Essay questions and answers on A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
The essays below are mostly in marking scheme format. With points that examiners check.
It should be noted that in an exam situation, essays should be written in prose and not point form as in some of the examples below. In an exam, the "Introduction", "Body" and "Conclusion" titles should not be added in your essays. The examples below just guide on the format that your essays should take.
1. “Women are largely unappreciated for the roles they play in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.” With illustrations, discuss the validity of this statement.
All over the world, women do a lot to people around them but many a time, their roles and service to others around them go unappreciated. Women in the play, A Doll’s House by H. Ibsen do a lot that is not appreciated even by people who are close to them or no one seems to notice what they are doing.
Accept any other relevant introduction 2 marks
Points of interpretation/ Body/ Content
Wi: Christmas decoration
When the play opens, Nora is busy preparing for Christmas. She is secretly adorning the Christmas tree to unveil it as a secret to the family (p.1). During the previous Christmas, we are told that she shut herself up for three weeks making ornaments for Christmas tree. Helmer reveals: “it was the dullest three weeks I ever spent!” (p.8). his confession shows that he did not appreciate what she was doing to ensure that family has a happy Christmas.
Nora gets little money from her husband for daily family use but despite her financial obligation to Krogstad, she affords to buy clothes, gifts and toys for her children and the servants (p. 4). This is a great sacrifice on her part which goes unappreciated by her husband’s trip to Italy for his healing; she repays the loan for long using the pocket money she gets from him (p.21). She hopes that her husband would own up the guilt after discovering the secret about the loan and to prevent him from being blamed for her mistake, she is ready to kill herself once such a wonderful thing occurs. Despite all these sacrifices and selfless acts, her husband does not seem to appreciate her actions for at the end, when he discovers the secret, he refuses to forgive her and quickly makes thoughtless decisions against her. This is a great break of trust, a big betrayal to Nora who has lived all her life trying to please and care for husband.
Mrs. Linde has also done a lot that easily escapes the notice of those around her. She marries a man who is not her choice but is financially stable for the sake of her bedridden mother and two brothers. She says, “My mother was alive then, and was bedridden and helpless, and I had to provide for my two younger brothers; so, I did not think I was justified in refusing his offer” (p.14)
Nora is not appreciated by Helmes for the sacrifices she makes for the family e.g. clothes or Torvald’s health improvement
Linde decides to go back to Krogstad to save his reputation and to try to protect Nora and her family from Krogstad who is determined to expose Nora’s forgery. She wants to work not for herself but for someone else for she tells Krogstad, “Nils, give me someone and something to work for” (p.88). This reveals her selfless nature, an attribute that Krogstad doubts by saying, “I don’t trust that. It is nothing but a woman’s overstrained sense of generosity that prompts you to make such an offer of yourself” (p.88). Linde also plays a great role in helping Nora Navigate the turbulent waters in her marriage and home after her secret gets threatened to be revealed to her husband. She promises to talk to Krogstad, arranges a meeting with him and even reasons that Mr. Helmer should know about the secret to save the marriage (p.90). Despite the fact that all her actions might go unnoticed, it is clear that she has played a great role towards the play’s resolution.
Women should be appreciated for the invaluable and integral roles they play in the society.
Accept any other valid conclusion. (2marks)
2. Women play key roles in the society but more often than not their roles are never recognized. Using illustrations from A Doll's House support this assertion.
Men and women play different roles in the society but more often than not, the roles of women are overlooked as they are only seen as home makers whose area of specialization is child bearing in addition to acting as husband pleasers. This makes men who are considered as providers to be more appreciated than women. However, the reality is that women too play great roles in the society.
Nora is a woman who plays a great role of saving her husband after his illness. The doctor recommends that they go south for some time so that Helmer can get better. The family has no resources to finance such a trip but Nora takes it upon herself to get a loan to finance the trip. Most people, Helmer included, assume that Nora got the money from her father
We see Nora struggling to repay the loan where she tries to save as much as possible from what is given to her by her husband for domestic upkeep. Even when she is asked what she would want as a Christmas present, she asks for money which makes Helmer conclude that she is a spendthrift. Mrs Linde too considers Nora extravagant not knowing the sacrifices she makes to repay the loan. We learn that the previous Christmas, Nora had to lock herself in for days pretending to be doing some crotchetry when in reality she was doing some copying for people in order to get money to repay the loan. This shows that many people do not recognize her role in saving the husband's life.
Mrs Christine Linde is another woman who has played a major role in the well-being of her family yet no one seems to recognize this. We learn that she was forced to sacrifice her love for Krogstad who had nothing to offer her by marrying a rich man that she did not love. She did this so as to provide for her ailing mother and also to support her younger brothers.
After the death of her husband, she engages in odd jobs so as to support her mother and brothers and now that they are dead she feels the need to go slow on her struggles. Ironically people do not appreciate the sacrifice but rather judge her negatively as is insinuated by Norah when he asks her about her dead husband who left her nothing.
Hellen, the maid, is also portrayed as a woman who plays a great role in the society yet her role is not recognized and appreciated. We learn that she was Nora's nanny who is now taking care of Nora's own children. Ironically, she had to leave her daughter behind so as to take care Of Nora. Bringing up someone else's kid is a major sacrifice on her part and she even goes on to take care of Nora's own children. She explains to Nora that she had to do it since she was needy and could not come over with her own child.
Nora, Mrs Linde and Hellen are women who have played major roles especially in regard to providing for their families. Sadly, their roles are not appreciated by anyone. The society should stop looking down upon women and start appreciating the things they do for their families.
3. “Appearances are often misleading.” Validate this statement basing your illustrations from Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.
It is human nature to judge a person from their outlook and not from who someone is from the inside. A well-dressed person, for example may be given special treatment over a shabbily dressed one. The character of a person, however, cannot be judged from how the person appears from the outside. This is well illustrated by Henrik Ibsen in A Doll’s House.
POINTS OF INTERPRETATION
- Nora has an unwavering trust in her husband Helmer. She believes that he really loves her and would come to her defense even when Krogstad publishes information concerning her fraud act. This stems from the way Helmer treats Nora with affection. She is however astonished when Helmer scolds her when he learns of the forgery. He goes ahead to restrict her from involving herself with the children.
- Nora trusts that Christine would put in a word for her and convince Krogstad to recall the letter, unread. This is after Nora had helped Christine secure a job by convincing Helmer to hire her. Once the opportune moment presents itself, Christine asks Krogstad not to recall the letter so that Helmer can read and know what ails the family. This results to disintegration of Helmer’s marriage.
- The marriage between Nora and Torvald Helmer looks perfect yet it is not. Helmer refers to Nora using affectionate pet names and spoils her by giving her more money. He believes that Nora is perfect and could not hide secrets from her yet Nora is hiding the secret of the borrowed loan. Actually, Helmer knows that Nora took money from her father yet she took it from Krogstad and forged her father’s name in order to get the money.
- Nora seems like a spendthrift and a spoilt wife yet she works tirelessly. Both Christine and Torvald accuse Nora of being inexperienced and a spendthrift. She discloses to Christine that she does copy work and has to scrape off every penny in order for her to repay Krogstad. She spent sleepless nights the previous Christmas in order to make ornaments to decorate the Christmas tree.
In conclusion, it is true to say that a book should not be judged by its cover.
4. “Desperate situations call for desperate measures.” Referring closely to A Doll’s House, write an essay in support of this statement.
- Nora becomes desperate when she is informed by the doctors that her husband is very ill and needs to go to Italy for a year to recover yet they have no money. She takes a loan with Krogstad, an individual of questionable character who blackmails her later.
- Nora becomes desperate again when her husband fires Krogstad yet the latter threatens to expose both Nora and Helmer on the matter of Nora’s forgery. This leads Nora to plan for suicide to save her husband.
- Krogstad is desperate to regain his reputation which won’t happen if he is fired. He blackmails Nora to try and secure his position in the bank.
- Linde forfeits her relationship with the person she loves because he is penniless. This is because her mother is very sick and there are two younger brothers to fend for. Mrs. Linde marries a rich man to take care of herself, her mother and her brothers.
- Nora has to work in secret to get money to repay the loan from Krogstad. Out of desperation, she has to sacrifice any money due to her for her personal needs to pay both instalments and interest.
Accept any other valid points.
Mark any 4 points
3:3:3:3 =12 marks
Introduction: 2 marks
Conclusion: 2 marks
Language competence: 4 marks
5. Women in A Doll’s House challenge society’s perception of the female gender. Write an essay justifying the assertion. (20 marks)
- In A Doll’s House, Nora, Linde and Hellene, outstrip the accepted social practices of the time by promoting women empowerment. (Any other relevant introduction)
Points of interpretation
The candidates should describe the event, the character involved and the background to the event as well as pointing out how the traditional role of women is challenged.
- W1: Nora secures a loan so as to take Helmer to Italy for treatment.
- W2: Hellene finds a job as a nanny so as to care for her child.
- W3: Mrs. Linde finds a job so as to care for herself and is supportive of her siblings and mother.
- W4: Nora decides to leave her husband and children and refuses to submit to her submissive role.
- In conclusion, the female characters challenges the stereotype afforded to women living in a male-dominated society. (Any suitable conclusion)
6. The society presented in the play, A Doll’s House, is rotten! Using Nora, Torvald, Dr. Rank and Krogstad, discuss the truthfulness of this statement in reference to the aforementioned play. (20mks)
Isben’s A Dolls House shows how this society is corrupt. Many characters are involved in one ways or the other with morally unacceptable behavior.
To begin with, Nora forges her father’s signature to secure a loan when her husband got ill and could not raise the required amount for his treatment, Nora decided to take matter into her own hands. She went to borrow money from the bank(Krogstad) in the process Nora had to have some written documents to her to secure the loan. She then decided to forge her father’s signature which later come to haunt her.
Secondly, Kregstad forging someone’s name to illegally get access to his money. As an employee of the bank, he took advantage of his position to exploit his clients. His act was later reveled and he was to face the law (punishment) but got himself out of it through corrupt ways. “…but Krogstad did nothing of that sort; he got himself out of it by a cunning trick, and that is why he has gone under altogether …”pg 46.
Moreover, Dr. Rank secretly admiring Norah despite knowing that she’s a wife to Torvald his close friend. Dr. Rank still wants to have an affair with her. He feels Nora should be in his company as much as she is in Torvald’s. This clearly shows the level of rot that is portrayed in this society. When Nora tells him that she is certain that Torvald would willingly give his life for her. Rank interjects and says that it’s not Torvald only who can do that. This insicuates that he’s willing to do anything for her because of what he feels for her.
“…do you think he’s the only one who would gladly give his life for your sake? I was determined you should know before I went away …”pg 68
Finally, Torvald giving Mrs. Linde a job at the bank, he uses his position as the manager of the bank. He uses his position as the manager of the bank to offer Mrs. Linde a job illegally without any due process followed as a public institution, we expect that after the position Krogstad was holding fell vacant after his dismissal, the due process of recruitment and interviews were to follow. This didn’t happen. Instead, Torvald just offered it directly in his house to Mrs. Linde. This is being corrupt and illegal use of the one’s position and power.
Pg 58 “… it is his/Krogstad’s post that I have arranged Mrs. Linde shall have …”
In conclusion, it is clear that corruption runs in the veins of most characters in this play for us to achieve a corrupt free society, the root causes of corruption should be identified and addressed promptly.
7. Women are generally loving and self- sacrificing. Validate this statement basing your illustrations on the play ‘A Doll’s House’ by Henrik Ibsen (20mks)
In today’s society, a person who claims to love you or really concerned about you would go to any level to show how much they care. Nora and Mrs. Linde clearly brings out this in the plays, A Doll”s House.
Nora, proves her true love and concern when she risks by forging her father’s signature in order to acquire money for the sake of her husband’s health. She goes against societal expectations and provides financial support to Helmer when he fell ill and takes him to Italy to recover. This clearly portrays her love towards her husband.
Nora sacrifices her comfort, a good and comfortable life and good clothes too in order to look for money and save as much as she can to pay the loan. She does odd jobs like embroidery and crocheting, she also saves some money given by Torvald and buys herself cheap and simple clothes with an aim of saving for the payment of the loan. Torvald also reminds her how she shut herself up for three weeks during the last Christmas Holiday making ornaments. This clearly portrays her love and sacrifice for her family.
Mrs. Linde also sacrifices her happiness when she abandons Krogstad whom she really loved for a richer man. She did this in order to get money to take care of her sick mother and younger siblings. Later on the old man dies leaving her Childless, poor and lonely. This is real sacrifice for the sake of love.
Christine Linde also sacrifices her honour and pride when she approaches Krogstad and apologies to him for her actions. She explains her reason for leaving him and asks him if they can come together as she feels empty and has no one to mourn for and no one to care for. Krogstad accept their proposal. This clearly brings Linde as a selfless person who is able to sacrifice for the sake of love and concern.
Ann sacrifices her comfort in order to take of Nora and later Nora’s Children. Anne leaves her own daughter behind and moves in with Nora’s family to become Nora’s nurse. Nora had no mother and Ann fitted in the gap with lots of love. Even Nora wonders how Ann had the heart to give up raising her own child in order to work but it is clear that Anne had to make this sacrifice in order to fend for her own family. She gladly takes care of Nora’s children and contends herself with letters from her daughter on important occasions such as her wedding.
In conclusion, it is clear that a person who loves and is concerned about another becomes selfless and goes to any extent to prove this as brought out in the essay.
8. Using illustrations from the ‘A Doll’s House’ by Henrik Ibsen, Show how lies and deceit are exposed in the play (20mks)
Whenever people find themselves in a difficult situation, they use lies to cover up for their actions. This is clearly potrayed by Henrik Ibsen in his play ‘A Doll’s House’.
As the play begins, Nora behaves like an obedient and honest wife. However, this is not her real character.
She does not want to reveal to her husband that she had loaned money from Krogstamnd to facilitate their trip to Italy.
Krogstad deceit is exposed. He commits a forgery. This act of deceit destroys his reputation that he fins it difficult to get employed.
Dr. Rank also comes out as deceitful and dishonest. He has been deceiving both Nora and Torrald for years about the depth of the depth of his feeling for Nora. Only when she attempts to seek his financial help does Nora finally see beneath the surface to the doctor’s real feelings. He has been lusting for his best friend’s wife all those years.
Torrald, who has been deceived throughout most of the play, is finally revealed in the final act to be the one most guilty of deception. He has deceived Nora into believing that he loved and cherished her, while all the while he had regarded her as little more property.
(Mark any other well illustrated point)
9. The past always catches up with the present, sometimes with some unintended consequences. Using the play, A Doll's House, explain this statement.
The choices that we made in the past have consequences that show up in our present lives, sometimes, influencing it negatively.
Nora Helmer made a choice in her first year of marriage that later leads to the breakdown of something for which she had worked so hard and persevered a lot of humiliation to preserve. It was a choice she had made out of her great love for her husband. Torvald Helmer was seriously sick because of overwork and the doctors had recommended that he takes a holiday in the warmer climes in Italy. Nora tried giving hints to make him get a loan for the trip and eventually told him to get it, but he would hear none of it In this society, only men could get loans with minimal obstacles. Nora takes a loan of 250 pounds to save her husband. The loan is given by Krogstad who gives almost 'impossible conditions' and Ann has to forge not only her father's name but also his signature. Three days after the loan was extended, her father dies.
She patiently repays the loan for eight years. She has to skim some household expenses, work long hours on her knitting and get a copy typist work to put together enough to repay the loan and also keep her home running. By 'good luck', her husband gets a job at a bank as a manager. Krogstad is also employed in the same bank. In a twist of fate, Krogstad engages himself in some indiscretion, forgery, and in Helmer's housecleaning task, the first assignment is to get rid of Krogstad as he cannot work with the likes of him. Krogstad blackmails Nora to plead his case to keep his job or else he reveals her past indiscretion. But there are some complications. First, Mrs. Linde, an old school friend of Nora, and a girlfriend to Krogstad has requested for the job through
Nora, and it has been given. In any case, Nora's guiles and white lies will not sway Helmer who has even written a dismissal letter.
Matters go from bad to worse. Krogstad relents about the letter and tries to retrieve it. This is after they have had a discussion with his old girlfriend Mrs. Linde, and made up. Mrs. Linde is of the opinion that the letter should be read to end the lies and the hypocrisy in the house. Though apparently Krogstad tried to retrieve the letter from the mailbox, he did not succeed, Helmer discovers the secret the wife has kept hidden for years. He is upset that his image in the society will suffer a battering due to his wife's thoughtless actions. Ironically, he does not even pause to ask why she had done it in the first place. In his estimation, his wife should not even be a mother. She will contaminate the children, a belief current in the society that vices among parents destroy the children eventually. He does not even contemplate living as man and wife with such a contaminated wife and tells her that they can only live as brother and sister for appearance's sake.
Nora is upset. She feels betrayed that this is what her husband feels. In fact, she is disappointed because he does not even take the burden of her shame, or even try to understand. His cruel judgment is devastating considering that she did it for him. She has always tolerated his openly condescending attitude towards her, petting her with the diminutive little this or that, reducing her to a play thing, a doll. She was Little Squirrel, Little Skylark, Little Doll, terms degrading whatever the intention. She has always lived in his shadow in accordance with social expectations.
Helmer 'offers' her a lifeline, and 'forgives' her for her treachery. The chutzpah of the man is truly unbelievable. Nora has had enough of the marriage and she feels she is not the woman for the patronizing and utterly insensitive Helmer. She will no longer be a pet, a doll for him or the society to play with and she is walking out of the marriage to go and rediscover herself. NO pleading or even appeal to her religion or conscience is going to change her.
Thus, we can conclude that our present circumstances are usually the consequences of the choices we have made in our paste Nora made a decision out of a deep love for her husband, not to lose him, but ironically the decision comes back to split them up. The marriage she sought to preserve is broken up. The consoling grace though, is that she comes to realize the kind Of man.
10. A marriage founded on falsehood and secrets is bound to fall apart. To what extent do you agree with the statement? Draw your illustrations from the play A Doll's House
Marriage should be founded on mutual trust between the wife and husband. Any sort of secret or insincerity between them is bound to bring irreparable damage to the marriage once the truth comes in.
Nora has many secrets and falsehoods that she keeps behind her husband. She secretly borrows a loan from Krogstad to fund her husband's trip to Italy for his recovery. She has kept this matter a secret from him for eight years and is not ready to reveal it to him any time soon. The secret is finally revealed when Krogstad writes a letter to her husband that exposes the forgery. Helmer reacts angrily to this discovery and Nora angry that he does not understand her, decides to walk out of the marriage.
Nora also is not sincere on how she uses the money she gets from Krogstad. She saves most of it to repay Krogstad's loan. She says that she has survived on cheap clothes and also keeps borrowing money from him to service the loan. All this is discovered at the end of the play. They react differently to the discovery making their marriages to break.
Nora cheats Krogstad that there was nobody who had visited him when he was way while Krogstad has just left the room where he had been pleading with her to speak to
her husband to prevent the sack. As she cheats him thus, her husband has just met with him as he leaves the house. Nora's speaking to Krogstad and refusing to admit it reveals a very serious weakness in the marriage. It shows mistrust and underscores the dark secrets that Nora has been keeping behind her husband. Finally, some of these actions contribute to the dissolution of the marriage.
Nora cheats her husband that she has forgotten the dance practice and dances poorly so that she can compel her husband to help her practice. The truth is that she has not forgotten how to dance but wants to buy time so that her husband cannot open the letter box. She and Christine have agreed to keep him as much as possible from his letters so that she can speak to Krogstad first. Nora instead should just be open with her husband and tell him the truth. She increases tension in their marriage and is the one who suffers most. Finally, the truth comes out and the marriage breaks.
It is important for a couple to be sincere with each other no matter the seriousness of the matter. This can help prevent far-reaching damage to their marriage.
Further Essays to help in understanding the Play.
- How could the submissive, selfish and silly Nora of the first two acts transform herself into an independent woman by the end of the last act? Is the transformation realistic?
While Nora puts on a convincing performance of being a submissive, selfish and foolish woman during the first act, there are early signs that this is not the real her. When she asks Torvald for more money despite having just been on a spending spree, she appears selfish and grasping. But we soon discover, in her conversation with Mrs Linde, that she is not squandering the money to satisfy her own desires, but using it to pay off the loan she took out in order to save her husband's life. In doing so, she has denied herself new things so that her husband and children can have all they need. Her arranging the loan and the trip to Italy - and her subsequent careful management of money and of her secret - show an astonishing strength of character. In addition, she secretly takes jobs to pay off the loan, a step towards the independence she finally embraces. But in the first two acts, Nora does not dare to acknowledge her own strength, let alone use it. There are many reasons for this. Chief among them are that her beloved Torvald, and society in general, would not comfortably countenance such strength in a woman. So it is easier for Nora to keep her head below the parapet rather than risk the consequences of showing herself as she is.
Nora's submissiveness to Torvald is not all it seems. By playing the doll-child according to his wishes, she manipulates him into the role of indulgent father-figure. But in spite of her skill at 'managing' him, there is one instance in which she desperately wants him to adopt the manly and dominant role: she wants him to rescue her from the ruin caused by Krogstad's revelations. When he fails to provide the strength she needs, she realizes that she no longer loves him, as he is not the man she thought him. It is almost inevitable that she is forced to find that strength within herself. Her realization that she wants to pursue her independence is not so much a transformation as an awakening to a strength she has possessed all along.
- In what way does A Doll's House explore social issues?
A Doll's House shines a searchlight on Victorian society, drawing attention to its hypocrisy and use of public opinion to suppress individuality. The critic Bjorn Hemmer, in an essay in The Cambridge Companion to Ibsen, wrote: "The people who live in such a society know the weight of 'public opinion' and of all those agencies which keep watch over society's 'law and order': the norms, the conventions and the traditions which in essence belong to the past but which continue into the present and there thwart individual liberty in a variety of ways."
Torvald lives by society's norms, and when faced with a choice of whether to support his wife or society, he sides with society. When he realizes that she has broken the law in forging her father's signature on the loan document, he never questions the morality of such a law: it is left to Nora to do that. His aim is to preserve the appearance of respectability and ensure his continued acceptance in society. He has become so shaped by society's conventions that he cannot see his wife's suffering. In The Cambridge Companion to Ibsen, Gail Finney writes that in Ibsen's own notes for this play, he notes that a mother in modern society is "like certain insects who go away and die when she has done her duty in the propagation of the race." This view is confirmed by Torvald's rejection of Nora when he discovers her secret; he says she is not fit to bring up their children if her reputation is tarnished. For Torvald, public life has obscured and overtaken private self. In order to find out who she is and what she wants, Nora has to reject the life that society prescribes for her as a wife and mother, and strike out on her own. "I am going to see," she tells Torvald in Act 3, "who is right, the world or I."
But this is not simple. The nineteenth century saw a huge shift from the old social order of self-improvement within a stable rural society to a new social order founded on money. But women at the time could not control money without the authority of the man who 'owned' them, be it husband, brother or father. Single and lone women like Mrs Linde had more control over their lives and money than married women, who were discouraged from taking jobs and had to surrender money matters to their husbands. But as Mrs Linde's story shows, having no male 'provider' brought its own problems.
In sum, women had little power. Power lay with people like Torvald, who is a banker and lawyer. Torvald is able to dictate the fate not only of his family but of Mrs Linde (by giving her a job) and Krogstad (by giving away his job). He is gratified by the prospect of sacking Krogstad because he disapproves of his morality. In effect, the Torvalds of this world defined morality. As we have seen with regard to Nora's crime, they also defined the law, and therefore, who was a criminal. It is worth noting that Ibsen based the episode of Nora's forgery on a similar 'crime' committed by a female friend of his, which ended tragically for her, so he was drawing attention to what he saw as a genuine social problem. He supported economic reform that would protect women's property and befriended European feminists.
Other social issues addressed in the play include how women should be educated, both for the responsibilities of family and for self-fulfillment; the right of women to define their role in the family and society; the degrading effects of poverty on self-fulfillment (as with Mrs Linde and the Nurse); and the scourge of venereal disease (as suffered by Dr Rank).
- How do different characters use the words "free" and "freedom"? How does the use of these words change throughout the play?
It is Torvald who introduces the concept of freedom in the play, claiming that "There can be no freedom or beauty about a home life that depends on borrowing and debt." He defines freedom in economic terms, as befits an age where power depended upon money. He is also adopting society's values, as debt was disapproved of and considered a sign of moral degeneracy. The dramatic irony behind his words lies in the fact that Torvald would not have any life at all if his wife had not gone into debt, though he does not realize this.
Like Torvald, Krogstad sees freedom as moral respectability in the eyes of society. His job at the bank is the means by which he will "cut [himself] free" from the stigma of his "indiscretion" of forgery. The problem with this approach is that his "freedom" depends upon the whim of his employer, who also sits in moral judgment on him and can withdraw his job if he finds that he falls short in that respect.
Mrs Linde feels proud that by working hard, she was able to support her brothers and mother, and "I was privileged to make the end of my mother's life almost free from care." Like Torvald, she is defining freedom in economic terms. But she is operating at a lower economic level than he is. She is talking of being able to provide the necessities of life, whereas he is talking of the relative luxury of being free from debt.
In Act 1, Nora is delighted that soon she will have paid off her debt to Krogstad and will be "free from care, quite free from care; to be able to play and romp with the children; to be able to keep the house beautifully and have everything just as Torvald likes it!" At this point, she defines her freedom in terms of the very things that (as she later realizes) restrict her: her role as a submissive wife and mother.
By the end of Act 2, Krogstad's letter revealing Nora's debt and forgery of her father's signature is sitting in Torvald's letterbox. Nora, who fears yet hopes that Torvald will shield her by taking the entire blame upon himself, means to disappear or commit suicide, thereby saving him from disgrace. She tells him: "Then you will be free." Thus Torvald will maintain his respectability by means of Nora's obliterating herself from his world.
At the end of the play, Nora has been awakened to Torvald's narrow-mindedness and no longer sees freedom in terms of bondage to him or obliteration of herself. On the contrary, she defines freedom for herself and Torvald as complete independence from each other, as she leaves the marriage to forge a new life for herself: "I set you free from all your obligations. You are not to feel yourself bound in the slightest way, any more than I shall. There must be perfect freedom on both sides."
- Compare Torvald’s and Nora’s attitudes toward money.
Torvald and Nora’s first conversation establishes Torvald as the member of the household who makes and controls the money and Nora as the one who spends it. Torvald repeatedly teases Nora about her spending, and at one point Mrs. Linde points out that Nora was a big spender in her younger days. These initial comments paint Nora as a shallow woman who is overly concerned with -material delights. Yet Nora’s generous tip to the porter in the play’s opening scene shows that she is not a selfish woman. More important, once the secret of Nora’s loan is made known to the audience, we see that Nora’s interest in money stems more from her concern for her family’s welfare than from petty desires. We realize that the excitement she has expressed over Torvald’s new, well-paying job results from the fact that more spending money means she can finally pay off her debt to Krogstad.
While Torvald seems less enthralled by money because he doesn’t talk about it except to chastise Nora for her spending, he is obsessed with having a beautiful home, including a beautiful wife. He considers these things important to his reputation, and keeping up this reputation requires money. Although Torvald accuses Nora of wasting money, Nora spends her money mostly on worthy causes, whereas Torvald uses his for selfish, shallow purposes.
- Why does Torvald constantly reprimand Nora for her wastefulness and foolishness while simultaneously supporting her behavior? What insight does this contradiction give us into Torvald and Nora’s relationship?
Torvald perceives Nora as a foolish woman who is ignorant of the way society works, but he likes Nora’s foolishness and ignorance because they render her helpless and therefore dependent on him. It soon becomes clear to us that Nora’s dependence, not Torvald’s love for Nora as a person, forms the foundation of Torvald’s affection for her. In Act One, Torvald teases Nora about wasting money but then tries to please her by graciously giving her more. Similarly, he points out her faults but then says he doesn’t want her to change a bit. He clearly enjoys keeping Nora in a position where she cannot function in the world without him, even if it means that she remains foolish.
In general, Torvald disapproves of any kind of change in Nora’s constant, obedient demeanor because he needs to control her behavior. When Nora begins to dance the tarantella wildly in Act Two, he is unsettled. In Act One, Nora says that it would humiliate Torvald if he knew he was secretly in debt to her for his life, indicating that Torvald wants the power in his marriage to be one-sided rather than mutual.
- Compare and contrast Mrs. Linde and Nora at the end of the play.
By the end of Act Three, both Nora and Mrs. Linde have entered new phases in their lives. Nora has chosen to abandon her children and her husband because she wants independence from her roles as mother and wife. In contrast, Mrs. Linde has chosen to abandon her independence to marry Krogstad and take care of his family. She likes having people depend on her, and independence does not seem to fulfill her. Despite their apparent opposition, both Nora’s and Mrs. Linde’s decisions allow them to fulfill their respective personal desires. They have both chosen their own fates, freely and without male influence. Ibsen seems to feel that the nature of their choices is not as important as the fact that both women make the choices themselves.
- Using specific examples, discuss how Ibsen's "progress from one work to the other" is due to a "perpetual scrutiny of the same general questions regarded from different points of view."
- Do you feel that Ibsen's drama is "dated"? To defend your view, cite dramatic themes in these plays which you consider to be universal, or limited in scope.
- Show how the first act forewarns the audience of almost all the forthcoming events in the rest of the drama.
- Point out some instances where Ibsen is able to "externalize" inner problems by using effective symbols.
- At least one character in each play prefers an imaginary view of life to a realistic viewpoint. With this in mind, discuss the life-view of Torvald Helmer.
- In what ways does the vocation of Torvald Helmer provide additional insight into his character?
- Devise an alternative ending for A Doll's House, trying not to violate Ibsen's dramatic thesis. Defend either your new conclusion or the inviolability of Ibsen's original ending.
- Explain the symbolic significance of hereditary disease in A Doll's House.
- Do today's women face the same sort of barriers that women did in Nora's time?
- In what ways is Torvald caged by societal expectations? What about the other men in the play? Krogstad? Dr. Rank?
- What is important about the title? Who is the "doll" Ibsen refers to?
- Who is the more significant female character in terms of plot development, Nora or Kristine? Explain your answer.
- Do you think Kristine's decision not to prevent Krogstad from revealing the truth to Torvald is a betrayal of Nora? Does this act ultimately hurt or benefit Nora?
- How does Henrik Ibsen reveal character in A Doll's House? Is Nora a sympathetic character? Did your opinion of Nora change from the beginning of the play to its conclusion
- Does the play end the way you expected? Do you think this was a happy ending?
- A Doll's House is generally considered a feminist work. Do you agree with this characterization? Why or why not?
- How essential is the setting, both in terms of time period and location? Could the play have taken place anywhere else? Would the final outcome have had the same impact if A Doll's House had been set in the present day? Why or why not?
- Knowing that the plot is based on a series of events that happened to a female friend of Ibsen's, did it bother you that he used Laura Kieler's story without it benefiting her?
- Which actress would you cast as Nora if you were to stage a production of A Doll's House? Who would play Torvald? Why is the choice of actor important to the role? Explain your choices.