eighteen months I’ve gone straight; all the time it’s been hard going. I was content to work my way up, step by step.” Then he angrily explains to Nora, “Don’t forget: it’s him who is forcing me off the straight and narrow again, your own husband! That’s something I’ll never forgive him for.” Although at times Krogstad is vicious, his motivation is for his motherless children, thus casting a slightly sympathetic light on his otherwise cruel character.

A Sudden Change of Heart

One of the surprises of this play is that Krogstad is not really the central antagonist. In the end, that prestige belongs to Torvald Helmer. So, how does this transition occur?

Near the beginning of Act Three, Krogstad has an earnest conversation with his lost love, the widow Mrs. Linde. They reconcile, and once their romance (or at least their amiable feelings) are reignited, Krogstad no longer wants to deal with blackmail and extortion. He is a changed man!

He asks Mrs. Linde if he should tear up the revealing letter that was intended for Torvald’s eyes. Surprisingly, Mrs. Linde decides that he should leave it in the mailbox so that Nora and Torvald can finally have an honest discussion about things. He agrees to this, but minutes later he chooses to drop off a second letter explaining that their secret is safe and that the IOU is theirs to dispose.

Now, is this sudden change of heart realistic? Perhaps the redemptive action is too convenient. Perhaps Krogstad’s change does not ring true to human nature. However, Krogstad occasionally lets his compassion shine through his bitterness. So perhaps playwright Henrik Ibsen provides enough hints in the first two acts to convince us that all Krogstad really needed was someone like Mrs. Linde to love and admire him.

In the end, Nora and Torvald’s relationship is severed. Yet, Krogstad begins a new life with a woman he believed had left him forever.



A Doll's House

“A Doll’s House” Character Study: Mrs. Kristine Linde

Of all the characters in A Doll’s House, Mrs. Kristine Linde serves as the most functional in terms of plot development. It is as though Henrik Ibsen was writing Act One and wondering, “How will I let the audience know the inner thoughts of my protagonist? I know! I’ll introduce an old friend, and Nora Helmer can then reveal everything!”

At times, Mrs. Linde functions as a convenient device for exposition. She enters Act One as an almost forgotten friend, a lonely widow seeking a job from Nora’s husband. However, Nora does not spend much time listening to Mrs. Linde’s troubles. Rather selfishly, Nora discusses how excited she is about Torvald Helmer’s recent success.

Mrs. Linde says to Nora, “You haven’t known much trouble or hardship in your own life.” Nora tosses her head defiantly and struts to the other side of the room. Then, she launches into a dramatic explanation of all her secret activities (obtaining a loan, saving Torvald’s life, paying off her debt).

Yet, Mrs. Linde is more than a sounding board. She offers opinions about Nora’s questionable actions. She warns Nora of her flirtation with Dr. Rank. She also raises questions in between Nora’s lengthy speeches.

Thespian Warning: Any actress playing the role of Mrs. Linde will be doing a great deal of attentive listening.

Meddling with the Helmers:
In Act Three, Mrs. Linde becomes more pivotal. It turns out that she long ago had a romantic tryst with Nils Krogstad, the man attempting to blackmail Nora. She rekindles their relationship and inspires Krogstad to amend his wicked ways.

It could be argued that this happy coincidence is not terribly realistic. However, Ibsen’s third act is not about Nora’s conflict with Krogstad. It is about the dismantling of illusions between a husband and wife. Therefore, Mrs. Linde conveniently removes Krogstad from the role of villain.

Yet, she still decides to meddle. She insists that, “Helmer must know everything. This unhappy secret must come out!” Even though she has the power to change Krogstad’s mind, she uses her influence to make certain that Nora’s secret is discovered.

Ideas for Discussion:
Does this make her a good or bad friend? When teachers discuss Mrs. Linde in class, it is interesting to gauge the students’ reactions to Mrs. Linde. Many believe that she should mind her own business, while others feel that a true friend will intervene in the same way Mrs. Linde does.

Love Conquers All?
Despite some of the perfunctory qualities of Mrs. Linde, she does provide a striking thematic contrast. Many view Ibsen’s play as an assault on the traditional institution of marriage. Yet, in Act Three Mrs. Linde happily celebrates the return to domesticity:


Mrs. Linde: (Tidies the room a little and gets her hat and coat ready.) How things changes! How things change! Somebody to work for… to live for. A home to bring happiness into. Just let me get down to it.


Notice how, ever the caretaker, she cleans up while daydreaming about her new life as Krogstad’s wife. She is ecstatic about her newly revived love. In the end, perhaps Mrs. Kristine Linde balances Nora’s impetuous and ultimately independent nature.



A Doll's House

“A Doll’s House” Character Study: Nora Helmer

Nora’s Child-like Personality

One of the most complex characters of 19th century drama, Nora Helmer prances about in the first act, behaves desperately in the second, and gains a stark sense of reality during the finale of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.

In the beginning, Nora exhibits many childish qualities. The audience first sees her when she returns from a seemingly extravagant Christmas shopping excursion. She eats a few desserts which she has secretly purchased. When her condescending husband, Torvald Helmer, asks if she has been sneaking macaroons, she denies it whole-heartedly. With this minor act of deception, the audience learns that Nora is quite capable of lying.

She is most child-like when she interacts with her husband. She behaves playfully yet obediently in his presence, always coaxing favors from him instead of communicating as equals. Torvald gently chides Nora throughout the play, and Nora good-naturedly responds to his criticism as though she were some loyal pet.

Nora’s Clever Side:

However, Nora has been leading a double life. She has not been thoughtlessly spending their money. Rather, she has been scrimping and saving to pay off a secret debt. Years ago, when her husband became ill, Nora forged her father’s signature to receive a loan to save Torvald’s life. The fact that she never told Torvald about this arrangement reveals several aspects of her character.

For one, the audience no longer sees Nora as the sheltered, care-free wife of an attorney. She knows what it means to struggle and take risks. In addition, the act of concealing the ill-gotten loan signifies Nora’s independent streak. She is proud of the sacrifice she has made. Although she says nothing to Torvald, she brags about her actions with her old friend, Mrs. Linde, the first chance she gets! Basically, she believes that her husband would undergo just as many hardships, if not more, for her sake. However, her perception of her husband’s devotion is quite misplaced.

Desperation Sets In:

When the disgruntled Nils Krogstad threatens to reveal the truth about her forgery, Nora realizes that she has potentially scandalized Torvald Helmer’s good name. She begins to question her own morality, something she has never done before. Did she do something wrong? Were her actions appropriate, under the circumstances? Will the courts convict her? Is she an improper wife? Is she a terrible mother?

Nora contemplates suicide in order to eliminate the dishonor she has wrought upon her family. She also hopes to prevent Torvald from sacrificing himself and going to prison in order to save her from persecution. Yet, it remains debatable as to whether or not she would truly follow through and jump in the icy river. Krogstad doubts her ability. Also, during the climactic scene in Act Three, Nora seems to stall before running out into the night to end her life. Torvald stops her all too easily, perhaps because she knows that, deep down, she wants to be saved.

Nora’s Transformation:

Nora’s epiphany occurs when the truth is finally revealed. As Torvald unleashes his disgust towards Nora and her crime of forgery, the protagonist realizes that her husband is a very different person than she once believed. Torvald has no intention of taking the blame for Nora’s crime. She thought for certain that he would selflessly give up everything for her. When he fails to do this, she accepts the fact that their marriage has been an illusion. Their false devotion has been merely play acting. She has been his “child-wife” and his “doll.” The monologue in which she calmly confronts Torvald serves as one of Ibsen’s finest literary moments.

Since the premiere of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, much has been discussed regarding the final controversial scene. Why does Nora leave not only Torvald but her children as well? Many critics and theater-goers questioned the morality of the play’s resolution. In fact, some productions in Germany refused to produce the original ending. Ibsen acquiesced and grudgingly wrote an alternate ending in which Nora breaks down and cries, deciding to stay, but only for her children’s sake.

Some argue that Nora leaves her home purely because she is selfish. She does not want to forgive Torvald. She would rather start another life than try to fix her existing one. Or perhaps she feels that Torvald was right, that she is a child who knows nothing of the world. Since she knows so little about herself or society, she feels that she is an inadequate mother and wife. She leaves the children because she feels it is for their benefit, painful as it may be to her.

Nora Helmer’s last words are hopeful, yet her final action is less optimistic. She leaves Torvald explaining that there is a slight chance they could become man and wife once again, but only if a “Miracle of miracles” occurred. This gives Torvald a brief ray of hope. However, just as he repeats Nora’s notion of miracles, his wife exits and slams the door, symbolizing the finality of their relationship.



A Doll's House

A Doll’s House Study Guide Summary



Written in 1879 by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House is a three act play about a seemingly typical housewife who becomes disillusioned and dissatisfied with her condescending husband.

Act One:

Set around Christmas time, Nora Helmer enters her home, truly enjoying life. An old widow friend from her past, Mrs. Linde, stops by hoping to find a job. Nora’s husband Torvald recently earned a promotion, so she happily finds employment for Mrs. Linde. When her friend complains how hard the years have been, Nora replies that her life has been filled with challenges too.

Nora discreetly explains that several years ago, when Torvald Helmer was very ill, she forged her dead father’s signature in order to illegally obtain a loan. Since then, she has been paying back the loan in secret. She has never told her husband because she knows it would upset him.

Unfortunately, a bitter bank employee named Nils Krogstad is the man who collects the debt payments. Knowing that Torvald is soon to be promoted, he tries using his knowledge of her forgery to blackmail Nora. He wants to insure his position at the bank; otherwise he will reveal the truth to Torvald and perhaps even the police.

This turn of events greatly upsets Nora. However, she keeps the truth concealed from her husband, as well as Dr. Rank, a kind yet sickly old friend of the Helmers. She tries to distract herself by playing with her three children. However, by the ending of Act One she begins to feel trapped and desperate.

Act Two:

Throughout the second act, Nora tries to concoct ways to prevent Krogstad from revealing the truth. She has tried to coerce her husband, asking him to let Krogstad keep his job. However, Helmer believes the man possesses criminal tendencies. Therefore, he is bent on removing Krogstad from his post.

Nora tries asking Dr. Rank for help, but she is put off when Dr. Rank becomes too flirtatious with her and claims that he cares for her just as much, if not more, than her husband.

Later, the Helmers prepare for a holiday ball. Torvald watches Nora perform a traditional folk dance. He is disappointed that she has forgotten much of what he has taught her. Here, the audience witnesses one of the many scenes in which Torvald patronizes his wife as though she were a child, or his play-thing. (Hence, Ibsen titled the play: A Doll’s House). Torvald constantly calls her pet names such as “my song bird” and “my little squirrel.” Yet, he never speaks to her with any degree of mutual respect.

Eventually, Mrs. Linde tells Nora that she had a romantic attachment to Krogstad in the past, and that she can perhaps persuade him to relent. However, Krogstad does not sway in his position. By the end of Act Two, it seems that Torvald is bound to discover the truth. Nora is ashamed of this possibility. She contemplates jumping into an icy river. She believes that if she does not commit suicide, Torvald will bravely assume responsibility for her crimes. She believes that he would go to jail instead of her. Therefore, she wants to sacrifice herself for his benefit.

Act Three:

Mrs. Linde and Krogstad meet for the first time in years. At first Krogstad is bitter towards her, but she soon rekindles their romantic interest towards one another. Krogstad even has a change of heart and considers tearing up Nora’s IOU. However, Mrs. Linde believes it would be best if Torvald and Nora finally confront the truth.

After returning from the party, Nora and Torvald unwind at home. Torvald discusses how he enjoys watching her at parties, pretending that he is encountering her for the first time. Dr. Rank knocks on the door, interrupting the conversation. He says goodbye to them, hinting that he will be shutting himself up in his room until his sickness finally wins.

After Dr. Rank’s departure, Torvald discovers Krogstad’s incriminating note. When he realizes the criminal act that Nora has committed, Torvald becomes enraged. He fumes about how Krogstad can now make any demand he wishes. He declares that Nora is immoral, unfit as a wife and mother. Even worse, Torvald says that he will continue to be married to her in name alone. He wants to have no romantic connection to her whatsoever.

The irony of this scene is that moments before, Torvald was discussing how he wished that Nora faced some sort of peril, so that he could prove his love for her. Yet, once that peril is actually presented, he has no intention of saving her, only condemning her actions.

Moments after Torvald raves like a madman, Krogstad drops another note saying that he has rediscovered love, and that he no longer wants to blackmail the Helmer family. Torvald rejoices, declaring that they are saved. He then, in a moment of sheer hypocrisy, states that he forgives Nora, and that he still loves her as his little “caged song bird.”

This is a startling wake-up call for Nora Helmer. In a flash, she realizes that Torvald is not the loving, selfless husband she had once envisioned. With that epiphany, she also comes to understand that their marriage has been a lie, and that she herself has been an active part in the deception. She then decides to leave her husband and her children in order to find out who she truly is.

Torvald desperately begs her to stay. He claims that he will change. She says that perhaps if a “miracle of miracles” happens they might one day become suitable companions. However, when she leaves, slamming the door behind her, Torvald is left with very little hope.