A Doll’s House

by: Henrik Ibsen

Nora

It’s sweet of you to bother so much about me, Nora. Especially since you know so little of the worries and hardships of life.

Mrs. Linde responds to Nora’s offer of help getting a job at Torvald’s bank. Nora has been bragging about Torvald’s new job and the money he will earn while Mrs. Linde recounts she is widowed and poor. Mrs. Linde’s characterization of Nora as carefree reflects how others see Nora in the beginning of the play. However, the audience comes to understand that although Nora initially seems to have everything, she feels unfulfilled in life.

No one has said I borrowed the money. I could have got it in some other way. (Throws herself back on the sofa.) I could have got it from an admirer. When a girl’s as pretty as I am -

When Nora reveals to Mrs. Linde that she was the one who got the money for her and Torvald’s trip to Italy, Mrs. Linde wonders how she could have borrowed money without her husband. Nora heightens the drama of how she got the money, intensifying the mystery. Her scenario suggesting that she could have been given money by an admirer because of her looks reveals how important appearances are to Nora.

Nora: But, Mr. Krogstad, I have no influence! Krogstad: Oh? I thought you just said – Nora: But I didn’t mean it like that! I? How on earth could you imagine that I would have any influence over my husband?

This exchange takes place between Nora and Krogstad after he asks Nora to help secure his position at the bank. In the past, Nora bragged about using her influence to get a job for Mrs. Linde, so Krogstad assumes she can do the same for him. Nora, however, understands that she could never get Torvald to do something unless he wanted to do it himself. Nora’s shock at anyone believing any differently reflects her lack of power.

The Christmas tree must be beautiful. I’ll do everything that you like, Torvald. I’ll sing for you, dance for you -

After Krogstad has left, Nora begins tidying up the room and talks to herself about how she can please and entertain Torvald in order to assuage her guilt over lying to him. At this point in the play, Nora is still completely beholden to Torvald, and making everything look and seem nice is the most important thing she can think to do.

You see, Torvald’s so hopelessly in love with me that he wants to have me all to himself – those were his very words. When we were first married, he got quite jealous if I as much as mentioned any of my old friends back home. So naturally, I stopped talking about them.

When Mrs. Linde asks Nora why Dr. Rank recognizes her name but Torvald does not, Nora explains that she’s spoken about Mrs. Linde and other old friends with Dr. Rank, but not with her husband due to his jealousy. Nora’s casual explanation makes it clear that what Nora and Torvald consider love is in fact control.

Anyway, it’s wonderful really, in a way – sitting here and waiting for the miracle to happen.

Nora shares this thought with Mrs. Linde after they realize they will not be able to stop Torvald from reading Krogstad’s letter. The “miracle” Nora refers to involves Torvald taking the responsibility for forging the loan documents. Nora fully believes that Torvald will make this sacrifice out of his love for her as she has done for him. The miraculous event she is anticipating is the rejuvenating effect his selfless act will have on their marriage.

When I lived with papa, he used to tell me what he thought about everything, so that I never had any opinions but his. And if I did have any of my own, I kept them quiet, because he wouldn’t have liked them. He called me his little doll, and he played with me just the way I played with my dolls.

During their final confrontation, Nora explains to Torvald that she compares the way Torvald treats her to the way her father treated her. The fact that she was never able to think for herself as a child shows why she so easily bought into her relationship with Torvald. Nora has lived like a doll for her entire life, concerned only with her appearance and entertaining others instead of bettering herself.

I believe that I am first and foremost a human being, like you – or anyway, that I must try to become one. I know most people think as you do, Torvald, and I know there’s something of the sort to be found in books. But I’m no longer prepared to accept what people say and what’s written in books. I must think things out for myself, and try to find my own answer.

Nora is challenging Torvald’s statement that she is first and foremost a wife and mother. She finally sees herself as a human being, equal to her husband, existing in her own right rather than existing only for the benefit of others. Nora must discover her own truth and develop her own beliefs for herself. This realization pushes her to make something more of her life, whether society accepts it or not.