A Doll's House: A Study Guide II

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A Doll's House: A Study Guide II Empty A Doll's House: A Study Guide II

Post by Rachid Amri on Sun Feb 24, 2008 4:37 pm

Torvald Helmer Lawyer who accepts a job as a bank manager with a substantial salary. He treats his wife like a plaything–a doll, for example–calling her pet names and occasionally scolding her as if she were a child. His primary interests are his work and his social standing. When he learns that his wife is involved in a legal problem that would embarrass him if it became known to the public, he reveals who he really is–a hypocrite preoccupied with his own welfare.
Nora Helmer Torvald’s wife. She is a bit of a spendthrift, a fault to which her husband frequently calls attention. She accepts his criticism on this and other matters and generally submits to his will on day-to-day decision-making until he shocks her with an angry outburst revealing that he is not the man she thought she married. She then makes an important decision of her own.
Nils Krogstad Employee of Torvald’s bank whom Torvald plans to fire because of an incident involving forgery. To save his job, Krogstad threatens to reveal the details of the legal problem involving Nora.
Dr. Rank Frequent visitor at the Torvald residence. He is terminally ill. Dr. Rank enjoys Nora’s company and reveals a secret to her when he believes he is on the brink of death.
Mrs. Kristine Linde Acquaintance of Nora who married for the wrong reasons. When she attempts to help Nora with her legal problem, she pleads with Krogstad and reveals that he was the man she wanted to marry.
Torvald Children The three children of Torvald and Nora who appear in the drama when Nora plays with them. They are not named. Their significance lies in what will happen to them after Nora makes her important decision in the final act.
Anne Marie The children’s nanny.
Helene Maid in the Torvald household.
Porter Man who receives a tip from Nora when he carries a Christmas tree and a basket into her home. His tip symbolizes Nora’s spendthrift ways.
The play is set in Norway in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Torvald Helmer during the Christmas season in the late 1800's. All the action takes place in a single room in the Torvald household. However, in many respects, this room is the world, a microcosm representing every culture suffering from the same types of social malaise present in the Torvald household.
Type of Work and Year of Publication
A Doll's House is a realistic stage drama in three acts. It depicts ordinary life as it is, not as one would like it to be. A Doll's House is sometimes referred to as a problem play because it centers on social problems and controversial issues. Examples of other problem plays by Ibsen are The Wild Duck, An Enemy of the People, and Ghosts. The play was published in 187982 and staged for the first time in Kristiania (or Christiana), Norway. , when realism was just beginning to take root.
Language: Dano-Norwegian
Ibsen wrote the play in Dano-Norwegian, a mixture of the Danish language and Norwegian dialects. Dano-Norwegian evolved from Danish while Norway was a province of Denmark. Although Norway gained its independence in 1814, Norwegians continued to speak and write in Dano-Norwegian, also known as Riksmål. Beginning in the middle of the 19th Century, Norway began developing a new Norwegian language, Landsmål (the language of the land or country), free of Danish influence. Meanwhile, Riksmål developed further and eventually became known as Bokmål, the language of books. Today both varieties of Norwegian are written and spoken in Norway. The Dano-Norwegian of Ibsen is simple, concise, to the point. However, it takes a talented translator to capture the subtleties of the language and the nuances written into the dialogue of The Doll's House. Therefore, English-speaking students of Ibsen should choose their translations carefully. One highly respected Ibsen translator was William Archer (1856-1924), a Scottish-born London journalist, drama critic, and playwright who translated many of Ibsen's works, including A Doll's House. The 1889 translation helped popularize the play in the English-speaking world.
Because Ibsen wanted to make his plays uncompromisingly realistic, he wrote the dialogue in simple, everday, middle-class language rather than elegant, lofty, or trope-laden language characteristic of romantic plays. But in mimicking vernacular speech, he chose and arranged his words carefully; every word and every sentence counted. Thus, the dialogue in A Doll's House is spartan but powerful; little by little, it bares the human psyche. In addition, virtually every object in the play–the Christmas tree, Nora's clothing, the money she gives the porter–has meaning; they are symbols underscoring Ibsen's theme. For more information about the symbolism in the play, see "Symbols," below.
The Ibsen Stage
In keeping with his realistic plots and dialogue, Ibsen's stage sets resembled the furnishings of everyday life. There were no elegant foyers or salons with exotic plants or oriental rugs; there were only ordinary rooms of ordinary middle-class folk. On the Ibsen stage, actors did not embellish their lines with broad flourishes of a hand or other exaggerated body movements. They became ordinary people going about their ordinary lives. The proscenium arch was important, however. This arch, from the sides of which a curtain opens and closes, acts in an Ibsen drama as a frame for the realistic portrait painted by Ibsen, a portrait that moves. The proscenium arch became a doorway or window through which the audience–peeping through the arch–could eavesdrop on people in quiet turmoil. The arch helped Ibsen create the illusion of reality.
The climax of the play occurs when Nora declares her independence from her family.
Theme 1 Individuals and families–and the society in which they live–malfunction when males oppress females, reducing them to mere objects or playthings. This theme does not reflect Ibsen's own views. He was a traditionalist who believed in the traditional role of women in society. In developing this theme, he was presenting reality, not advocating change.
Theme 2 The unexamined life is not worth living. This paraphrase of a Socrates aphorism applies to Torvald and Nora. However, Nora eventually stops to look at herself and her marriage and doesn’t like what she sees. So she steps out of her old persona and into a new one, then walks into an uncertain future. She has begun examining her life.
Theme 3 Living a lie is not living at all. Torvald and Nora have a pretend marriage. He pretends to love her, and she pretends to love him. The same is true of Kristine Linde with respect to her late husband. She walked to the altar pretending to love him. In reality, she married him for the money she needed to provide for her brothers and mother.
Theme 4 Freedom cannot be purchased. Nora thinks her husband’s new job and higher salary will free her from worry. But she eventually learns that it is not debt that enslaves her, but her husband’s unbending will.
Theme 5 There is always hope for a better future. Krogstad, who appears to be a cold-hearted villain through most of the play, exhibits compassion at the end–after he and Mrs. Linde decide to marry–when he apologizes for the trouble he has caused and withdraws his suit against Nora.


The new year, representing the new life that Nora will begin after leaving Torvald.
The masquerade ball, representing the lies and deceits people resort to in everyday life.
The Christmas tree, representing Nora as a pretty decoration that brightens the Helmer home.
The tip for the porter, representing Nora’s spendthrift ways.
Torvald’s study, representing the sanctum sanctorum of male dominance and decision-making.
The dress change at the end of the play, representing Nora’s decision to become a new woman. When Nora takes off the dress she wore to the masquerade ball and puts on an everyday garment, she puts on her new persona–the free and independent Nora.
Study Questions and Essay Topics
When deciding to leave her family at the end of the play, Nora takes a considerable risk. After all, males in 19th Century Europe dominate not only the home but also the workplace. Moreover, a woman who declares her independence from her family is little esteemed by society. Taking into consideration the social attitudes of the Europe of Ibsen's time, decide whether Nora can succeed on her own. Then write an essay expressing your view on whether Nora succeeds or fails after becoming an independent woman. Support your position with strong research.
Many readers find Nora an admirable character for having the courage to make a radical change in her life. However, one question that must be considered in evaluating her character is this one: Was she right to abandon her children?
Research the life of Ibsen, then discuss whether he would defend male preeminence in in the home or advocate equality between spouses. You might be surprised by what your research turns up.
Why did Ibsen include Dr. Rank in the play? What purpose does he serve?
Does Torvald have any redeeming qualities?

Rachid Amri

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A Doll's House: A Study Guide II Empty Re: A Doll's House: A Study Guide II

Post by Iibtihel on Sat Mar 01, 2008 5:29 pm

Essay on: A Doll’s House Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)

Main CharactersTorvald Helmer - He is a lawyer who has been promoted to manager in the bank.

Nora - She is Torvald’s wife who is treated like a child by Torvald’s but leaves in the end because of it.

Krogstad - He is the man Nora borrowed money from to pay for the trip to Italy.

Dr. Rank - He is an admirer of Nora who has spinal TB and announces his death at the end of the play.

Minor Characters

Christine Linde - She is an old friend of Nora who comes to Nora and asks her to ask her husband for a job.

The children - Nora plays with her children and treats them like dolls.


Helmer’s Apartment - The entire play takes place at the apartment

Torvald’s study - a door leads from the stage into an imaginary room which is Torvald’s study where some off-stage action takes place.

Ballroom - This is where Nora danced the Tarantella.


The story starts on Christmas eve. Nora makes preparation for Christmas. While she eats macaroons, Dr. Rank and Mrs. Linde enters. Rank goes to speak with Torvald while Linde speaks with Nora. Linde explains that her husband has died and that she needs to find a job. Nora agrees to ask her husband to give Linde a job at the bank. Nora tells her about borrowing money to pay for the trip to Italy for her and her husband. She explains that Torvald doesn’t know that she paid for it. Rank leaves the study and begins to speak with Nora and Linde. He complains about the moral corruption in society. Krogstad arrives and goes to the study to talk to Torvald about keeping his job. A few minutes later, he leaves and Rank comments that Krogstad is one of the most morally corrupt people in the world. Rank and Linde leaves and Krogstad reenters. He tells Nora to ask her husband to keep Krogstad, or else he will reveal Nora’s crime of forgery. Krogstad leaves and when Torvald reenters, Nora asks him not to fire Krogstad. Torvald says that he must firehim because of his dishonesty and because he gave Krogstad’s job to Linde. Torvald returns to his study. The Nurse, Anne-Marie, enters and gives Nora her ball gown. Anne-Marie explains that she had to leave her children to take the job taking care of Nora. Anne-Marie leaves. Linde returns and begins to help Nora with stitching up her dress. They talk for a while about Dr. Rank. Torvald enters and Linde leaves to the nursery. Nora asks Torvald again not to fire Krogstad and Torvald refuses. He gives Krogstad’s pink slip to the maid to be mailed to Krogstad. Torvald leaves to his study. Rank enters and tells Nora about his worsening illness. They talk and flirt for a while. Rank tells Nora that he loves her. Nora said that she never loved Rank and only had fun with him. Rank leaves to the study and Krogstad enters. He is angry about his dismissal and leaves a letter to Torvald explaining Nora’s entire crime in the letter box. Nora is frightened. Nora tells Linde about the matter and Linde assures her that she will talk to Krogstad and set things straight. Linde leaves after Krogstad and Rank and Torvald enter from the study. They help Nora practice the tarantella. After practice, Rank and Torvald exists. Linde enters and tells Nora that Krogstad left town, but she left a note for him. Nora tells her that she’s waiting for a miracle to happen. That night, during the dance, Linde talks to Krogstad in Helmer’s apartment. She explains to him that she left him for money, but that she still loves him. They get back together and Krogstad decides to forget about the whole matter of Nora’s borrowing money. However, Linde asks Krogstad not to ask for his letter back since she thinks Torvald needs to know of it. Both leave and Torvald and Nora enter from the dance. Torvald checks his letter box and finds some letters and two Business cards from Dr. Rank with black crosses on them. Nora explains that they mean that Rank is announcing his death. After the bad news, Torvald enters his study and Nora prepares to leave. However, before she can get out the door, she is stopped by Torvald who read Krogstad’s letter. He is angry and disavows his love for Nora. The maid comes with a letter. Torvald read the letter which is from Krogstad. It says that he forgives Nora of her crime and will not reveal it. Torvald burns the letter along with the IOU that came with it. He is happy and tells Nora that everything will return to normal. Nora changes and returns to talk with Helmer. She tells him that they don’t understand each other and she leaves him.


black hat and black cross - symbolizes death

Fisher girl costume - symbolizes Nora’s pretending to enjoy her life.

Italy - symbolizes the good false image of Nora’s life.

Norway - symbolizes reality.

Doll House - symbolizes the tendency of the characters to play roles.

Toys - symbolizes the act of pushing the roles onto Nora’s children.

Macaroons - symbolizes Nora’s deceit to her husband.

Tarantella - symbolizes Nora’s agitation at her struggle with Krogstad and with her husband.

Christmas tree - symbolizes the mood of the play.

Stockings - symbolizes Nora’s attitude trying to please men and her flirting with Rank.

Letter box and letter - symbolizes a trap for Nora and the cause of her demise.

embroidery - symbolizes the stereotypes pressed on woman.

ring - symbolizes the marriage, and the end of it.

skylark - symbolizes the way that Torvald treats Nora like a child.


Ibsen writes typical of the ways that the characters might talk in relation to their position and their relationship with each other. For example, the way that Torvald speaks with Nora shows that he condescends to her and that Nora enjoys it. Krogstad speaks sternly but softens up when Linde tell him she still loves him.

Dominant Philosophy

A person can’t be happy when falling into the mold of someone else. To be happy, one must be oneself and know oneself. Since all of Nora’s life, she followed right behind her father and her husband, she did not know herself and had to leave to learn.


“HELMER: My little songbird mustn’t droop her wings. What’s this? Is little squirrel sulking?” Torvald asks this to Nora after she returned from shopping at the start of the play.

“NORA: I’ve the most extraordinary longing to say: ‘Bloody hell!’” Nora says this to Rank and Linde expressing her desire to rebel against her husband.

“RANK: Oh, a lawyer fellow called Krogstad - you wouldn’t know him. He’s crippled all right; morally twisted. But even he started of by announcing, as thought it were a matter of enormous importance, that he had to live.” Rank tells this to Nora and Linde expressing his philosophy about morally corrupt people corrupting society using Krogstad as an example.

“NORA: Never see him again. Never. Never. Never. Never see the children again. Them too. Never. never. Oh - the icy black water! Oh - that bottomless - that -! Oh, if only it were all over! Now he’s got it - he’s reading it. Oh, no, no! Not yet! Goodbye, Torvald! Goodbye, my darlings.” Nora says this to herself when Torvald had left to his study to read the mail. She prepares to leave and possibly commit suicide.

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Post by Iibtihel on Sat Mar 01, 2008 5:31 pm

Believe it or not money is a big thing in a couples relationship. One of the themes in the play, A Doll's House, was about money. In the play, money had a lot to do with the breaking of a relationship. The relationship was between Nora and Torvald a married couple. Their was a big thing that had to do with money that I will be discussing later in this essay.
On page 5, Torvald is asking the question, "What are little people called that are always wasting money? Nora then answers, "Spendthrifts . Nora by no means I think was truly a spendthrift. She was only given enough money by her husband at any given time to get only what she needed. She couldn't go and get what she really wanted. She had to go out and get the necessities a family needed like clothes. I'm not saying she didn't want to go out and spend money. Mostly only the men worked in this time period so its not like it was easy to get extra money.

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