The hero of the play, Nora and the wife of Torvald Helmer at first seems like a playful, naïve child who lacks knowledge of the world outside her home. She lacks worldly experience 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 She does not seem to mind her doll-like existence, in which she is coddled, pampered, and patronized.
At the beginning of the play, Nora’s husband greets her cheerfully but then reprimands her for spending a lot of money on Christmas gifts. The talk between them reveals that they have had to be careful with money for a long time and fortunately Torvald has recently acquired a promotion at his workplace (bank) and that may earn them a more comfortable lifestyle. This depicts the pain she has had to endure as a woman just to give herself and her family the best of life. Nora seems completely happy. She responds lovingly to Torvald’s teasing, speaks with excitement about the extra money his new job will provide Nora is economically advantaged in the play compared to the other female characters, however she leads a difficult life because society dictates that her husband Torvald is the marriage’s dominant partner and hence she has to live under whatever circumstances she is put through however harsh.
Nora takes pleasure in the company of her friends. This is evident when Kristine Linde, Nora’s former school friend comes visiting. The two have not met for years and Nora gives her her deepest sympathies as she mentions having read that Mrs. Linde’s husband died years earlier. Mrs. Linde tells Nora that after her husband died, she was left childless and penniless. Mrs. Linde feels empty and lonely because she is jobless and tells that she is optimistic Torvald would help her secure employment at the bank where he works. Here Nora acts as a great friend and shoulder to lean on during hard times. Despite being apart for very many years, Nora still remains a true friend to Mrs. Linde by consoling her after she loses her husband and even goes ahead to prove her real friendship by agreeing to help her secure a job through her husband. Torvald is not comfortable with this and Nora’s use of Torvald’s pet names for her to win his cooperation is an act of manipulation on her part. She knows that calling herself his “little bird,” his “squirrel,” and his “skylark,” and thus conforming to his desired standards will make him more willingly to give in to her wishes
Nora tells Mrs. Linde about her first year of marriage to Torvald. She tells her that they were very poor and both had to work extra hours to make ends meet. Torvald fell sick and the both had to travel to Italy so that Torvald would receive medical attention. . Nora then reveals a great secret to Mrs. Linde saying that he obtained money from a bank without Torvalds knowledge, she illegally borrowed money for the trip that she and Torvald took to Italy lying that she had obtained the money from her father. For many years she has worked and saved in secret, slowly repaying the debt. Nora confides in Mrs. Linde who poses as a true friend not knowing what her true intentions are. . What prompts Nora to reveal her secret about having saved Torvald’s life by raising the money for their trip abroad is Mrs. Linde’s contention that Nora has never known hard work.
Krogstad, a subordinate worker at the bank where Torvald works, visits Nora’s house and Nora is so disturbed by his presence. The two engage in a conversation and it is revealed that Krogstad is the source of Nora’s secret loan. Krogstad says that Torvald has intentions of sacking him from the bank and he persuades Nora to use her influence to ensure that his position remains secure. Nora refuses because she recognizes it as an insult to Torvald for not being a proper husband. Krogstad says that he has a contract that contains Nora’s forgery of her father’s signature. Krogstad blackmails Nora and threatens to expose her crime bring shame and disgrace on both Nora and her husband if she does not prevent his firing him. Later Nora tries to dissuadeTorvald from firing Krogstad, but he adamantly refuses. Krogstad’s desire to blackmail and the happenings that follow do not change Nora’s nature instead 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. Krogstad’s bad deeds seem to stem from a desire to protect his children from penury, he is ready to use malicious ways to try to get his way through the predicament he is about to face. He is ready to subject to Nora to suffering and this can be described as despicable. Although the taking of the loan constitutes a crime because she forged a signature to get it, Nora takes pride in it because it remains one of the few independent actions she has ever taken.
Nora also tells Mrs. Linde about Dr. Rank who has a mortal illness that he inherited from his father. Nora behaves weirdly and her behavior leads Mrs. Linde to guess that Dr. Rank is the main source of Nora’s loan. Nora denies this and totally refuses to reveal the source of her debt. Dr. Rank later visits Nora’s house and tells Nora that he is close to death. She tries to cheer him up and begins to flirt with him. She seems to be preparing to ask him to mediate on her behalf in her struggle with Torvald so that he does not fire Krogstad. In a twist o turns and events Dr. Rank confesses to Nora that he is in love with her. . At first, Nora’s interaction with Dr. Rank is similarly manipulative. When she flirts with him by showing her stockings, it seems that she hopes to entice Dr. Rank and then persuade him to speak to Torvald about keeping Krogstad on at the bank. Yet after Dr. Rank confesses that he loves her, Nora suddenly shuts down and refuses to ask her favor. She has developed some moral integrity. Despite her desperate need, she realizes that she would be taking advantage of Dr. Rank by capitalizing on his earnest love for her.
When Torvald discovers that Nora secretly secured a loan at the bank he is annoyed. He calls Nora a hypocrite and a liar and complains that she has derailed his happiness. He declares that she will not be allowed to raise their children. At this point, Nora realizes that she is not just a “silly girl,” as Torvald calls her. She is able to understand the business details related to the debt she incurred taking out a loan to help save Torvald’s health. This indicates that she is intelligent and possesses capacities beyond mere wifehood. The bitterness she expresses concerning her years of secret labor undertaken to pay off her debt sparks her fierce determination and ambition. Additionally, the fact that she was willing to break the law in order to ensure her husband’s health is stable shows her courage and she understands herself ,her role an place within the marriage.
Helene then brings in a letter. Torvald opens it and realizes that Krogstad has returned Nora’s contract (which contains the forged signature). Torvald attempts to dismiss his past insults, but his harsh words have triggered something in Nora. She declares that despite their eight years of marriage, they do not understand one another. Torvald, Nora asserts, has treated her like a “doll” to be played with and admired. She decides to leave Torvald, declaring that she must “make sense of herself and everything around her.” She walks out, slamming the door behind her. . Torvald’s selfish reaction to Krogstad’s letter opens Nora’s eyes to the truth about her relationship with Torvald and leads her to rearrange her priorities and her course of action. Her shift from thinking about suicide to deciding to walk out on Torvald reflects an increased independence and sense of self. Whereas she earlier -succumbs to pressure from Torvald to preserve the appearance of idealized family life (she lies about eating macaroons and considers As Nora’s understanding of the people and events around her develops, Torvald’s remains static Nora replies that Torvald has never understood her and that, until that evening, she has never understood Torvald. She points out that—for the first time in their eight years of marriage—they are now having a “serious conversation.” She has realized that she has spent her entire life being loved not for who she is but for the role she plays. To both her father and to Torvald, she has been a plaything—a doll. She realizes she has never been happy in Torvald’s dollhouse but has just been performing for her keep. She has deluded herself into thinking herself happy, when in truth she has been miserable.
Nora realizes that her husband has been treating her like a child, as a plaything or doll to be teased and admired. As Nora’s childish innocence and faith in Torvald shatter, so do all of her illusions. She realizes that her husband does not see her as a person but rather as a beautiful possession, nothing more than a toy. She voices her belief that neither Torvald nor her father ever loved her, but rather “thought it was enjoyable to be in love with [her].” She realizes these two men cared more about amusing themselves and feeling loved and needed than they did about her as an individual.
Moreover, Nora realizes that since she has been treated as a child for her entire life, she still is very childlike and needs to grow up before she can raise any children or take on any other responsibilities. Her defiance of Torvald when he forbids her to leave reflects her epiphany that she isn’t obligated to let Torvald dictate her actions—she is independent of him and has control over her own life. The height of Nora’s awakening comes when she tells Torvald that her duty to herself is just as sacred as her duties to her husband and children. She now sees that she is a human being before she is a wife and a mother, and that she owes it to herself to explore her personality, ambitions, and beliefs. In this act, Nora shows signs that she is becoming aware of the true nature of her marriage. When she compares living with Torvald to living with her father, doubt is cast on the depth of her love for Torvald. Nora is beginning to realize that though her life with Torvald conforms to societal expectations about how husbands and wives should live, it is far from ideal.
When Nora explains that Dr. Rank’s poor health owes to his father’s promiscuity, for the second time we come across the idea that moral corruption transfers from parent to child. (In Act One, Torvald argues that young criminals result from a household full of lies.) These statements clarify Nora’s torment and her refusal to interact with her children when she feels like a criminal. They also reveal that both Torvald and Nora seriously believe in the influence that parents have on their children. Although the children are seldom onstage, they gain importance through Nora and Torvald’s discussions of them and of parental responsibility.
Nora abandoned her father when he was ill. 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. 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.
Nora says that she realizes that she is childlike and knows nothing about the world. She feels alienated from both religion and the law, and wishes to discover on her own, by going out into the world and learning how to live life for herself, whether or not her feelings of alienation are justified. When Torvald accuses Nora makes it clear to Torvald that she cannot live with him as his wife, he suggests that the two of them live together as brother and sister, but she rejects this plan. She says that she does not want to see her children and that she is leaving them in better hands than her own. Nora returns Torvald’s wedding ring and the keys to the house and takes the ring he wears back from him. She says that they can have no contact anymore, and she frees him of all responsibility for her. She adds that she will have Mrs. Linde come the following morning to pick up her belongings.
Individuals understand themselves and place in the world through various pressures, influences, stereotypes and all these shape a character’s life perspective and actions either negtively or positively. This can be referred to as the quest for self-actualization. Expressing one’s creativity, quest for spiritual enlightenment, pursuit of knowledge, and the desire to give to society are examples of self-actualization. Self-actualization can also be referred to as self-discovery, self-reflection, self-realization and self-exploration. When people live lives that are different from their true nature and capabilities, they are less likely to be happy than those whose goals and lives match.
Human beings are naturally created to evolve to a more positive view in whereby they are motivated to realize their full potential. This is reflected in his hierarchy of needs and in his theory of Self-actualization as described by Abraham Maslow.
Instead of focusing on what goes wrong with people, Maslow wanted to focus on human potential, and how we fulfill that potential. Maslow (1943, 1954) stated that human motivation is based on people seeking fulfillment and change through personal growth. Self-actualized people as those who were fulfilled and doing all they were capable of. It refers to the person’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. “The specific form that these needs will take will of course vary greatly from person to person. In one individual it may take the form of the desire to be an ideal mother, in another it may be expressed athletically, and in still another it may be expressed in painting pictures or in inventions.” (Maslow, 1943, pp. 382–383)
Once these needs have been met, a person can move on to fulfilling “the safety needs”, where they will attempt to obtain a sense of security, physical comforts and shelter, employment, and property.
The internal suffering that Nora undergoes naively brings out the best and worst in her. She responds to these happenings with a lot of courage and comes out as a strong woman who can make independent choices on issues affecting her life and those around her. Torvald’s severe and selfish reaction after learning of Nora’s deception and forgery is the final catalyst for Nora’s awakening. But even in the first act, Nora shows that she is not totally unaware that her life is at odds with her true personality. She defies Torvald in small yet meaningful ways—by eating macaroons and then lying to him about it, for instance. She also swears, apparently just for the pleasure she derives from minor rebellion against societal standards. As the drama unfolds, and as Nora’s awareness of the truth about her life grows, her need for rebellion escalates, culminating in her walking out on her husband and children to find independenceKrogstad is the antagonist in A Doll’s House, but he is not necessarily a villain. Though his willingness to allow Nora’s torment to continue is cruel, Krogstad is not without sympathy for her. As he says, “Even money-lenders, hacks, well, a man like me, can have a little of what you call feeling, you know.” He visits Nora to check on her, and he discourages her from committing suicide. Like Nora, Krogstad is a person who has been wronged by society, and both Nora and Krogstad have committed the same crime: forgery of signatures.
In A Doll’s House, Ibsen paints a bleak picture of the sacrificial role held by women of all economic classes in his society. In general, the play’s female characters exemplify Nora’s assertion (spoken to Torvald in Act Three) that even though men refuse to sacrifice their integrity, “hundreds of thousands of women have. Torvald issues decrees and condescends to Nora, and Nora must hide her loan from him because she knows Torvald could never accept the idea that his wife (or any other woman) had helped save his life. Furthermore, she must work in secret to pay off her loan because it is illegal for a woman to obtain a loan without her husband’s permission. By motivating Nora’s deception, the attitudes of Torvald—and society—leave Nora vulnerable to Krogstad’s blackmail.
Nora’s abandonment of her children can also be interpreted as an act of self- sacrifice. Despite Nora’s great love for her children—manifested by her interaction with them and her great fear of corrupting them—she chooses to leave them. Nora truly believes that the nanny will be a better mother and that leaving her children is in their best interest.
Nora, Torvald, and Dr. Rank each express the belief that a parent is obligated to be honest and upstanding, because a parent’s immorality is passed on to his or her children like a disease. . Torvald voices the idea that one’s parents determine one’s moral character when he tells Nora, “Nearly all young criminals had lying -mothers.” He also refuses to allow Nora to interact with their children after he learns of her deceit; for fear that she will corrupt them.
Yet, the play suggests that children too are obligated to protect their parents. Nora recognized this obligation, but she ignored it, choosing to be with—and sacrifice herself for—her sick husband instead of her sick father.
Ibsen does not pass judgment on either woman’s decision, but he does use the idea of a child’s debt to her parent to demonstrate the complexity and reciprocal nature of familial obligations.
Nora initially seems a silly, childish woman, but as the play progresses, we see that she is intelligent, motivated, and, by the play’s conclusion, a strong-willed, independent thinker. Nora as an intelligent, brave woman, and Torvald as a simpering, sad man.
Nora’s understanding of the meaning of freedom evolves over the course of the play. In the first act, she believes that she will be totally “free” as soon as she has repaid her debt, because she will have the opportunity to devote herself fully to her domestic responsibilities. After Krogstad blackmails her, however, she reconsiders her conception of freedom and questions whether she is happy in Torvald’s house, subjected to his orders and edicts. By the end of the play, Nora seeks a new kind of freedom. She wishes to be relieved of her familial obligations in order to pursue her own ambitions, beliefs, and identity.
Letters Many of the plot’s twists and turns depend upon the writing and reading of letters, which function within the play as the subtext that reveals the true, unpleasant nature of situations obscured by Torvald and Nora’s efforts at beautification. Krogstad writes two letters: the first reveals Nora’s crime of forgery to Torvald; the second retracts his blackmail threat and returns Nora’s promissory note. The first letter, which Krogstad places in Torvald’s letterbox near the end of Act Two, represents the truth about Nora’s past and initiates the inevitable dissolution of her marriage—as Nora says immediately after Krogstad leaves it, “We are lost.” Nora’s attempts to stall Torvald from reading the letter represent her continued denial of the true nature of her marriage. The second letter releases Nora from her obligation to Krogstad and represents her release from her obligation to Torvald. Upon reading it, Torvald attempts to return to his and Nora’s previous denial of reality, but Nora recognizes that the letters have done more than expose her actions to Torvald; they have exposed the truth about Torvald’s selfishness, and she can no longer participate in the illusion of a happy marriage.
The action of the play is set at Christmastime, and Nora and Torvald both look forward to New Year’s as the start of a new, happier phase in their lives. In the New Year, Torvald will start his new job, and he anticipates with excitement the extra money and admiration the job will bring him. Nora also looks forward to Torvald’s new job, because she will finally be able to repay her secret debt to Krogstad. By the end of the play, however, the nature of the new start that New Year’s represents for Torvald and Nora has changed dramatically. They both must become new people and face radically changed ways of living. Hence, the New Year comes to mark the beginning of a truly new and different period in both their lives and their personalities.