A Doll’s House Henrik Ibsen

A Doll's House Henrik Ibsen
A Doll’s House Henrik Ibsen

A Doll’s House Henrik Ibsen. ‘A doll’s House’ is a three act play by Henrik Ibsen whose premiere as well as publication took place in 1879. The play deals with an analysis of the institution of marriage while presenting an idea that a woman could not express herself clearly in the male dominated society where all the rules are set by men. The rule makers rate even the female conduct from a male point of view.


Act One

A Doll’s House Henrik Ibsen. The play begins with an interaction between Torvald and his wife Nora in their study. Torvald playfully rebukes his wife for spending too much money on Christmas gifts. Their interaction reveals that last year Nora had made gifts and ornaments herself since their financial condition had been weaker. However, she feels comfortable spending a bit since Torvald is due a promotion. Presently, they have two visitors- Kristine linde and Dr. Rank. Mrs. Kristine Linde is Nora’s old friend and has come in search of employment. Kristine has been facing hard days since her husband died leaving her penniless and alone. Nora tells that they also had to face hard days when Torvald fell ill and they had to travel to Italy for his recovery. Kristine also faced difficulty since she had to take care of her brothers when her mother was ill. When Nora promises to ask Torvald to find Kristine a job, she gently tells Nora that she is like a child. However, Nora does not like it and discloses how she had borrowed money without telling Torvald for their visit to Italy and how she has been working secretly to pay it off. She had told Torvald that the money had been gifted by her father. Dr. Rank had been in the study when Krogstad, a lower level employee at Torvald’s bank, arrives and goes to the study. Nora is uneasy to see him. Dr. Rank states Krogstad to be morally diseased while he leaves mentioning his own physical illness that makes him feel wretched.

Torvald comes out of the study and, when asked for the same by Nora, says that a position has just opened at the bank and he could offer it to Kristine. Then, he leaves the house as do Kristine and Dr. Rank. While Nora is alone with her children, Krogstad comes to the living room and asks Nora to persuade Torvald to change his decision of firing him. When she refuses, he blackmails her by saying that he knows Nora to have forged her father’s signature to attain their loan for Italy trip. When Torvald returns, Nora tries to convince him but he is not ready to hear any plea for a liar and hypocrite like Krogstad who forged someone’s name.

Act Two

A Doll's House Henrik Ibsen
A Doll’s House Henrik Ibsen

A Doll’s House Henrik Ibsen. Nora tries to convince Torvald yet again regarding Krogstad. She is afraid that the latter could publish defamatory articles against Torvaldo and ruin his career. Torvaldo, however, doesn’t care and refuses to change his decision despite that Krogstad is a good worker. More importantly for Torvaldo, Krogstad is least admirable among the bank personnels.

Torvaldo goes to the study and Dr. Rank arrives. Nora tries to ask him for a favor but he reveals that he has entered terminal stage of tuberculosis of spine. More importantly, he reveals that he has been in love with Nora. She feels quite uncomfortable due to the revelation and states that she doesn’t love Dr. Rank.

Krogstad, who has been fired by Torvald, comes. Nora asks Dr. Rank to keep Torvald engaged so that he won’t see Krogstad.  Krogstad now wants to blackmail Torvald to get his job back as well as a promotion. Nora tells him that she tried her best to convince Torvald but he is not interested even in the remaining amount of her loan. He says that he has left a letter in torvald’s mailbox with details of how Nora forged her father’s signature.

When Nora informs Kristine about the difficulty, the latter promises to try to convince Krogstad who is still in love with her. When Torvald enters to check his mails, Nora stops him from doing so by asking for his help to rehearse for the costume party. She feigns anxiety so that Torvald agrees to help her for the entire evening. When alone, Nora even considers killing herself to save her husband from the embarrassment on her act. Moreover, she feels that her husband may take some action against his reputation to save her.

Act Three

Kristine tries to convince Krogstad. She tells him that she married her husband just because there was no other option to support her sick mother and her siblings. She also claims to understand that her rejection had been responsible for his adoption of unethical behavior. She offers her love again to Krogstad who is moved enough to be ready to take his letter back. However, Kristine decides that it would be good for Nora and Torvald’s marriage if Torvald comes to know of the truth.

Dr. Rank follows Nora and Torvald to their home when they return from the party. Dr. Rank chats with them for a while referring indirectly to his belief that his death is near. Torvald goes through his letters when Dr. Rank is gone. He gets enraged on seeing Krogstad’s letter. He says that he would have to be under Krogstad’s control to hide the entire matter. He says that Nora is not fit to raise their chidren and their marriage will merely be a formality now on.

A maid brings a letter to Nora from Krogstad. Torvald takes and reads it. He is elated that Krogstad has returned the bond that he was afraid of. He burns off the bond as well as the letter. He tells Nora that he has forgiven her. however, Nora feels that her husband is not the valiant man she considered him to be. She feels that he loves himself more than her.

Torvald does not accept that she had a very difficult choice to be made between her conscience and Torvald’s health. He has no appreciation for her secret efforts to pay off the debt. He considers the incident to be a silly mistake on her part. He says that a husband loves his wife even more after having forgotten her since it gives him a sense that she is totally dependent on him.

Nora states that she is leaving to live alone. She explains that she has always been treated as a doll, first by her father and then by Torvald. She now wishes to find her own identity. Torvald, being concerned to family reputation, tries to stop her by reminding her of her duties as a wife and mother. She says that she could not be a good wife and mother unless she has her own identity. Her foremost responsibility is towards herself. She also tells how she had planned to kill herself being afraid that Toravald would lose his honor to save her. So, her expectations from Torvald had been based only on her fantasies.

Torvald is unable to understand Nora’s state of mind. Whatever she says is strictly against whatever he has been taught throughout his life about female mind. Nora leaves her keys and wedding ring behind. She exits while Torvald begins to cry being unable to comprehend the situation.

Significance of Ending

It is only towards the end that the play takes feminist overtone. The ending does not suggest clearly whether Nora came back in Torvald’s life or not. However, Ibsen had been forced by his German agent to change the ending for the German version of the play. Ibsen had to show in it that Nora was taken to her children after her argument with Torvald. She collapsed seeing them and the curtain was brought down. Ibsen was particularly unhappy with the alternate ending and believed it to be disgrace to the original play.

A Doll’s House Henrik Ibsen. Some facts

The play was published first in 1879. It was inspired from the life of one of Ibsen’s friends, Laura Kieler. However, the ending of the play was a subject of debate for many. To some critics it seemed to challenge the traditional roles of men and women in the institution of marriage. However, the alternative ending given in the German version of the play was not successful at all.

Further Reading


Spark Notes

Project Gutenberg