Summary a Doll’s House
By the end of this first act, Nora is emerging from the protection of her married life to confront the conditions of the outside world. Although she has been content in being a protected and cared-for housewife during the past eight years, and has once averted a crisis by finding a way to borrow money for the sake of Torvald’s health, Nora has never learned to overtly challenge her environment. Christine, on the other hand, has independently faced life’s challenge, although she too sought protection by marrying for the sake of financial convenience.
Her harsh experience as a widow who was forced to earn her own livelihood stands in sharp contrast to the insulated and frivolous life which Nora leads. Having learned, through suffering, the value of truthful human relationships, Christine is the first person to recognize that Nora’s marriage is based on deception. The device Ibsen uses to describe the Thorvald’s’ deceptive marital relationship is the problem of Nora’s debt.
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To prevent Torvald from discovering her secret, he shows how Nora has developed the manner of an evasive, charming adolescent whose whims and caprices her grown-up husband must indulge.
This bolsters Thorvald’s self-image as a protector of the weak, the head of a dependent household, and the instructor of the mentally inferior. The audience is immediately aware of Torvald’s shallowness as he utters his first condescending words to his wife. Nora herself provides further evidence: when she says that Torvald might one day tire of her “reciting and dressing-up and dancing,” she unknowingly describes the decadence of her marital relationship. Pedantic and pompous, Torvald sometimes seems like a father who enjoys the innocence of a favorite daughter.
Setting up rules of behavior (prohibiting Nora’s macaroons, for instance), instructing his wife even in her very dress, Torvald shows that he regards her as a plaything or a pet rather than an independent person. These attitudes suggest the baldly sexual nature of Torvald’s marriage; the theme is later expanded in following acts until Nora recognizes her position and finds her role repulsive as well as humiliating. Krogstad shows Nora another deceptive quality about the nature of the world: an individual is responsible for his own acts.
Society punishes its lawbreaker; the innocent wife acting to save the life of her loved one is equally as guilty as the unscrupulous opportunist who acts out of expediency. Once recognizing the parallel between the “morally diseased” Krogstad and herself, Nora begins to confront the realities of the world and with this new knowledge must draw the inevitable conclusions. ACT II In this act, Nora learns that she alone must face the consequences of her guilt.
Refusing to allow Torvald to take the blame, she prepares to kill herself. The theme of death in this scene suggests a parallel between Nora and Dr. Rank, for the knowledge of his death coincides with her decision to commit suicide. Her tarantella is then a symbolic death dance which Rank, fittingly, plays for her on the piano. At the same time, since Torvald has chosen her dance costume to be that of a Capri fisher girl, the tarantella symbolizes their wedding, for Nora and Torvald learned the dance while honeymooning in Italy.
Her dancing will be her final mortal performance, for Nora views the end of the party not only as the termination of her marriage, but as the last moments of her life. The scene between Nora and Dr. Rank is a significant one. Not only does it underscore the “pollution and infection” which a guilty parent can pass on to his children — Nora being the guilt-ridden parent, Rank the victim of venereal disease — but it shows the youthful innocence of Nora. Accustomed to approaching her husband in a mood of adolescent flirtatiousness, Nora treats Dr.
Rank the same way as she shows him her leg dressed in the new silk stockings. When Rank responds with a declaration of love instead of amused paternity, Nora recognizes for the first time the underlying sexual nature of her relationship with Torvald. This sudden understanding prevents her asking Dr. Rank for the “big proof of friendship” which she would have been able to accept innocently from a family friend. Knowing that receiving payment from a lover places one in a “horribly painful position” reminds Nora how she has always cajoled Torvald to give her little presents of money.
With this understanding, she begins to recognize how Torvald, regarding her as a romantic object, violates her personal independence. Nora learns more about Torvald’s weakness of character in this act although she does not realize the full significance of this insight until the following scene. When Torvald tells her that he wishes to get rid of Krogstad, not because he judges him morally incompetent but because he is ashamed to admit friendship with a man held to be disreputable, Nora observes that Torvald is quite different from the moralizing and respectable usband she has admired for eight years. Despite this insight, she still believes, as she tells Christine, that the “wonderful thing” will still take place — the proud terrible moment when Torvald discovers the forgery and takes all the guilt upon himself. ACTIII Clearly explaining the reasons for her sudden departure, Nora summarizes the entire play during her last speeches with Torvald.
Discovering that her husband confuses appearance with values, that he is more concerned with his position in society than with the emotional needs of his wife, Nora is forced to confront her personal worthlessness. Rather than remain part of a marriage based on an intolerable lie, she chooses to leave her home and discover for herself the individuality which life with Torvald has denied her. Central to this act, and in fact to the whole play, is Nora’s concept of the “wonderful thing,” the moment when she and Torvald would achieve a “real wedlock. In the course of the drama, she has learned that the ideal union takes place when husband and wife regard each other as rational individuals who are aware of society’s demands and can fulfill their separate responsibilities with sophistication and mutual respect. In another sense, the “wonderful thing” is merely a code word for a relationship whose values are freed from the mystique which society has attached to marriage with concepts like “duty,” “respectability,” “cozy home,” “happy family,” and the rest of the stereotyped images such phrases suggest.