A Doll's House is a play written by Henrik Ibsen in 1879. It is Christmas Eve and Nora Helmer has bought a tree and is decorating it after she comes in from holiday shopping. Torvald, her husband, is a banker and per usual he is working in his study. The Helmer’s have three children, their role becomes significant by the end of the play. The relationship between Nora and Torvald is immature and inappropriate. He treats her as if she were one of his children instead of his wife. He is very controlling but reassures Nora by giving her pet names and constant affection. Their relationship proves to fall into the “bad” side of love when Nora’s secret is revealed and leaves her husband and children to discover herself. (Delbanco and Cheuss pg 1345-1392)
The relationship between Christine Linde (a good friend of Nora’s) and Mr. Krogstad (an employee of Torvald’s and the man that Nora owes money) falls into the “bad” side of love in the beginning of the play but transitions into “good” love by the end. They are able to rekindle feelings from the past and thus forgive and forget.
In the opening scene, the impression noted is that of a loving home on Christmas Eve. He welcomes her home from shopping by saying “Is that my little lark twittering out there?/ Is it my little squirrel bustling about” (Ibsen, Henrik, pg 1346)? Nora is very excited to share with her husband the things that she has bought, however he is preoccupied with his work and how much money she has spent. Nora with her childish attitude is not bothered by the monies spent. She knows that by acting like a “little squirrel” she is likely to get whatever she wants, especially now that Torvald has a good job at the bank and they are financially secure.
The inappropriate relationship between Nora and Torvald continues to unfold. Torvald is simply a control freak. Not only does Nora obey his every command , she is not allowed to eat sweets. His rationale for this is it will cause her teeth to rot. Yet again he is treating her as if she were a child, thus Nora responds as any child would by sneaking around eating macaroons. This is obviously an extremely unhealthy relationship but at this time Nora chooses to ignore it. However, later in the play Nora compares her marriage to her childhood in a conversation she has with Dr. Rank (Torald’s physician and a close friend of the family). Dr. Rank listens to every word spoken by Nora because he is secretly in love with her. Nora explains to him that there are those that you love and those that you love best and wish to spend your time with. She loved her father but she did not enjoy spending time with him because he treated her like a doll as does Torvald. She informs Dr. Rank that she enjoys his company over her husband’s because he treats her as a woman should be treated.
In Act Three, Nora and Torvald are going to a dance. Nora has practiced the Tarantella for her husband over and over until he is satisfied with her performance. He looks upon her with lust as she performs at the dance and forces her to leave the party with him early. He wishes to be alone with her but Dr. Rank interrupts their rendezvous with a surprise visit. He is telling them good-bye before he dies which changes the mood for the evening. When Dr. Rank leaves Torvald is tired and bids Nora good night as well. Torvald is in his room going through the letters he found in the letter box. He reads the letter from Krogstad that contains information regarding Nora’s secret. Immediately his attitude and feelings change for his wife. He is screaming at her “All these eight years-she who was my joy and pride-a hypocrite, a liar-worse, worse-a criminal" ( Ibsen,pg 1386)! He goes on to tell her that she has destroyed his happiness and ruined his business future. His resolution is to have her remain in the house but not be allowed to be involved in the children’s lives so that is looks as if everything were normal to the outside world. Soon after Torvald’s verbal lashing another letter is delivered to the house. This letter is also written by Krogstad. He is redeeming Nora from the balance owed and does not wish any harm to Torvald’s business. This news completely changes Torvald’s attitude toward Nora and he thinks that all is well. Nora accepts his apology but quickly lets him know that all is not well. She realizes in the few minutes that it took for Torvald to change his demeanor that her marriage is over and she does not love him. Nora finally understands that the last eight years with Torvald has been exactly like living with her father only she has been her husband’s doll. She does agree with her husband that she is not fit to be a mother anymore. She informs him that she is leaving to pursue a life for herself and she is no longer under his control. Nora has allowed herself to be treated as a doll all of her life. First by her father and then in her marriage. It is Nora’s fault that her marriage was a failure and that she felt she had to leave her husband and her children.
The role of Christine and Krogstad proves to be life changing for all involved. Christine wants to help her friend but at the same time she urges Nora to tell Torvald about the secret that she has worked so hard to keep from him. As soon as Christine and Krogstad meet they both immediately recognize one another from the past. Christine tells Nora that she will go and talk to Krogstad to try and change his mind about sending the revealing letter to Torvald. However, Christine has a plan of her own. She feels that it is necessary for the sake of the Helmer’s marriage for the secret to come out. She is not going to see Krogstad on Nora’s behalf but for herself. Christine and Krogstad were once in love but Christine left him and married another. She did not love the man she married but he was financially able support her while she cared for her sick mother and her brothers. Christine explained this to Krogstad urging him to give her another chance. Krogstad is happy to receive her back into his life and decides to defer the balance that Nora owes him. The love between Krogstad and Christine was always a “good” love but Christine felt she was obligated to care for her sick mother and raise her three brothers. Therefore, she sacrificed her happiness to care for her family. Luckily, they were able to find their way back to one another and “good” loved prevailed.
Nora was a spoiled, childish woman. She allowed her husband to treat her in the same manner that her father did. After eight years her secret is revealed to her husband and he treats her exactly the way she thought he would if he ever found out. He blames her for the destruction of his business reputation, calls her stupid, and tells her that she will not be allowed to be involved in the lives of the three children. However, he changes his mind quickly when he learns that Krogstad decides to return the bond and not pursue damaging his business reputation. Nora realizes that she has let herself be treated like a doll and feels that she has to leave her husband and her children which proves “bad love”. On the contrary, “good” love is proven by the renewing of the relationship between Krogstad and Christine. They were apart for many years but now they are together again and can live happily ever after.
Delbanco, Nicholas and Cheuss, Alan. “Literature Craft and Voice Second Edition”, N.p. Web 30 Sept 2013. Pages 1345-1392.