Henrik Isben's A Doll's House


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Torvald Holmer's refusal to borrow money displays the character of a proud and controlling man. Helmer provided the financial support for his family through hard work, not depending on others for money. When Torvald's law practice did not provide financially, he sought a job at the bank. After Helmer received a promotion at the bank, Nora felt they could now afford to be extravagant for Christmas. Nora says, "This is the first Christmas that we have not needed to economize." Torvald announces that his promotion is not until ". . . after the New Year," so Nora blurts out ". . . we can borrow till then." Helmer interprets Nora's spending of money as wasteful and foolish, telling her "That is like a woman! ...There can be no freedom or beauty about a home life that depends on borrowing and debt." Obviously Torvald earns and manages the money in the house, and he attributes Nora's lack of understanding of these matters to her gender. Torvald views a woman's place to beautify the home through proper management of domestic life, behavior, and appearance. Helmer demeans Nora about spending in calling her "sweet little spendthrift, but she sure uses up a deal of money . . . " After accusing Nora of being irresponsible with money, Torvald rejoices at her dependence on him stating, ". . . Is my little squirrel out of temper? ...what do you think I have here?" Nora exclaims, "Money!" Torvald finds merriment in watching her happy reaction to him giving her money, and Nora saying, ". . . Thank you, thank you, . . . " This illustrates the helplessness of Nora and her dependence on Helmer, causing him to feel in control.
8. Nora's secret crime confessed to Christine Linde, a childhood friend, had been to save her deathly ill husband's life by borrowing money. She borrowed the money from Krogstad, without getting her husband's permission. As Nora and Christine palaver about their lives, Nora explains the financial hardships they had. "...Torvald left his office . . . There was no prospect of promotion . . . during the first year he overworked himself dreadfully . . . but he could not stand it, and fell dreadfully ill, and the doctors said it was necessary for him to go south." Since he was in danger of dying, Nora's explanation was that the doctors urged them to live in the South for a year; yet they thought Helmer should not know how ill he really was.

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Trying to convince Torvald to give into her whims of traveling south, Nora tells him that her father gave her the money because Helmer would not hear of borrowing money for this purpose. The justification Nora gives in lying to Torvald about the money is "Torvald would find it embarrassing and humiliating to learn that he owed me anything." Nora defends her actions as warranted because she has paid on the loan by doing odd jobs and using her allowance.
Nora faces a new problem when Krogstad comes to her home and demands that she speak to Helmer for him. Krogstad wants to keep his job at the bank to gain back his reputation for the sake of his sons. Nora worries that Krogstad would tell her husband about the loan, but Krogstad informs her about the serious crime she has committed. He speaks of "an indiscretion" that he committed, which never went to court, but made it difficult for him to advance in his career. Forging her father's signature on the promissory note, Krogstad informs Nora was the same serious offense that caused him to lose his reputation. Nora cannot imagine a law that would not approve of a wife saving her husband. "...I do not know much about the law, but I am certain that there must be laws permitting such things . . . " At her husband's return home, Nora discovers Helmer's opinion of Krogstad's reputation. Torvald does not want Nora to have anything to do with Krogstad because ". . . a guilty man has to lie and play the hypocrite . . . how he has to wear a mask in the presence of . . . those dear to him, even . . . his wife and children." "And about the children . . . the most terrible part of it all . . . " Helmer goes on stating, "Because such . . . atmosphere of lies infects and poison the whole life of a home." These comments by Torvald about Krogstad astonish Nora, making her fear telling him her secret.
11. The speech by Torvald stating, "You will see I am man enough to take everything upon myself," conforms to Nora's hopes in that she believes Helmer would protect her. Nora displays these feelings when talking with Dr. Rank saying, ". . . being with Torvald is a little like being with papa." She also believes that Helmer would sacrifice himself for her proclaiming, "You know how devotedly, how inexpressibly deeply Torvlad loves me; he would never for a moment hesitate to give his life for me." Helmer is concern of what people think of him, and if they think his wife influenced his business decisions. Nora's blind love for Torvald does not permit her to see that he does not feel the same way toward her. When Nora inquires for Krogstad's job, Torvald manifest his thoughts stating, ". . . If only this obstinate little person can get her way! Do you suppose I am going to make myself ridiculous before my whole staff, to let people think that I am a man to be swayed by all sorts of outside influence?" Helmer makes sure that Nora understands that he is in control of the decision making, sending the letter of dismissal for Krogstad. The irony emerges in that Nora believes Torvald is devoted to her and would sacrifice his life for her, but Helmer seems to make it clear that he is concern in what people think of him, not Nora's feelings.
15. Christine had rejected Krogstad because ". . . it was my duty also to put an end to all you felt for me." Krogstad asserts that it was for a wealthier man. Christine explains, "You must not forget that I had a helpless mother and two little brothers . . . " She begins to speak to him with the intentions of getting Krogstad to take the letter back, but ends up deciding that they could be happy together. Christine exclaims, ". . . how would it be if we two shipwrecked people could join forces?" "...I am quite alone in the world–my life is so dreadfully empty and . . . so forsaken . . . Nils, give me someone and something to work for." At first, Krogstad does not believe her because of her past rejection of him. Christine responds, "Have you ever noticed anything of the sort in me?" When Krogstad observes her face, he realizes that she is telling him the truth, becoming extremely elated. Christine lets Krogstad know her first intentions were to get him to take the letter back, then she says, ". . . twenty-four hours have elapsed since then, and in that time I have witnessed incredible things in this house. Helmer must know all . . . this unhappy secret . . . they must have a complete understanding between them, which is impossible with all this concealment and falsehood going on." The difference between the Helmer's marriage and the relationship of Christine and Krogstad is honesty. Their relationship has already begun with both of them being honest with each other. Because Torvald thinks of his wife as a possession and someone to keep up his appearance, makes Nora unable to confide in him. Nora realizes this at the end of the play that Helmer did not love her as a person. If she obeyed his commands, Torvald had his beautiful home and family to impress people. True love is patient, kind, unselfish, forgiving, and this cannot be seen in the Helmer's marriage; or Nora would not have decided to leave.


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