A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

A Doll’s House is a play written by a Norwegian playwright called Henrik Ibsen. The play was written in  1879 and the play itself was controversial.

In this play, there are 3 acts. The overall story is that Nora (our female protagonist) has committed a crime, specially bank forgery in order to save her husband’s life. However, her husband does not know this. She is married to Torvald Helmer, her husband for 8 years now. They have 3 children. The play is set during Christmas Eve and we learn in Act I that Torvald has received a promotion. He is to become the local bank’s new manager.

As the scene progresses, we meet the antagonist of the play by the man named Nils Krogstad. Like Nora, he has committed a crime. However, he was caught and is now shunned by the public. Krogstad asks/demands Nora to help him keep his position in the bank. He knows that Torvald will most likely fire him from the bank. Nora tries to explain that her husband will not listen to her. Krogstad reminds her that he is the one who is keeping Nora’s secret. It turns out that Krogstad is the keeper of Nora’s bond which saved her husband’s life. He knows that her father’s signature on the bank is forged. He uses this to blackmail Nora into helping him. He leaves after confronting Nora. Nora is visibly shaken. Torvald comes in after talking to his good friend Dr. Rank. Torvald mentions seeing Krogstad and Nora tries to dodge the issue. Torvald realizes that Krogstad has asked Nora for help (but not the reasons or the possible implications).

We also meet Mrs. Linde, Nora’s childhood friend whom is now a widow. As the scene progresses, Torvald sends the letter to Krogstad, informing him that he has been dismissed. Krogstad responds by seeing Nora, and putting his incriminating letter into the letterbox. Nora thinks of suicide, where Mrs. L then offers to convince Krog to take his letter back. We learn the beginning of Act III, that Krogstad and Mrs. L had a relationship with each other in the past. However, Mrs. L had to leave Krogstad for a richer man due to being the sole support for her family. She tells Krogstad that she yearns to restart a relationship with him and admits she feels a void in her heart, with “no one to work and no one to care for”. Krogstad is seen to be wary, thinking she is saying all this to convince him to take his letter back. However, he realizes that Mrs. L is being sincere and he has renewed hopes of redeeming himself in the eyes of the public. However, when he offers to take his letter back… Mrs. Linde has a change of heart telling him not to take his letter back, that Torvald needs to know. Krogstad agrees after saying he will not bear responsibility then leaves after doing a last task.

Nevertheless, Torvald still learns of Nora’s crime. He berates her, not seemingly to understand/realize she has done it to save his life. When he reads Krogstad’s second letter and realizes he has sent back Nora’s bond; Torvald reacts immediately saying “I am saved Nora! I am saved” and is filled with joy. Nora, however realizes she has been living in a lie, nothing more than a “doll” to entertain Torvald and her father. She decides to leave her marriage and children to seek her true self. Torvald tries to make her stay but Nora informs him that the night’s events shown her that Torvald “is not the man I thought you were”. As Torvald sinks with despair, she leaves slamming the door after herself, just when Torvald is filled with hope.

—–

The reason why I enjoyed this play in particular is we get to see Nora develop as a person throughout the play. It begins with the reader/audience initially thinking she is childish but we see she is actually a smart woman. She defies her society’s conforms and questions them. Torvald, we see at first the strong male provider whom really is actually weak willed but equally victim of society like his wife. Dr. Rank, whom is Nora’s true soul mate is mocked by fate for having to suffer for his father’s crimes and subtlely informs the news of his death. Krogstad, the play’s “villain” is actually a misunderstood man whom is a victim of society, and a man whom reacts to the situations given to him. Mrs. Linde a woman hardened by the harsh realities of life, a practical woman with her own strong sense of morals.

The characterization of the characters, their dialogue, Ibsen’s word choice to masterfully build up the tension leading to the climax are brilliant. However, what I love the most is the ambiguous ending. It leaves so many questions unanswered, leaving the reader (or audience) pondering on all the possibilities. You have to wonder what has happened to Nora and whether she found the answers she left to seek out for, did Torvald manage to change his ways, did the two ever reunite and the question of whether Mrs. L and Krogstad found their happy ending (and Krogstad redeeming himself successfully).

After research, I found the play was actually based on a real life event that Henrik found himself a part off. However, I’ll leave that for you to find out on your own.

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