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.