A Doll’s House

Henrik Ibsen

Act Three

Summary Act Three

The hollowness of Torvald’s promises to save Nora shows how little he appreciates her sacrifice. Nora expects compassion from Torvald after he finds out about her predicament, especially since, after learning of Dr. Rank’s imminent death, Torvald confesses that he fantasizes about risking his life to save Nora’s. Once given the opportunity, however, Torvald shows no intention of sacrificing anything for Nora, thinking only of himself and of appearances.

Ultimately, Torvald’s selfishness becomes apparent in his lack of concern about his wife’s fate, despite the fact that she committed a crime to save his life. He panics upon learning of Nora’s crime not because he cares about what will happen to her but because he worries that his reputation will be damaged if knowledge of Nora’s crime becomes public. Instead of treating Nora with understanding and gratitude for her noble intent, he threatens and blames her and then immediately begins to think of ways to cover up the shame that she has cast on his family. His proclamation of “I’m saved” after Krogstad’s letter of retraction arrives reflects that he has been thinking only of himself in his panic. He says nothing about Nora until she asks, “And me?” His casual response—“You too, naturally”—reveals how much her well-being is an afterthought to him.

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 suicide—the ultimate sacrifice of herself—in order to conceal her misdeeds), she now realizes that she can exist outside Torvald’s confined realm.