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A Doll’s House
Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)

Main Characters

Torvald Helmer - He is a lawyer who has been promoted to manager in the bank.

Nora - She is Torvald’s wife who is treated like a child by Torvald’s but leaves in the end because of it.

Krogstad - He is the man Nora borrowed money from to pay for the trip to Italy.

Dr. Rank - He is an admirer of Nora who has spinal TB and announces his death at the end of the play.

Minor Characters

Christine Linde - She is an old friend of Nora who comes to Nora and asks her to ask her husband for a job.

The children - Nora plays with her children and treats them like dolls.

Setting

Helmer’s Apartment - The entire play takes place at the apartment

Torvald’s study - a door leads from the stage into an imaginary room which is Torvald’s study where some off-stage action takes place.

Ballroom - This is where Nora danced the Tarantella.

Plot

The story starts on Christmas eve.  Nora makes preparation for Christmas.  While she eats macaroons, Dr. Rank and Mrs. Linde enters.  Rank goes to speak with Torvald while Linde speaks with Nora.  Linde explains that her husband has died and that she needs to find a job.  Nora agrees to ask her husband to give Linde a job at the bank.  Nora tells her about borrowing money to pay for the trip to Italy for her and her husband.  She explains that Torvald doesn’t know that she paid for it.  Rank leaves the study and begins to speak with Nora and Linde.  He complains about the moral corruption in society.  Krogstad arrives and goes to the study to talk to Torvald about keeping his job.  A few minutes later, he leaves and Rank comments that Krogstad is one of the most morally corrupt people in the world.  Rank and Linde leaves and Krogstad reenters.  He tells Nora to ask her husband to keep Krogstad, or else he will reveal Nora’s crime of forgery.  Krogstad leaves and when Torvald reenters, Nora asks him not to fire Krogstad.  Torvald says that he must fire him because of his dishonesty and because he gave Krogstad’s job to Linde.  Torvald returns to his study.  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.  Torvald enters and Linde leaves to the nursery.  Nora asks Torvald again not to fire Krogstad and Torvald refuses.  He gives Krogstad’s pink slip to the maid to be mailed to Krogstad.  Torvald leaves to his study.  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 to the study and Krogstad enters.  He is angry about his dismissal and leaves a letter to Torvald 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 from the study.  They help Nora practice the tarantella.  After practice, Rank and Torvald exists.  Linde enters and tells Nora that Krogstad left town, but she left a note for him.  Nora tells her 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.  However, Linde asks 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, Torvald enters his study and Nora prepares to leave.  However, 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.

Symbols

black hat and black cross - symbolizes death

Fisher girl costume - symbolizes Nora’s 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 onto 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 Torvald treats Nora like a child.

Style

Ibsen writes typical of the ways that the characters might talk in relation to their position and their relationship with each other.  For example, the way that Torvald speaks with Nora shows that he condescends to her and that Nora enjoys it.  Krogstad speaks sternly but softens up when Linde tell him she still loves him.

Dominant Philosophy

A person can’t be happy when falling into the mold of someone else.  To be happy, one must be oneself and know oneself.  Since all of Nora’s life, she followed right behind her father and her husband, she did not know herself and had to leave to learn.

Quotes

“HELMER:  My little songbird mustn’t droop her wings.  What’s this?  Is little squirrel sulking?”  Torvald asks this to Nora after she returned from shopping at the start of the play.

“NORA:  I’ve the most extraordinary longing to say: ‘Bloody hell!’”  Nora says this to Rank and Linde expressing her desire to rebel against her husband.

“RANK:  Oh, a lawyer fellow called Krogstad - you wouldn’t know him.  He’s crippled all right; morally twisted.  But even he started of by announcing, as thought it were a matter of enormous importance, that he had to live.”  Rank tells this to Nora and Linde expressing his philosophy about morally corrupt people corrupting society using Krogstad as an example.

“NORA:  Never see him again.  Never.  Never.  Never.  Never see the children again.  Them too.  Never. never.  Oh - the icy black water!  Oh - that bottomless - that -!  Oh, if only it were all over!  Now he’s got it - he’s reading it.  Oh, no, no!  Not yet!  Goodbye, Torvald!  Goodbye, my darlings.”  Nora says this to herself when Torvald had left to his study to read the mail.  She prepares to leave and possibly commit suicide.