- Character List
- Analysis of Major Characters
The protagonist of the play and the wife of Torvald Helmer. Nora initially seems like a playful, naïve child who lacks knowledge of the world outside her home. She does have some worldly experience, however, and the small acts of rebellion in which she engages indicate that she is not as innocent or happy as she appears. She comes to see her position in her marriage with increasing clarity and finds the strength to free herself from her oppressive situation.
Nora’s husband. Torvald delights in his new position at the bank, just as he delights in his position of authority as a husband. He treats Nora like a child, in a manner that is both kind and patronizing. He does not view Nora as an equal but rather as a plaything or doll to be teased and admired. In general, Torvald is overly concerned with his place and status in society, and he allows his emotions to be swayed heavily by the prospect of society’s respect and the fear of society’s scorn.
A lawyer who went to school with Torvald and holds a subordinate position at Torvald’s bank. Krogstad’s character is contradictory: though his bad deeds seem to stem from a desire to protect his children from scorn, he is perfectly willing to use unethical tactics to achieve his goals. His willingness to allow Nora to suffer is despicable, but his claims to feel sympathy for her and the hard circumstances of his own life compel us to sympathize with him to some degree.
Nora’s childhood friend. Kristine Linde is a practical, down-to-earth woman, and her sensible worldview highlights Nora’s somewhat childlike outlook on life. Mrs. Linde’s account of her life of poverty underscores the privileged nature of the life that Nora leads. Also, we learn that Mrs. Linde took responsibility for her sick parent, whereas Nora abandoned her father when he was ill.
Torvald’s best friend. Dr. Rank stands out as the one character in the play who is by and large unconcerned with what others think of him. He is also notable for his stoic acceptance of his fate. Unlike Torvald and Nora, Dr. Rank admits to the diseased nature (literally, in his case) of his life. For the most part, he avoids talking to Torvald about his imminent death out of respect for Torvald’s distaste for ugliness.
Nora and Torvald’s three small children. In her brief interaction with her children, Nora shows herself to be a loving mother. When she later refuses to spend time with her children because she fears she may morally corrupt them, Nora acts on her belief that the quality of parenting strongly influences a child’s development.
The Helmers’ nanny. Though Ibsen doesn’t fully develop her character, Anne-Marie seems to be a kindly woman who has genuine affection for Nora. She had to give up her own daughter in order to take the nursing job offered by Nora’s father. Thus, she shares with Nora and Mrs. Linde the act of sacrificing her own happiness out of economic necessity.
Though Nora’s father is dead before the action of the play begins, the characters refer to him throughout the play. Though she clearly loves and admires her father, Nora also comes to blame him for contributing to her subservient position in life.
At the beginning of A Doll’s House, Nora seems completely happy. She responds affectionately to Torvald’s teasing, speaks with excitement about the extra money his new job will provide, and takes pleasure in the company of her children and friends. She does not seem to mind her doll-like existence, in which she is coddled, pampered, and patronized.
As the play progresses, Nora reveals that she is not just a “silly girl,” as Torvald calls her. That she understands the business details related to the debt she incurred taking out a loan to preserve Torvald’s health indicates that she is intelligent and possesses capacities beyond mere wifehood. Her description of her years of secret labor undertaken to pay off her debt shows her fierce determination and ambition. Additionally, the fact that she was willing to break the law in order to ensure Torvald’s health shows her courage.
Krogstad’s blackmail and the trauma that follows do not change Nora’s nature; they open her eyes to her unfulfilled and underappreciated potential. “I have been performing tricks for you, Torvald,” she says during her climactic confrontation with him. Nora comes to realize that in addition to her literal dancing and singing tricks, she has been putting on a show throughout her marriage. She has pretended to be someone she is not in order to fulfill the role that Torvald, her father, and society at large have expected of her.