• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Dokkio Sidebar (from the makers of PBworks) is a Chrome extension that eliminates the need for endless browser tabs. You can search all your online stuff without any extra effort. And Sidebar was #1 on Product Hunt! Check out what people are saying by clicking here.


A Doll's House (1879)

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 1 month ago

External Resources 

book chapter


check out the "related articles": about.com 


Structural and Philosophical Background 

Well-Made Play (wikipedia, verbatum)

  • tight plot
  • climax that takes place very close to the end of the story, with most of the story taking place before the action of the play
  • much of the information regarding such previous action would be revealed through thinly veiled exposition
  • Following that would be a series of causally-related plot complications
  • A recurrent device that the well-made play employs is the use of letters or papers falling into unintended hands, in order to bring about plot twists and climaxes. 
  • Following the recommendations found in Aristotle's Poetics, the letters must bring about an unexpected reversal of fortune, in which it is often revealed that someone is not who he/she pretends to be. 
  • The reversal will allow for a quick dénouement, and a return to order, at which point the curtain falls.
  • NOTE: ADH BREAKS FROM THIS MODEL--structurally appropriate: Nora, apart from the German staging, breaks from the status quo.
  • In his book The Quintessence of IbsenismBernard Shaw proposed that Ibsenconverted this formula for use in "serious" plays by substituting discussion for the plausible dénouement or conclusion. Thus, plays become open ended, as if there were life beyond the last act curtain.
  • Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House follows most of the conceits of the well-made play, but transcends the genre when, after incriminating papers are recovered, Nora (rather shockingly) rejects the expected return to normality. Several of Ibsen's subsequent plays seem to build on the general construction principles of the Well-Made Play.
  • Ibsen sought a compromise between Naturalism and the Well-Made Play which was fraught with difficulties since life does not fall easily into the syllogistic of either form.


Naturalism (wikipedia, verbatum)

  • literary movement that seeks to replicate a believable everyday reality, as opposed to such movements as Romanticismor Surrealism, in which subjects may receive highly symbolic, idealistic, or even supernatural treatment
  • the outgrowth of Realism, a prominent literary movement in mid-19th-century France and elsewhere
  • Naturalistic writers were influenced by the evolution theory of Charles Darwin.[1] They believed that one's heredity and social environment determine one's character. Whereas realism seeks only to describe subjects as they really are, naturalism also attempts to determine "scientifically" the underlying forces (i.e. the environment or heredity) influencing the actions of its subjects.


Realism (wikipedia, verbatum)

  • Realist authors opted for depictions of everyday and banal activities and experiences, instead of a romanticized or similarly stylized presentation.


Close Study

Set: It's a "room" full of realistic features, lacking symbolic significance: piano, tiled stove (lit), easy chairs, a rocking chair, a little table, etchings on walls, filled china cabinet, filled bookcase, carpet. Contrast this to the sense that the set is a set in DoS; Miller's set is minimalist in contrast to Ibsen's set, highlighting, for example, Biff's trophy.


Act One

Sequence 1 (147-153)

  • First word from Nora: Hide the Christmas tree properly... (147)
  • Also hides macaroons--see stage direction (148)
  • Incessant domesticating, diminuative language that maintains Torvald's authority and role as provider, and maintains Nora's role as cute, dependant, and pet-like. Nora plays up this role fully, happy to be the dependent child provided an allowance.
  • "Little squirrel"--hides things (148)
  • Like Dos, play opens with married couple talking.
  • Only the threat of spending money draws Torvald from his study.
  • Male-Female motif: Torvald, in response to ignorance of or disinterest toward contractual law, "Nora, Nora! Just like a woman!"
  • Nora participates in her inferiority: excitement over being given 40 dollars (149).
  • Foreshadow end: Nora about Emmy and her dolls: "[B]ut she'll smash them to bits anyway" (149).
  • At Torvald's offer of a gift, Nora asks for money. (150)
  • Connection to Naturalism: "Oh, yes, Nora, these things are hereditary" (151), mentioning her character and its connection to her father. In contrast, DoS is steeped in Freudian psychology. See Willy's reference to feeling temporary because of his father's absence (51).
  • Torvald doesn't want Nora ever to change (151).


Sequence 2 (153-163)

  • Enter Mrs. Linde (153)
  • Mrs. Linde--exposition--a woman alone and independent (154)
  • Mrs. Linde and former husband as counterpoint to Nora and Torvald. 
  • This is a second pairing--as DoS has Biff/Willy and Bernard/Charley.
  • Notice Nora's response. Compare to play's end.
  • Nora's "happiness" (154)
  • Exposition on Nora's and Torvald's trip to Italy (156)
  • Mrs. Linde is tired of independence. (157)
  • Plot advance--Mrs. Linde looking for work.
  • Mrs. Linde--consequence of independence (158)
  • Exposition on Nora getting "twelve hundred dollars - four thousand eight-hundred kroner" (159-161)
  • Torvald's pride--can't tell him about loan. Nora: Besides, Torvald has his pride -- most men have -- he'd be terribly hurt and humiliated if he thougt he owed anything to me. It's spoil everything between us, and our lovely happy home would never be the same again (161).
  • Doll imagery
  • Dos and ADH: fragility of "strong" men. Linda never reveals her knowledge about Willy getting money from Charley and the rubber pipe. Torvald could never know about Nora's getting the loan (see 151)
  • Nora: "It was almost like being a man" (162)
  • Nora is naive about money. (162)
  • Nora's dream (163)


Sequence 3 (163-168)

  • Following Nora's dream, enter Krogstad.
  • In response to dealing with the "cold" Krogstad, Nora stokes the fire--as Krogstad is stoking the fire in Torvald's study. (163-4)
  • Exposition--Mrs. Linde knew him. 
  • Enter Dr. Rank from Torvald's study, first sight of Dr. Rank. 
  • Nora introduces Dr. Rank to Mrs. Linde.
  • Mrs. Linde: One must live, Doctor. (165)
  • Dr. Rank as cynic existentialist.
  • Exposition--on Krogstad from Rank 
  • Upon realizing Krogstad is now under Torvald, she laughs and offers Linde and Rank a macaroon. (166)
  • Krogstad fired (167)
  • Torvald meets Mrs. Linde.
  • Nora proposes to Torvald that he find a position at the bank for Mrs. Linde.
  • Children enter. (168)
  • Torvald, Rank, and Linde exit.


Sequence 4 (168-176)

  • Picture of happy domesticity--Nora plays with children. (169)
  • Krogstad returns
  • Children exit (170)
  • Krogstad intimates history with Mrs. Linde. (171) 
  • Krogstad asks Nora to use her influence to ensure he keeps his post at the bank.
  • Complication: Nora indicate soon she won't need to fear Krogstad anymore.
  • Krogstad: If need be, I shall fight to keep my little post at the Bank as I'd fight for my life (172). (cp. Mrs. Linde, 165)
  • Complication: Krogstad threatens blackmail.
  • Complication: Wrong date of father's signature (174)
  • Complication: Nora and Krogstad both guilty of forgery (175)
  • Nora understand law differently, incorrectly; she has more heart. (175-176).
  • Krogstad will not go down alone. Exits (176)
  • Nora: But ... No, it isn't possible ... I did it for love!
  • Children return, but Nora does not play with them. They leave again.


Sequence 5 (176-180)

  • Nora moves to eat another macaroon but doesn't. (176)
  • Tree put in middle of room.
  • Nora (to maid), No, thank you, I've got all I want.
  • Nora, decorating tree: We shall have a lovely tree - I'll do all the things you like, Torvald, I'll sing and dance -" (177).
  • Torvald returns and thinks Krogstad had returned to ply Nora to secure his job.
  • Torvald playfully lectures Nora about not lying to him.
  • Talking about the Stenborgs' party and Nora's gift for Torvald, Nora says, "Everything seems so stupid and pointless" (178). Helmer responds, "So little Nora realized that?"
  • Nora asks Torvald to help choose her costume and continues to play on her dependence.
  • Torvald elaborates on gravity of forgery. (179!)
  • Nora frightened by all that Torvald says.


Act Two

Timeline to illustrate structure and motifs

Mrs. Linde as frame--"mending"


Act Three

Plot timeline 207-219

Detailed study 220-232


Features and motifs

"Realism" (thematic significance that set is "realistic")

Foils: Mrs. Linde and Krogstad to Nora and Torvald Helmer





Costumes/Dressing up




Bonds--financial, matrimonial

Possession, Rights, Duty--of a spouse, of/to a self

Christmas Tree





Essay Quotations

Good essay quotations are versatile, specific, and memorable; they would work effectively for a number of different topics. 


Act One

147: (Stage direction) A comfortable room, furnished inexpensively, but with taste.

149: Helmer: Nora, Nora! Just like a woman!

149: Nora: ... she'll soon smash them to bits anyways

154: Nora: But to be so completely alone - that must be terribly sad for you.

155: Mrs Linde: Nora, Nora! Haven't you learned any sense yet? 

158: Mrs Linde: You're only a baby, Nora!

165: Mrs Linde: One must live, Doctor.


Act Two

181: Nora: I should like to tear it all to pieces (along with the other times she repeats this)

188: Helmer: ... the new Manage had let himself be influenced by his wife....

190: Helmer: You'll see that I'm man enough to take it all on myself. 

200: Mrs Linde (Stage direction) : There- I don't think there's anything else that wants mending...

203: Nora:... I can't do anything unless you help me...


Act Three

212: Helmer: ...a trifle too realistic...

214: Nora: You're always right, Torvald, whatever you do.

217: Rank: At the next fancy dress party, I shall be invisible.

219: Helmer: ... I've always wished that you could be theatened by some imminenet danger so that i could risk everything i had - even my life itself - to save you.

220: Helmer: Now don't let's have any silly excuses

220: Helmer: What a terrible awakening!

223: Helmer:...feminine helplessness...

226: Nora: ...I've lived by performing tricks for you

226: Nora: ...I've made nothing of my life

226: Nora: ...I've been your doll wife here, just at home I was Papa's doll-child...

228: Helmer: Before everything else, you're a wife and a mother.

230: Helmer: ... no man would sacrifice his honour for the one he loves.

231: Nora: .. I don't believe in miracles any longer.

Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.