A Doll’s House

Henrik Ibsen

Act One, continued

Summary Act One, continued

When Nora suggests that Torvald find Mrs. Linde a job, Torvald again shows his biases concerning women’s proper roles in society by immediately assuming that Mrs. Linde is a widow. Torvald’s assumption shows that he believes a proper married woman should not work outside the home. Also, as Torvald departs with Mrs. Linde, he says to her, “Only a mother could bear to be here [in the house],” suggesting that any woman who wants a job must not have children. These words contain a veiled expression of pride, since Torvald is pleased that his home is fit only for what he believes to be the proper kind of woman: a mother and wife, like Nora.

After Nora reveals her secret to Mrs. Linde, Nora’s and Mrs. Linde’s versions of femininity slowly begin to converge. With knowledge of her noble act, we see Nora’s character deepen, and we see that she possesses more maturity and determination than we previously thought. 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. Although Mrs. Linde’s accusation of Nora facilitates the pair’s reconciliation, what motivates the two women here is unclear. Ibsen does not explicitly reveal whether Mrs. Linde’s irritation at Nora stems from envy, annoyance, or even concern. Similarly, Nora’s defensive response could signify that she is hurt, competitive, or simply itching to tell someone her secret. All that is clear is that both Mrs. Linde and Nora are proud to have helped those they love by sacrificing for them. Their common experience of sacrifice for others unites them even though they come from different economic spheres and forms the basis for their rekindled friendship.