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A Dolls House

A Play in 3 Acts by Henrik Ibsen

Santos | Sun
Lit 126.2

Henrik Ibsen

Father of Realism and Modern Drama

Born on March 28, 1828 in Skien,

Son of Knud and Marichen Ibsen
At age 15, he stopped studying
and went to work
Apothecary in Grimstad
In 1849, he wrote his first play,

Other notable works

A Dolls House (1879)

Hedda Gabler (1890)
An Enemy of the People (1882)
Ghosts (1881)
The Duck (1884)
Peer Gynt (1867)

About the Text

The Feminist Manifesto

Men and women are equal beings in the

sense that they are both human beings

I have other duties just a sacred. Duties to

myself - Nora
Social reform

All human beings have a sacred duty to


An opposite of the established norms in the

Victorian Era

I am not even quite sure what womens

rights really are. To me it has been a
question of human rights.


Characters (sun)


The protagonist
At the start, she seems to be
very naive, eager to please her
family, friends, and husband
She realizes thing as the play
progresses, and eventually
frees herself


Before the play begins, she had signed an IOU

to save her husbands life; she forges her
fathers signature.

I must make up my mind
which is right society or I.
I have never felt so much
clearness and certainty as

Torvald Helmer
Noras husband.
Has a new position at the
Is kind but condescending to

Torvald Helmer
He is what wed today call a
Nora! Still my little
Before all else you are a wife
and a mother.

Torvald Helmer
Do you know, Nora, I often wish some danger might
threaten you, that I might risk body and soul, and
everything, for your dear sake.
Here you are safe; here I can shelter you like a
hunted dove whom I have saved from the claws of
the hawk.

A lawyer who studied with
Helmer and is his subordinate.
Blackmails Nora into having
Helmer keep him at his job.
Eventually retracts the IOU that
Nora signed.

Bad or not, if I produce
this document in court,
you will be condemned
according to law.

Christina Linde
A girlhood friend of Noras.
She is a widow and goes to Nora
for help.
She is incredibly practical; she left
her lover Krogstad because he didn
t have money.

Christina Linde
She can be considered a foil to Nora at
the start of the play.
I have learnt prudence. Life and bitter
necessity have schooled me. ... I too am
shipwrecked, and clinging to a spar.

Everyone Else
Dr. Rank: Best friend of both Helmer and Nora. Sick.
The children: the 3 children of Helmer and Nora.
Anna: a nurse; took care of Nora before and her kids
Ellen: a maid.

Other Elements of Drama

Presumably takes place in Norway, in the late 1800s.
The play starts on Christmas Eve, and happens within a
few days.
A room comfortably and tastefully, but not
expensively, furnished.

Plot Summary

Act 1
Nora comes home from shopping for a christmas tree and
gifts for everyone in the household.
Nora goes to her husbands study to check if hes home.
Torvald chastises her little squirrel for spending too much
for the gifts and Nora gets a little upset at her husbands lack
of trust in her.
Torvald asks Nora what present she would like and his wife
answers with nothing -- but if ever, money please.

Act 1 - Cont.
Even though Torvald is getting promoted at the start of the new year,
he remains thrifty.
However, last year was not as happy for the whole household as Nora
spent most of the time locked in her room to make paper flowers for
the tree.
The doorbell rings and the maid comes into the scene to say that a
strange lady came over and Dr. Rank, the family doctor also showed
up and headed straight to Torvalds office.
Nora discovers the strange lady to be Mrs. Christina Linde, a
schoolmate in her youth.

Act 1 - Cont.
The two women exchanged pleasantries and stories about each other.
Nora asks Christina how shes doing after her husbands death three
years ago and the woman doesnt seem affected.
Christina tells her friend how work has been an important part of her
life even until now, and she came over to ask if Nora could refer her to
Nora assures her friend that shell ask her husband if he has any
vacancies in his office.

Act 1 - Cont.
The two continue their conversation until Nora confesses to her friend
that she is currently in debt.
Christina tries to pry and ask who the debtor was but Nora refuses to
give the name. All she said what that a year ago, Torvald got very ill
and the only way to save him was a trip south to warmer climates Italy.
Nora raised the money by saving some of her allowance, working oddjobs and secretly, borrowing money from other people.

Act 1 - Cont.

Krogstad enters the house to talk to Torvald in his study. Nora seems to know him
Torvald comes out of his office and Nora vouches for Christina to get her a job in
his office as a bookkeeper. It just so happens that Torvald was looking for one.
The two discuss the terms while they walk down the street, Dr. Rank joins them.
Noras children come into the scene to play with their mother and Krogstad
emerges from the office.
Nora sends the kids away and Krogstad tells her that hes going to get fired and
Christina is taking his job.

Act 1 - Cont.
Krogstad blackmails Nora through the contract they signed years ago
when Nora borrowed money from him -- turns out he was the debtor.
The signature of Noras deceased father was forged by Nora herself.
If she doesnt convince Torvald to let Krogstad keep his job, he
exposes Noras crime.
When Torvald returns, Nova does so but she isnt having any of it
because Krogstad is infamous for being dishonest.
Torvald mentions how dishonesty corrupts ones children which
terrifies Nora

Act 2

Act 2 opens with Nora talking to her nurse, Anne to take care of her children if she
happens to disappear.
Christina shows up and Nora shows her friend her dress Torvald picked for her for
their holiday party.
Torvald shows up again and Nora begs again to let Krogstad keep his job, this
angers the husband and sent his termination letter at once and headed to his
Dr. Rank arrives and Nora contemplates to seduce the man to get him to pay off
her debt with Krogstad, but the doctor tells her that he is dying and he is in love
with her as well. Nora felt guilty and decided otherwise.

Act 2- Cont.
The doctor goes to see Torvald the Krogstad bursts in, already fired
from his job and his focus of blackmail shifted from Nora to Torvald to
give him a better job than he had before with the same evidence.
Krogstad drops the letter in the mailbox locked with Torvalds only
Nora desperately confesses everything to Christina and she volunteers
to try and change the mans mind.
Nora delays her husband from seeing the letter by dancing the
Tarantella badly so she asked her husband to teach her again.

Act 2- Cont.
Christina returns and told Nora that Krogstad wasnt
home so she left a letter for him.

Act 3
Act 3 begins by showing Christine alone in the Helmers house, the
owners being away for the party.
Krogstad enters and the two talk about their history together.
Christine tells the man how she was desperate due to her sick mother
and two brothers to care for which is why she married a richer man.
She is now willing to be with Krogstad again and help him raise a
family -- sacrificing her possible job under Torvald.

Act 3 - Cont.

Nora and Torvald return from the party and sees Christina in their home, Christina
informs Nora that she has nothing to worry about but she still needs to tell the
Torvald got drunk and made advances to Nora only to be interrupted by the also
drunk Dr. Rank who came by to check on the family, dropping a letter in the
mailbox with a black cross which indicates his resignation as family doctor due to
a fatal disease.
On the topic, Torvald tells Nora that sometimes he wishes that something bad
would happen to his wife just so he could save her, Nora tells him to open his

Act 3 - Cont.
Torvald reads the letter in his office and bursts out the door after
doing so.
He tells his wife that she is a terrible person and that theyll have to
do whatever Krogstad says to preserve their dignity to the public.
He also tells her to stay away from the kids as to be with them will
corrupt them.
Another letter arrives and it is about Krogstad rescinding all blackmail
Torvald is relieved and forgives his wife for whatever sin she has
committed to the family.

Act 3 - Ending
Nora on the other hand, does not forgive her husband because she
thought he would swallow his pride and take the blame for himself.
She was only forgiven and loved because it was convenient for him.
She packs up her things and tells his husband that she has to go her
own way and that she cannot handle being subjugated like that, just a
doll in her husbands eyes.
Torvald begs her to stay and work things out but Nora isnt hearing
any of it.
The play ends with Torvald sitting down, looking around his lonely and
empty household as the front doors opens and slams shut.

Plot Analysis

Plot Analysis
Foreshadowing an even bigger deception.
What? Macaroons? I thought they were forbidden here. - Dr.
Dramatic Irony
Torvalds remark about Krogstad - dishonest and will corrupt his
Little squirrel
Instead of endearment, for the reader, it is a term of belittlement.

Plot Analysis
No sewing, you stay there and be beautiful
Nora as trophy wife, as a doll
Hasn't Miss Sweet Tooth been breaking rules in town today? Torvald
Dr. Ranks sickness
Owed from his fathers extravagance - moral corruption transfers
from parent to child
A man cannot sacrifice his integrity for love
Reveals Ibsens social commentary with regard to gender bias
It is a thing hundreds of thousands of women have done. - Nora

Symbols and Motifs

Birds and Animals

Helmer constantly refers to
Nora in terms of animals: lark,
squirrel, little featherbrain,
hunted dove.
Nora is like a bird in a cage, a
doll in a house.

Christmas Season
The play happens towards the end of the year, and thus
towards the New Year. For many of the characters, this
means a new life.
Nora: a life without Helmer. Helmer: a new job. Mrs.
Linde: a new job/a life with Krogstad. Krogstad:
joblessness/a life with Christina.

Major Themes

The traditional role of the woman is to

Nora is not happy in her marriage, merely merry. She
leaves her children at the end of play, believing Anna
would be the better mother.
Mrs. Linde, before the play, left Krogstad to marry
another man because she needed the money for her
sick mother.

The importance of parental upbringing is

Helmer accuses Noras dad of being immoral; he says it
is because of this that Nora is, too.
Nora stays away from her children during her struggle
with herself. She eventually leaves them, believing Anna
to be the better mother figure.

The emancipation of woman is necessary for

her to find herself.
Context of play: social reform.
Modern society was incredibly masculine: Noras most
important duties, according to Helmer, were those of a
wife and mother. Noras crime judged by men.
Play less about feminism per se than duty to self.