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A Doll’s House

Henrik Ibsen

Important Quotations Explained

Act Three, continued

Key Facts

1.
One day I might, yes. Many years from now, when I’ve lost my looks a little. Don’t laugh. I mean, of course, a time will come when Torvald is not as devoted to me, not quite so happy when I dance for him, and dress for him, and play with him.

In this quotation from Act One, Nora describes to Mrs. Linde the circumstances under which she would consider telling Torvald about the secret loan she took in order to save his life. Her claim that she might consider telling him when she gets older and loses her attractiveness is important because it shows that Nora has a sense of the true nature of her marriage, even as early as Act One. She recognizes that Torvald’s affection is based largely on her appearance, and she knows that when her looks fade, it is likely that Torvald’s interest in her will fade as well. Her suggestion that in the future she may need something to hold over Torvald in order to retain his faithfulness and devotion to her reveals that Nora is not as naïve as she pretends to be. She has an insightful, intelligent, and manipulative side that acknowledges, if only in a small way, the troubling reality of her existence.

2.
Free. To be free, absolutely free. To spend time playing with the children. To have a clean, beautiful house, the way Torvald likes it.

In this quotation from her conversation with Mrs. Linde in Act One, Nora claims that she will be “free” after the New Year—after she has paid off her debt to Krogstad. While describing her anticipated freedom, Nora highlights the very factors that constrain her. She claims that freedom will give her time to be a mother and a traditional wife who maintains a beautiful home, as her husband likes it. But the message of the play is that Nora cannot find true freedom in this traditional domestic realm. As the play continues, Nora becomes increasingly aware that she must change her life to find true freedom, and her understanding of the word “free” evolves accordingly. By the end of the play, she sees that freedom entails independence from societal constraints and the ability to explore her own personality, goals, and beliefs.

3.
Something glorious is going to happen.

Nora speaks these prophetic-sounding words to Mrs. Linde toward the end of Act Two as she tells her about what will happen when Torvald reads Krogstad’s letter detailing Nora’s secret loan and forgery. The meaning of Nora’s statement remains obscure until Act Three, when Nora reveals the nature of the “glorious” happening that she anticipates. She believes that when Torvald learns of the forgery and Krogstad’s blackmail, Torvald will take all the blame on himself and gloriously sacrifice his reputation in order to protect her. When Torvald eventually indicates that he will not shoulder the blame for Nora, Nora’s faith in him is shattered. Once the illusion of Torvald’s nobility is crushed, Nora’s other illusions about her married life are crushed as well, and her disappointment with Torvald triggers her awakening.

4.
From now on, forget happiness. Now it’s just about saving the remains, the wreckage, the appearance.

Torvald speaks these words in Act Three after learning of Nora’s forgery and Krogstad’s ability to expose her. Torvald’s conversations with Nora have already made it clear that he is primarily attracted to Nora for her beauty and that he takes personal pride in the good looks of his wife. He has also shown himself to be obsessed with appearing dignified and respectable to his colleagues. Torvald’s reaction to Krogstad’s letter solidifies his characterization as a shallow man concerned first and foremost with appearances. Here, he states explicitly that the appearance of happiness is far more important to him than happiness itself.

These words are important also because they constitute Torvald’s actual reaction to Nora’s crime, in contrast to the gallant reaction that she expects. Rather than sacrifice his own reputation for Nora’s, Torvald seeks to ensure that his reputation remains unsullied. His desire to hide—rather than to take responsibility—for Nora’s forgery proves Torvald to be the opposite of the strong, noble man that he purports himself to be before Nora and society.

5.
I have been performing tricks for you, Torvald. That’s how I’ve survived. You wanted it like that. You and Papa have done me a great wrong. It’s because of you I’ve made nothing of my life.

Nora speaks these words, which express the truth that she has gleaned about her marriage, Torvald’s character, and her life in general, to Torvald at the end of Act Three. She recognizes that her life has been largely a performance. She has acted the part of the happy, child-like wife for Torvald and, before that, she acted the part of the happy, child-like daughter for her father. She now sees that her father and Torvald compelled her to behave in a certain way and understands it to be “great wrong” that stunted her development as an adult and as a human being. She has made “nothing” of her life because she has existed only to please men. Following this -realization, Nora leaves Torvald in order to make something of her life and—for the first time—to exist as a person independent of other people.

More Help

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symbols

by diane94, July 15, 2012

i think the toys Nora bought for her children also symbolise something.

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58 out of 85 people found this helpful

Krogstad vs Nora

by indivij, November 04, 2012

it says in the character analysis that krogstad was shunned by society and wasn't let by people to move on from his past. i think that because of this, krogstad tries to blackmail nora for her forgery as a means of compensating for the unfair treatment he received.

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Hypocrisy

by liamfinlay, May 28, 2013

In our Lit class we also discussed the hypocritical nature of Torvald, and how he goes directly against what he earlier states are his attitudes and how he would respond (for example, he says "I am not so heartless as to condemn a man... because of a single false step", yet he is quick to condemn Nora when he discovers the forgery she had committed).

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