A doll’s house – Summary and Analysis

Act 1

Nora comes home with a christmas tree. Her husband, Helmer, blames her for spending too much money. But Nora reminds Helmer that his new position in the bank will give them more money the following year. In this part we see how Helmer controles his wife. He has the money, and Nora acts like a little doll (hence the title).

[You should also see this article: Study questions and Discussion about A doll’s house]

After this Mrs. Linde comes to Nora because she needs a job. She has heard about Helmer’s new leader position, and believes that Helmer can give her a job. In their conversation Nora tells Linde that she saved Helmers life when they were younger: Helmer was sick, and the doctor told Nora that he could only be cured if he could live in a warm country for a year. Nora borrowed money to pay for a travel to Italy that saved Helmers life (Helmer didn’t know that Nora borrowed the money). But the question is: Where did Nora really get the money? This will be clear later in the story.

After this Krogstad (a worker in the bank) comes. He knows that if they give mrs. Linde the job, he will loose his. Krogstad says to Nora that she must make shure that Helmer doesn’t fire him. If she doesn’t, Krogstad will reveal that Nora borrowed the money from him and she signed the papers with a falls signature.

Act 2

Nora is worried. She needs to do something about the threat from Krogstad.

Dr. Rank comes in. He is and old friend, but later it becomes clear that Nora and Rank have feelings for each other. Dr. Rank tells Nora that he is sick, and he thinks that he’s going to die.

Later Nora asks Helmer not to fire Krogstad. But Helmer doesn’t care.

In this act it becomes clear that Nora and dr. Rank have feelings for each other.

Krogstad comes back and tells Nora that he’s going to tell Helmer about the secret. Krogstad want’s to be the leader in the bank. And if he doesn’t get this power, he will tell the world about Nora’s secret.

Act 3

Krogstad and mrs. Linde used to know each other. The where in love, but Linde rejected Krogstad because she needed a man whith money (someone who could support her and her helpless mother and younger brothers). But Linde says that they can live together now. Therefore Krogstad says that he doesn’t want to bother Nora anymore. But Linde believes that Nora must tell her husband the truth.

Dr. Rank comes in and tells Nora that he is going to die soon.

In the end Nora understands that Helmer wasn’t ready to help her at all. And therefore (and also because she believes that there was no love in the marriage) she leaves him and the children. She want’s to find herself.

Themes

The relation between men and women
Subjection of women
Male domination

It is clear that Henrik Ibsen i against the subjection of women. The play is from 1879 – ten years after John Stuart Mill’s book The subjection of women. It is also clear that Ibsen has some of the opinions that we see in Mill’s book, e.g. the opinion about marriage.

Love (True love vs. “false love”)
Independence
Money and power
Old love
Vanity
Honor

Symbols

The black cross – Symbolizes death.
Nora dancing uncontrollably while Helmer plays piano – Symbolizes that she doesn’t want to be controlled any more.

Genre

Drama

Author

Henrik Ibsen, a norwegian writer who lived from 1828 to 1906.

Context

The story A doll’s house was written in 1879. Around this time many scandinavian authors (especially Henrik Ibsen) were inspired by Georg Brandes, an intellectual who believed that the art should show some of the problems in society: The subjection of women, poverty, power etc.

In this time the story A doll’s house was shocking to some people. Especially because the woman Nora leaves her husband and children.

[You should also see this article: Study questions and Discussion about A doll’s house]