In some editions of A Doll’s House, the speech prompts refer to the character of Torvald Helmer as “Torvald;” in others, they refer to him as “Helmer.” Similarly, in some editions, Mrs. Linde’s first name is spelled “Christine” rather than “Kristine.”
Nora - The protagonist of the play and the wife of Torvald Helmer. Nora initially seems like a playful, naïve child who lacks knowledge of the world outside her home. She does have some worldly experience, however, and the small acts of rebellion in which she engages indicate that she is not as innocent or happy as she appears. She comes to see her position in her marriage with increasing clarity and finds the strength to free herself from her oppressive situation.
Read an in-depth analysis of Nora.
Torvald Helmer - Nora’s husband. Torvald delights in his new position at the bank, just as he delights in his position of authority as a husband. He treats Nora like a child, in a manner that is both kind and patronizing. He does not view Nora as an equal but rather as a plaything or doll to be teased and admired. In general, Torvald is overly concerned with his place and status in society, and he allows his emotions to be swayed heavily by the prospect of society’s respect and the fear of society’s scorn.
Read an in-depth analysis of Torvald Helmer.
Krogstad - A lawyer who went to school with Torvald and holds a subordinate position at Torvald’s bank. Krogstad’s character is contradictory: though his bad deeds seem to stem from a desire to protect his children from scorn, he is perfectly willing to use unethical tactics to achieve his goals. His willingness to allow Nora to suffer is despicable, but his claims to feel sympathy for her and the hard circumstances of his own life compel us to sympathize with him to some degree.
Read an in-depth analysis of Krogstad.
Mrs. Linde - Nora’s childhood friend. Kristine Linde is a practical, down-to-earth woman, and her sensible worldview highlights Nora’s somewhat childlike outlook on life. Mrs. Linde’s account of her life of poverty underscores the privileged nature of the life that Nora leads. Also, we learn that Mrs. Linde took responsibility for her sick parent, whereas Nora abandoned her father when he was ill.
Dr. Rank - Torvald’s best friend. Dr. Rank stands out as the one character in the play who is by and large unconcerned with what others think of him. He is also notable for his stoic acceptance of his fate. Unlike Torvald and Nora, Dr. Rank admits to the diseased nature (literally, in his case) of his life. For the most part, he avoids talking to Torvald about his imminent death out of respect for Torvald’s distaste for ugliness.
Bob, Emmy, and Ivar - Nora and Torvald’s three small children. In her brief interaction with her children, Nora shows herself to be a loving mother. When she later refuses to spend time with her children because she fears she may morally corrupt them, Nora acts on her belief that the quality of parenting strongly influences a child’s development.
Anne-Marie - The Helmers’ nanny. Though Ibsen doesn’t fully develop her character, Anne-Marie seems to be a kindly woman who has genuine affection for Nora. She had to give up her own daughter in order to take the nursing job offered by Nora’s father. Thus, she shares with Nora and Mrs. Linde the act of sacrificing her own happiness out of economic necessity.
Nora’s father - Though Nora’s father is dead before the action of the play begins, the characters refer to him throughout the play. Though she clearly loves and admires her father, Nora also comes to blame him for contributing to her subservient position in life.
Appearance and reality
In A Doll's House, very little is as it first seems. Nora at first appears to be a silly, selfish girl, but then we learn that she has made great sacrifices to save her husband's life and pay back her secret loan. By the end of the play, she has realized her true strength and strikes out as an independent woman. Torvald, for all his faults, appears to be a loving, devoted and generous husband. But it later transpires that he is a shallow, vain man, concerned mainly with his public reputation, and too weak to deliver on his promise to shoulder any burden that would fall upon Nora. The Helmer marriage appears loving, but turns out to be based on lies, play-acting and an unequal relationship.
Krogstad appears to be a bitter, vengeful extortionist until he is reunited with his true love, Mrs Linde, when he becomes more merciful and generous. Mrs Linde first strikes us as self-sufficient, but we learn that she feels "empty" now that she has no one to look after. Dr Rank acts the role of friend to Torvald and Nora, but we later discover the true motive for his daily visits: he is in love with Nora.
The reason why there is such a gap between appearance and reality is that the characters are engaged in various sorts of deception. Often, this is to enable them to enjoy acceptance or approval by others and society in general. Nora deceives Torvald about the loan and hides her own strength, even lying to him about trivial matters such as eating sweets, because she intuits that he cannot tolerate the truth about their marriage. Torvald in return deceives Nora and himself when he claims, with apparent sincerity, that if he would take upon himself any burden that fell upon Nora. His claim appears to arise from his poor self-knowledge and tendency to fantasize about his and Nora's life together. Dr Rank pretends to Torvald that nothing is amiss with his health because Torvald cannot deal with anything disagreeable, such as death.
The role of women
Ibsen's concerns about the position of women in society are brought to life in A Doll's House. He believed that women had a right to develop their own individuality, but in reality, their role was often self-sacrifical. Women were not treated as equals with men, either in relation to their husbands or society, as is clear from Torvald's horror of his employees thinking he has been influenced in a decision about Krogstad's job by his wife.
Women could not conduct business or control their own money, for which they needed the authorization of the man who 'owned' them - husband, brother or father. Moreover, they were not educated for responsibility. Nora falls foul of both injustices, by taking out a loan without the authority of her husband or father, and by believing, out of ignorance of the world, that she could get away with forging a signature.
In a sense, single women like Mrs Linde were freer than married ones, in that they had a right to the money they earned and did not have to hand it over to the man of the family. But the employment open to women was restricted and poorly paid, as we see in Mrs Linde's case: there was clerical work, teaching or domestic service. Also, women's work was grindingly dull, and likely to leave an intelligent woman like Mrs Linde "empty" inside.
Marriage was a trap in another sense, too. Though divorce was available, it carried such a social stigma (not just for the woman, but also for her husband and family) that few women saw it as an option. This is why Torvald would rather have a pretend marriage, for the sake of appearances, than a divorce or an amicable parting.
The female characters of Nora, Mrs Linde and the Nurse all have to sacrifice themselves to be accepted, or even to survive. Nora not only sacrifices herself in borrowing money to save Torvald, but she loses the children she undoubtedly loves when she decides to pursue her own identity. Mrs Linde sacrifices the true love of her life, Krogstad, and marries a man she does not love in order to support her dependent relatives. The Nurse has to give up her own child to look after other people's in order to survive financially. What is more, she sees herself as lucky to get her lowly job, since she has committed the sin of having a child out of wedlock. In Ibsen's time, women who had illegitimate babies were stigmatized, while the men responsible often escaped censure.
Ibsen does not suggest solutions to what was called "the women question," his aim being rather to shine a spotlight on problems that few were willing to talk about. He left the task of finding answers to others.
In a society in which difficult or 'taboo' topics were not discussed openly, much of the truth in A Doll's House is conveyed via letters and cards. Examples are Krogstad's letter to Torvald revealing the facts of Nora's loan; his subsequent letter retracting his threats and enclosing her bond; and Dr Rank's discreet visiting cards, marked only with a black cross, announcing his death.
The individual and society
Victorian society is portrayed as a repressive influence on the individual. It has created a series of conventions and codes that the individual defies at his or her peril. In the character of the Nurse, Ibsen shows us how easy it would be for a person's entire life to be ruined through one youthful mistake - in her case, falling pregnant outside of marriage.
Torvald defines his life by what society finds acceptable and respectable. He is more concerned about the attractive appearance of his wife and home than he is about his wife's happiness. When she tries to convince him to keep Krogstad in his job, his main concern is what the bank employees will think of him if they believe he has been influenced by his wife. And even after he has rejected Nora, he wants her to remain under his roof to preserve the image of a respectable marriage.
Much of Krogstad's life has been affected by society's moral standards. He spent some time in disgrace after committing an "indiscretion," and resorts to blackmail in an attempt to keep his job as a mark of respectability. His threat of blackmail gains its power from the immense authority that individuals vested in society's moral standards: if nobody cared much what society thought, then Krogstad could tell all and no one would be harmed.
Nora begins the play fulfilling a role that society prescribed for women - that of dutiful wife and mother. Her role is restricted to such activities as creating a beautiful home, meeting the needs of her husband and children, and singing and dancing prettily and seductively for her husband. Ibsen does not suggest that there is anything inherently wrong with such duties, but he does point out the dangers of having an individual's life defined by society in a way that ignores their personal identity and journey. In leaving Torvald and her children, she will outrage society and stigmatize herself. This is a terrible price to have to pay for self-fulfillment, but inevitable, given that society and the individual are so much at cross-purposes. Society wishes to preserve the status quo, whereas self-fulfillment often means pushing and breaking boundaries.
The nineteenth century saw huge social and economic changes. Society shifted from a largely rural agricultural community of 'landed gentry' and land workers, to urban communities based on manufacturing. More than ever before, what defined one's place in society was one's ability to make and control money. Those who controlled the money were the bankers and lawyers, like Torvald. They were almost invariably male. Their ability to control money enabled them to control others' lives, including defining morals. Torvald, because of his position at the bank, can afford to sit in moral judgment on Krogstad and Mrs Linde, and decide which of them should be allowed a job.
The first interactions we see between Nora and Torvald are about money; she knows that if she behaves in a certain subservient way, Torvald will give her more money. She later uses similar manipulations on Dr Rank, drawing attention to the way in which women in an unequal society tend to barter sexual favors in return for money.
Torvald teases Nora about being a spendthrift: this is his way of displaying his dominance over her, since he who controls the money controls the relationship. Nora's attempt to take partial control of the money in their marriage by taking out the loan ends in disaster, as Torvald feels morally shamed by her action. It has put him at the mercy of Krogstad and, it is implied, compromised his standing as a man and a moral member of society.
The theme of morality relates closely to that of the individual and society, in that society defines the suffocating moral climate that A Doll's House satirizes. Nora begins to question society's morals when she realizes how it would criminalize her for forging her father's signature, an action that she believes to be morally acceptable in the circumstances, if legally reprehensible. The most heroic action of her life, her sacrifice to save her husband's life, becomes an unforgivable crime in the eyes of society and its dutiful representative, Torvald. It is not surprising that part of her journey of self-discovery at the play's end is to consist of finding out "who is right, the world or I."
Before Ibsen revolutionized drama through his embrace of realism, many plays contained a character with the role of 'moral foil', a commentator on the actions of others. Ibsen partially subverts the notion of the 'moral foil' in the characters of Dr Rank and Mrs Linde. They arrive in the play at the same time, which alerts us to the fact that they share a dramatic purpose. To some extent, they are truth-bringers in the false setup of the Helmer marriage. Mrs Linde decides not to persuade Krogstad to recall his letter, as she believes it is time the Helmers faced the truth about their marriage. And Dr Rank talks to Nora as the intelligent person she is, not as the silly doll-child that Torvald prefers. But these characters turn out to be as fallible and morally compromised as most people are in real life. Mrs Linde has betrayed her true love, Krogstad, by marrying another man for money and security, an act which has left her "empty." And Dr Rank is not entirely the selfless friend to Torvald that he first appears to be: he visits because he is in love with Nora.
Nineteenth-century breakthroughs in genetic science led to a growing interest in inherited disease and traits. A Doll's House contains several references to the idea that both physical disease and moral traits are passed down through generations. Torvald, after he reads Krogstad's first letter and rejects Nora, forbids her from bringing up their children as he thinks she will taint them morally. She herself is already convinced of this and has begun to distance herself from them. Torvald believes that Krogstad's children will be poisoned by their father's moral crimes. Dr Rank has inherited tuberculosis of the spine, the disease that kills him, from his father, who led a promiscuous life and contracted venereal disease.
It is Christmas Eve in the Helmers' apartment. Nora Helmer enters in outdoor clothes, carrying parcels. A porter carries in a Christmas tree, and Nora asks the maid to hide it. She gives the porter a generous tip. Taking out a packet of macaroons from her pocket, she eats some, but hurriedly hides them when Torvald, her husband, enters from his study. Torvald addresses her like a child, calling her his "little squirrel." He chides her for spending money. Nora says that they do not need to economize as much as before, since Torvald is due for a rise in salary. But Torvald points out that he will not receive his increased salary until April. Nora suggests that they can borrow until then, but Torvald teasingly asks her what she would do if he were to die unexpectedly and she were left with debts. Then he gives her extra money. He asks her what she would like for Christmas. She asks for money.
Again, Torvald affectionately rebukes her for being a spendthrift, saying that she inherited this trait from her father. He asks if she has been breaking the rule that he has set against her eating sweets. She lies. Torvald is pleased that he has a secure income and says this means she will not have to make the Christmas decorations, as he believes she did last year.
Two visitors call: a woman, and Dr Rank. Nora recognizes the woman as Christine Linde, an old friend she has not seen for ten years. Mrs Linde is a widow. Nora tells her of the relief she feels at Torvald's promotion to the position of manager at the bank. Torvald is also a barrister, but refuses to take "unsavory" cases, so the income from that has been uncertain. Mrs Linde smilingly says that Nora was always a spendthrift. But Nora defends herself, saying she is not so silly: she has had to take odd jobs, and Torvald had worked so hard that he had become seriously ill. The doctors said he had to go south or he would die. But he was too proud to get into debt, and Nora was faced with the problem of how to pay for the trip. Nora claims she was given the money for the trip by her father, who had died around this time. Nora was unable to nurse her father because she was looking after Torvald. They had gone to Italy for a year, and Torvald had recovered.
Mrs Linde explains that she married her husband, whom she did not love, for financial security, since she had to support an invalid mother and younger brothers. The husband died bankrupt and she had been forced to work hard to survive. But now her mother is dead and her brothers are self-sufficient. While no longer desperate, she needs a job. She also confesses that her life feels empty, and that she has no one to live for. She hopes that Torvald may be able to give her a job. Nora is eager to help and says she will ask him.
Mrs Linde thanks her for her kindness and says it is especially remarkable in one who has known so little of hardship. Nora, stung by her friend's judgment, protests that she has not told her the important thing. She had saved Torvald's life. She was not given the money for Italy by her father; she borrowed it, and Torvald still does not know. Mrs Linde points out that by law, Nora could not borrow without her husband's consent. Nora does not immediately answer this. She had tried to cajole Torvald into traveling to Italy by claiming she wanted to go there, and asked him to take out a loan. He had responded angrily. So she had taken out a loan, telling him her father had given her the money. She has had to save money in order to pay off the loan and interest. She has not scrimped on providing for Torvald or the children, but has made the repayments from the money Torvald gave her for things for herself. She has also taken jobs. She anticipates that their new wealth will enable her to pay off the debt.
Krogstad, who works at the bank, is announced. Mrs Linde is startled. Nora secretively asks him why he has come. He says he wants to see Torvald on business and goes into his study. Mrs Linde finds out from Nora who he is, and says that she used to know him. Nora says he is now a widower after an unhappy marriage. Dr Rank joins the two women. He expresses his low opinion of Krogstad's character, which he says is morally diseased. Nora offers Dr Rank a macaroon, pretending that Mrs Linde gave them to her.
Torvald enters, having sent Krogstad on his way. Nora immediately asks him to give Mrs Linde a job. He agrees. Nora invites Mrs Linde and Dr Rank to come back in the evening.
The Nurse brings in Nora's children, and Nora plays with them happily. She is startled by Krogstad, who has come unannounced. She sends the children off. He establishes that her visitor was Mrs Linde, whom he once knew. He asks Nora to use her influence with Torvald to ensure that he keeps his post at the bank. Nora refuses, but Krogstad hints that if she does not cooperate, he will tell Torvald about the loan. He is prepared to fight to keep his job, as it is all that preserves his current respectability after a period of disgrace. Nora tells Krogstad to do his worst; she is sure that Torvald will pay off the loan and cut Krogstad off. But Krogstad reveals that he knows that she forged her father's signature on the document agreeing the loan. He knows this because she had carelessly dated it three days after her father died. She has committed fraud. She protests that her father was too ill for her to bother him with such matters. She cannot believe that the law would find her guilty, since she acted out of love for her husband. But Krogstad points out that the law cares nothing for motive. He warns her that for her to keep her position with him, he must keep his position at the bank. He leaves.
Nora distracts herself by decorating the Christmas tree and thinking up ways to please Torvald. Torvald enters and asks her if someone has been there. Nora denies it. He insists that he saw Krogstad leaving and asks her if he came to ask her to intercede for him regarding his job. Nora admits that this is so. He is angry that she has promised anything to such a morally dubious person as Krogstad, and that she lied about his visit. Nora asks what Krogstad did to earn such disgrace. Torvald says he forged someone's name, then failed to admit his crime and accept the punishment. He says that the atmosphere of lies in Krogstad's house will corrupt his children.
Nora applies Torvald's harsh judgment of Krogstad to herself. She has committed the same crime, and lied, and she has children. When Torvald goes into his study, she will not allow the children to come to her.
A major theme of the play - deception, or the gap between appearance and reality - is introduced in the very first word, "Hide". Nora wants to hide the Christmas tree so that the children don't see it before it is decorated. The theme is developed throughout the play until we realize that Nora's entire relationship with her husband is based on many layers of deception, albeit benign deception.
The theme is developed by Nora's lie to Torvald about having bought macaroons, and by their tiresome role-play whereby he calls her pet names such as "little squirrel" and "little spendthrift" and she acts like a spoilt, silly, and irresponsible child. It becomes obvious later in the scene that she is a much more responsible, thoughtful and complex person than he could ever conceive of. But she puts on an act for him, because at some level she knows that a wife-as-plaything is the only kind of wife he can cope with. They undoubtedly love each other, but it is a love founded on a lie that both have created. Nora's pretence to Torvald of childish helplessness - "Yes, Torvald, I can't get along a bit without your help" - acquires heavy dramatic irony, as we know at this point that she has achieved the extraordinary feat of saving her husband's life. What is more, she has done so without his knowledge in order to preserve that delicate pride which demands that she appear to be utterly dependent upon him.
Torvald's reliance on this deception would engage more of our sympathy were he not so damning of Krogstad's need "to wear a mask in the presence of those near and dear to him." He sees Krogstad as an embodiment of congenital moral corruption. But Krogstad committed his moral 'crime' many years ago and has since led a respectable life. Though he looks set to slip back by blackmailing Nora, by the end of the play, he repents and redeems himself - throwing doubt on Torvald's uncompromisingly black picture of him.
The deceptive relationship between Torvald and Nora is contrasted with that between Dr Rank and Nora. With Dr Rank, Nora is able to be more truthful and drops the childish-flirtatious act she employs with Torvald, though she still lies to Rank about the macaroons. Dr Rank knows that Torvald cannot bear very much reality: when Nora says she wants to tell Torvald something shocking, Dr Rank advises her not to say it, adding, "with us you might." But Dr Rank too has his secrets, as we shall discover.
In A Doll's House, Ibsen explores his interest in the role of women in society. He raises questions about how much a woman has to compromise her own wishes and aims in order to fit into society. Mrs Linde has had to give up her true love, Krogstad, and marry a man she did not love in order to gain the financial security she needed to look after her mother and brothers. Hers has been a life of self-sacrifice rather than self-fulfilment.
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Senin, 13 Desember 2010