CONTENTSCONTENTSSECTION………………………. SEARCH ON
THE AUTHOR AND HIS TIMES……………………….. IDOLAUTH
A Doll’s HouseTHE PLAYThe Plot…………………………………… IDOLPLOTThe Characters……………………………… IDOLCHAROther ElementsSetting……………………………….. IDOLSETTThemes………………………………… IDOLTHEMStyle…………………………………. IDOLSTYLForm and Structure……………………… IDOLFORMTHE STORY………………………………….. IDOLSTOR
Hedda GablerTHE PLAYThe Plot…………………………………… IHEDPLOTThe Characters……………………………… IHEDCHAROther ElementsSetting……………………………….. IHEDSETTThemes………………………………… IHEDTHEMStyle…………………………………. IHEDSTYLForm and Structure……………………… IHEDFORMTHE STORY………………………………….. IHEDSTOR
Advisory Board……………………………… IDOLADVB
AUTHOR_AND_HIS_TIMESTHE AUTHOR AND HIS TIMES (IDOLAUTH)-On a chilly April day in 1864, Henrik Ibsen arrived at the docksin the Norwegian capital of Oslo (then called Christiania). Theyoung man was a failure. The theater he’d run had closed, and noneof his own plays were successful. He had a wife and a young son tosupport, but all his possessions had been auctioned off two yearsbefore to pay his debts. He’d applied for a grant from his nativecountry, Norway, but was turned down.Disillusioned by his country and society, Ibsen, together with hiswife and son, boarded a ship and left Norway, figuratively slammingthe door behind him.Fifteen years later, a similarly disillusioned Nora Helmer wouldslam the door on stage at the end of A Doll’s House, helping to changethe course of modern drama.Ibsen had become disillusioned very early. In 1836, when he waseight years old, his wealthy parents went bankrupt. They were forcedto move from town to a small farm. All of their old friends desertedthem, and they lived for years in social disgrace. Although youngHenrik appeared quiet and withdrawn, his deep, bitter anger at societywould occasionally escape in the scathing caricatures he would draw orin tirades against young playmates. His sole happiness seemed tocome from reading books and putting on puppet plays.Ibsen didn’t like his own family any more than he liked the “proper”society that shunned them. His domineering father was an alcoholic,while his quiet mother found comfort in religion. This blend ofoverbearing husband and submissive wife makes repeated appearancesin his plays, most notably in Brand, in A Doll’s House, and in Ghosts,After he left his parents’ home at sixteen in 1844, he never wentback, even years later when he got word that his mother was dying.Hoping eventually to study medicine, Ibsen became a druggist’sapprentice in Grimstad, a small Norwegian village. But he still feltlike an outsider, a feeling that would dog him all his life and findexpression in many of his plays. (It didn’t help his social standingwhen he fathered an illegitimate son by a servant girl ten years olderthan he. Some feel that it was this unwanted child that reappears inmany of his plays as a lost or murdered child. In A Doll’s House,the nursemaid gives away her illegitimate child.) But Ibsen found hewasn’t alone in his contempt for those who controlled society. Hebecame friends with a boisterous group of young artists whospecialized in political satire.By 1848, a spirit of political unrest was sweeping Europe.Rebellions against monarchy flared in many countries. This spirit ofrevolution was intoxicating for Ibsen and his friends. Royalty andaristocracy seemed on their way out; the people were coming into theirown.Two years later, Ibsen moved to Oslo to attend the university butfailed to complete the entrance examinations. He was so caught up inpolitics and writing, however, that he really didn’t care. Afterall, modern society seemed to be at a crossroads, and the worldoffered infinite possibilities.But things began to go wrong. The revolutions of 1848 faltered andfinally were crushed. Artists and politicians alike lost theiridealism. The world of infinite possibilities didn’t really exist.Years later, Ibsen would use the experiences of this period in hisplays. Certain of his characters (like Nora in A Doll’s House andLovborg and Hedda in Hedda Gabler) reflect the possibility of asociety where people can reach their individual potential. But theseare lonely characters who must struggle against society as well astheir own human failings.Although he avoided any further active involvement in politics,Ibsen remained a nationalist. For the first time in centuries,Norway had its own government and was trying to escape the politicaland artistic influence of Denmark and Sweden. Authors wroteNorwegian sagas, and the Norwegian Theater was opened in Bergen. YoungIbsen became active in Norway’s artistic rebirth. His first plays werefilled with sweeping poetry about Vikings and political heroes. Infact, the fourteen plays Ibsen wrote between 1850 and 1873 are said tomake up his Romantic Period.Ibsen quickly forgot about being a doctor. On the merit of twoplays, he became the director of the theater at Bergen, with theassignment to write one original play each year. But things did not gowell for him there. Not only were his own plays failures, but he wasforced to produce plays he considered mindless and unimportant- suchas drawing room comedies by the contemporary French playwrightAugustin Eugene Scribe. Although Ibsen ridiculed Scribe’s plays, heabsorbed much about their structure, known as the piece bien faite(well-made play). These were tightly woven melodramas, designedprimarily to entertain, to keep theatergoers on the edge of theirseats. Such plays usually included a young hero and heroine,bumbling parents, and a dastardly villain. The action hinged oncoincidences, misplaced letters, misunderstandings, and some kind oftime limit before which everything had to work out.There is a real art to writing a piece bien faite, because there canbe no unnecessary scenes or dialogue; every word and action sets upa later action. Ibsen would use this tight structure in A Doll’sHouse, but he would add elements that turned an entertainment intomodern drama.In 1858, while in Bergen, Ibsen married Susannah Thoresen. Hardlya subservient wife, she helped manage his career, run his house, andscreen his guests. All through his life, however, Ibsen continued tohave flirtations with pretty young women (including Laura Kieler,who was the model for Nora, and Emilie Bardach, who may have hadsome of Hedda Gabler’s traits).Ibsen left Bergen to become the artistic director of the Norwegiantheater in Oslo. The hardship of these next few years took their toll.The theater went bankrupt in 1862, and Ibsen, destitute, reportedlybecame involved with moneylenders, who may have provided the model forKrogstad in A Doll’s House. Despairing, Ibsen turned to drink, and,like Eilert Lovborg in Hedda Gabler, he almost lost his genius toalcohol. Finally, in April 1864, he left Norway with Susannah andtheir son Sigurd. Over the next twenty-seven years they lived in Rome,Dresden, and Munich.Curiously, the first play that Ibsen wrote after leaving Norwaybecame his first Norwegian hit. And it was this play, Brand (1865),that finally persuaded the Norwegian government to grant Ibsen ayearly salary to support his writing.Success changed Ibsen’s life. He no longer had to scrape formoney, He was ready for his new role. He altered his wardrobe, hisappearance, and even his handwriting. He consciously made himself overinto the man he always thought he could be- successful, honored,sought-after.Even though Ibsen had left Norway, he retained strong ties to thecountry and all but one of his plays are set there. He kept up withliterary events and trends in Scandinavia. One of these eventsprepared him for another major change in his thinking.In 1872 the Danish critic Georg Brandes attacked Scandinavianwriters for dealing only with the past. It was time to startdiscussing modern problems, he said. Ibsen listened and agreed. Thetime was ripe for a change in world drama. In France, Alexandre Dumas,fils [the son], was dramatizing social ills in plays like La Dameaux Camelias (Camille); in Russia, Anton Chekhov was mourning thedeath of the aristocracy, and Count Leo Tolstoy was glorifying thepeasants.Even though the popular revolutions had been defeated, social changewas in the air. An educated middle class was flexing its muscles.Women were beginning to question the submissive behavior they had beentaught. They were now allowed to move in educated circles althoughseldom permitted anything beyond a rudimentary education. Often littlemore than decorative servants, women could not vote and had fewproperty rights. They were expected to be passive, no matter whattheir true personality was. Ibsen sided with women who sought tochange their traditional role.He decided to write plays about modern people who would usecontemporary, everyday language. Writing in prose instead of poetry,he turned from imaginary, romantic settings to “photographically”accurate everyday settings. His first realistic prose play was ThePillars of Society (1877). It was a success, but some readers feelit was only practice for his next play, A Doll’s House (1879).It’s hard for us to realize just how revolutionary A Doll’s Housewas. It took the form and structure of the “well-made play” but turnedit from a piece of fluff into a modern tragedy. In addition, the”hero” isn’t a prince or a king- or even a member of thearistocracy. Instead, it’s a middle-class woman, who decisively rebelsagainst her male-dominated surroundings.A play that questioned a woman’s place in society, and asserted thata woman’s self was more important than her role as wife and mother,was unheard of. Government and church officials were outraged. Somepeople even blamed Ibsen for the rising divorce rate! When sometheaters in Germany refused to perform the play the way it waswritten, Ibsen was forced to write an alternate ending in which theheroine’s rebellion collapses. Despite the harsh criticism of A Doll’sHouse, the play became the talk of Europe. It was soon translated intomany languages and performed all over the world. The furor overIbsen’s realistic plays helped him to become an internationalfigure. Some writers like Tolstoy thought Ibsen’s plays too common andtalky; but the English author George Bernard Shaw considered Ibsento be more important than Shakespeare.No matter what individual viewers thought about its merits, in ADoll’s House, Ibsen had developed a new kind of drama, called a”problem play” because it examines modern social and moral problems.The heroes and heroines of problem plays belonged to the middle orlower class, and the plays dealt with the controversial problems ofmodern society. This seems commonplace today, as popular entertainmenthas been dealing with controversial topics for years. Until Ibsen’sday, however, it just wasn’t done. Many of the most important playswritten in our day, like Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, havetheir roots in the problem play.Ibsen’s Realistic Period (1877 to 1890) earned him a place as atheater giant. Not only did he introduce controversial subjects,everyday heroes, and modern language, he resurrected and modernizedthe “retrospective” plot, which had been popular with the ancientGreek playwrights. In a retrospective play, like A Doll’s House andHedda Gabler, the major events have taken place before the curtaingoes up. The play concerns the way the characters deal with these pastevents.Hedda Gabler was another innovative experiment for Ibsen. Instead ofpresenting a merely social problem, he painted a psychologicalportrait of a fascinating and self-destructive woman.Hedda Gabler has many striking resemblances to A Doll’s House,even though it appeared eleven years later, in 1890. In both plays,the action takes place in the drawing room. The characters include ahusband and, wife, the husband’s friend (who completes a romantictriangle), an old school friend of the wife’s, and this friend’slove interest. Both wives are in a psychological crisis: Nora is notin touch with her aggressive or “male” side, while Hedda cannot bearher own femaleness. (It’s interesting to note that Ibsen wrote theseplays before Freud expressed his idea that everyone has both maleand female components.) Nora, a member of the middle class, dealsconstructively with her search for self-knowledge. Her final closingof the door at the end of the play signifies that she is going outinto the world, which is full of possibilities. On the other hand,Hedda Gabler, a member of the dying aristocracy, becomes destructiveand predatory. Her final action is suicide.Despite his success, Ibsen was never satisfied with his work. Hefelt his major characters had all failed to achieve somethingimportant, something dramatic- and he felt the same way about himself.He was in his sixties when he wrote Hedda Gabler and it signaledanother change in his life and writing.In 1891, after twenty-seven years of exile, Ibsen moved back tohis native Norway and into his third phase of plays, called hisSymbolist Period. The main characters in these plays aren’t women, butspiritually defeated old men.Ibsen had a stroke in 1900 from which he never completely recovered.But he remained an opposing force to the end. In 1906, as he wascoming out of a coma, the nurse commented to his wife that he seemed alittle better. “On the contrary!” Ibsen snapped. He died a few dayslater.
DOLLS_HOUSE|PLOTA DOLL’S HOUSETHE PLAY-(The following edition was used in the preparation of this guide:Henrik Ibsen, Four Major Plays, Vol. I, trans. by Rolf Fjelde,Signet Classic, 1965.)-THE PLOT (IDOLPLOT)-It’s Christmas Eve. Nora Helmer, a beautiful young wife, has beenout doing some last-minute shopping. When she returns, her husbandTorvald immediately comes to see what his “little squirrel” hasbought. They playfully act out their roles- Torvald the big, stronghusband, Nora the dependent, adoring wife.This is a happy Christmas for the Helmers and their children becauseTorvald has recently been appointed manager of the bank. Soonthey’ll be well off and won’t have to scrimp. However, Torvald willstill control the cash in the house, because he feels that hisirresponsible Nora lets money run through her fingers, a trait she”inherited” from her father.An old school friend, Kristine Linde, comes to visit Nora. Duringthe conversation, Kristine reveals that she had married a wealthyman she didn’t love in order to support an invalid mother. Herhusband’s death three years ago left her penniless and she’sreturned to seek work. Nora promises to speak to Torvald about a jobin his bank.Having had such a hard time herself, Kristine is scornful ofNora’s easy married life until Nora describes a secret she has beenconcealing for many years. Early in her marriage, when Torvaldbecame seriously ill, she secretly borrowed a large sum to finance ayear-long stay in a warmer climate. Since he did not know the extentof his illness, and since, even if he had known, borrowing money wouldhave been against his principles, she pretended the money was from herlate father. Since then she has been struggling to repay the debt byeconomizing from her personal allowance and by secretly working athome.The women are interrupted by the arrival of Nils Krogstad, a clerkin Torvald’s bank. When Krogstad goes into the study, Dr. Rank, an oldfamily friend, comes out. Knowing of Krogstad’s reputation as aforger, Rank tells the women that Krogstad is one of those “moralinvalids.” Unknown to any of them, Torvald is firing Krogstad. Thisleaves a vacancy, and, when Torvald joins them, he agrees to giveKristine the job. Torvald, Dr. Rank, and Kristine then leave together.As Nora is playing happily with her three young children, Krogstadreappears. It turns out that he is the one who had lent the money toNora. He also knows that Nora not only forged her father’s signatureas cosigner of the loan but dated it several days after his death.Krogstad leaves after threatening to expose Nora unless he gets hisjob back.Nora pleads with Torvald to reinstate Krogstad, but he refuses.She is frantic, imagining that once Krogstad reveals the truth,Torvald will himself assume the blame for the forgery and be ruined.The next day Dr. Rank, who is suffering from a fatal illness,comes to visit. He speaks openly of his impending death and tells Norathat he loves her. Nora is upset, not because he loves her, butbecause he has told her so and ruined the innocent appearance of theirrelationship.The arrival of Krogstad interrupts their conversation, and Noraslips down to the kitchen to see him. He tells her he has written aletter to her husband, which explains the debt and the forgery. Thenas he leaves, he drops it into the locked mailbox. In despairbecause Torvald has the only key to the box, Nora thinks wildly ofsuicide.When Kristine learns about the forgery, she offers to intercede withKrogstad on Nora’s behalf, because she and Krogstad had once been inlove.Meanwhile, Nora gets Torvald to promise to spend the rest of theevening helping her practice the tarantella- the dance she’s toperform at a masquerade party the next night. Torvald sees a letter inthe mailbox, but true to his promise, he ignores it and concentratesonly on Nora’s dance.The next night, while the Helmers are at the party, Krogstad andKristine meet in the Helmers’ drawing room. They forgive eachother’s past mistakes and are reunited. Krogstad offers to ask for hisletter back, unread, from Torvald, but, unexpectedly, Kristine stopshim. She has had a change of heart and says he should leave theletter- Nora and Torvald must face the truth.Torvald drags Nora away from the party the minute she finishes thedance. He is filled with desire for her and is glad when Kristineleaves. Shortly after, Dr. Rank stops by to bid a final farewell. Norarealizes he is returning home to die alone.Overwhelmed by his feelings for Nora, Torvald says he wishes hecould save her from something dreadful. This is her cue. Nora tellshim to read his mail. She is certain that now the “miracle” willhappen: Torvald will nobly offer to shoulder the guilt himself. Heretires to his study with the mail. Rather than see Torvald ruined,Nora throws on her shawl and starts for the hall, determined tocarry out her suicide plan.But instead, her fine illusions about her husband crumble when anoutraged Torvald storms out of his study, calling her a criminal andaccusing her of poisoning their home and their children. Since hisreputation is at stake, he feels completely in Krogstad’s power andmust submit to the blackmail. Still, he insists that they mustmaintain the appearance of a happy family life.Then a second letter arrives from Krogstad, dropping the charges andreturning Nora’s forged note. Torvald is relieved and immediatelywants to return Nora to the status of pet and child. But she hasseen him as he really is. She realizes that she went straight from herfather’s house to her husband’s and has never become her own person.She has always subordinated her opinions and her identity to those whoshe assumed were nobler. Now she sees that both Torvald and her fatherwere weak, and have kept her weaker only to have someone to bully.Nora decides to leave Torvald’s house to discover who she is. Shesays she’s not fit to raise her children in the state she’s in-she’s been teaching them to be mindless dolls, just as she was. WhenTorvald asks if she’ll ever return, she replies that she could onlyreturn if the greatest miracle happened and they were truly equals,truly married.Torvald is left clinging to this hope as his wife departs,slamming the door behind her.
DOLLS_HOUSE|CHARACTERSTHE CHARACTERS (IDOLCHAR)-(Spelling of the characters’ names may vary according to thetranslation.)-NORA HELMERNora is a fascinating character for actresses to play, and for youto watch. She swings between extremes: she is either very happy orsuicidally depressed, comfortable or desperate, wise or naive,helpless or purposeful. You can understand this range in Nora, becauseshe wavers between the person she pretends to be and the one she maysomeday become.At the beginning of the play, Nora is still a child in many ways,listening at doors and guiltily eating forbidden sweets behind herhusband’s back. She has gone straight from her father’s house to herhusband’s, bringing along her nursemaid to underline the fact thatshe’s never grown up. She’s also never developed a sense of self.She’s always accepted her father’s and her husband’s opinions. Andshe’s aware that Torvald would have no use for a wife who was hisequal. But like many children, Nora knows how to manipulate Torvald bypouting or by performing for him.In the end, it is the truth about her marriage that awakens Nora.Although she may suspect that Torvald is a weak, petty man, she clingsto the illusion that he’s strong, that he’ll protect her from theconsequences of her act. But at the moment of truth, he abandons hercompletely. She is shocked into reality and sees what a sham theirrelationship has been. She becomes aware that her father and herhusband have seen her as a doll to be played with, a figure withoutopinion or will of her own- first a doll-child, then a doll-wife.She also realizes that she is treating her children the same way.Her whole life has been based on illusion rather than reality.The believability of the play hinges on your accepting Nora’s suddenself-awareness. Some readers feel that she has been a child so longshe couldn’t possibly grow up that quickly. Others feel that she isalready quite wise without realizing it, and that what happens iscredible. There are lines in the play that support both arguments.It’s up to you to read the play and then draw your own conclusions.There is a parallel to the story of Nora in the life of one ofIbsen’s friends, a woman named Laura Kieler. She, too, secretlyborrowed money to finance a trip to a warm climate for a seriously illhusband. When she had difficulty repaying the loan, she forged anote but was discovered and placed in a mental institution.Eventually, she was released and went back to her husband for herchildren’s sake. The story outraged Ibsen, and he fictionalized itin A Doll’s House, although rewriting the ending.-TORVALD HELMERProbably all of you know someone like Torvald. He’s astraight-laced, proper man, and proud of it. At first, he seemsgenuinely in love with Nora, even if he does tend to nag and preacha bit. But as the play progresses, you discover more disturbingparts of his character.Like anyone who doubts his own power, Torvald must frequentlyprove it. He keeps tight control over who comes to his study andwhom he speaks to at work, and over everything affecting Nora. He evenhas the only key to their mailbox.During the third act, you see his need for dominance increase. Hisfantasies always have Nora in a submissive role. He is happiest whentreating her as a father would a child. This gives an incestuous tingeto their relationship, which Nora comes to realize and abhor at theend of the play.On the other hand, Torvald is not a bad man. He is the product ofhis society, one who seems to fit well in the middle-class mold.It’s only when he’s tested that his well-ordered house of cardscomes crashing down.Some readers question the believability of Nora’s love forTorvald. How could she have been blind to the obvious faults of thisdull, petty man for eight years? He must have qualities that makeNora’s love credible, but at the same time he must become odiousenough at the end for her to break all ties and leave immediately upondiscovering his true self. What kind of marriage relationship wouldput a premium on Torvald’s good qualities?Besides being Nora’s weak and unsupportive husband, Torvaldrepresents a “type” of thought and behavior that contrasts with Norain several effective ways. He represents middle-class society andits rules, while Nora represents the individual. He stands for theworld of men and “logical male thinking,” while Nora’s thinking ismore intuitive and sensitive. Can you think of other ways that Torvaldand Nora are compared?In light of these comparisons, how would you interpret Torvald’sdefeat at the end? Certainly at the play’s start, Torvald appears tobe in command in contrast to Nora’s weakness. But by the end of ActThree their roles have been reversed: he is the weak one, beggingfor another chance, and Nora has found strength. Does the authormean to suggest that the ideas of male supremacy and middle-classrespectability were changing?-DR. RANKDr. Rank is an old family friend, whose relationship to theHelmers is deeper than it appears. He always visits with Torvaldfirst, but it is Nora he really comes to see. Both Rank and Noraprefer each other’s company to Torvald’s.Although Nora flirts with Rank and fantasizes about a rich gentlemandying and leaving her everything, she never acknowledges her truefeelings- the attraction she feels for older, father-figures. Rankat least is honest in declaring his love for Nora.The doctor serves several important functions in the play. Hisphysical illness, inherited from his loose-living father, parallelsthe “moral illness” shared by Krogstad and Nora. The hereditary natureof Rank’s disease, although it is never identified, suggests thepossibility of immorality passing from generation to generation.Rank’s concern with appearing normal despite his illness parallelsTorvald’s concerns with maintaining the appearance of a normalmarriage after he discovers Nora’s moral “disease.”Dr. Rank helps Nora on her journey to self-discovery. He forcesher to face the reality of his death, which prepares her for the deathof her marriage. He also forces her to look behind appearances tosee the romantic nature of her and Rank’s relationship. Nora refusesto deal with both of these issues in the second act, but by thethird act she and Rank are through with masquerades and are bothopenly preparing to die. At the end, Rank realizes and accepts hisapproaching death, while Nora realizes and accepts the death of hermarriage.-KRISTINE LINDEMrs. Linde, Nora’s old friend, is the first “voice from the past”who affects the future. On the one hand, she is like Nora becauseshe’s gone through what Nora is about to face. Kristine has come outof a marriage that was socially acceptable and emotionally bankrupt.On the other hand, she is different from Nora because, havingalready been disillusioned, she has now gained a firm grasp onreality. She has hope, but it’s based on knowing and accepting thetruth about herself and about Krogstad. Kristine is the first to seeNora’s marriage for the pretense it is. It is Kristine who decides,for better or worse, that Torvald has to know the whole truth aboutNora’s forgery.Kristine and Krogstad’s compassionate and realistic relationshipcontrasts with Nora and Torvald’s playacting. While the Helmers’socially acceptable relationship crumbles because it’s based ondeceptions, Nils and Kristine’s relationship is renewed andstrengthened because it’s based on truth.-NILS KROGSTADNils Krogstad, a clerk in Helmer’s bank, is called immoral byseveral other characters in the play, but is he? We usually think ofan immoral person as someone who has no regard for right and wrong.But Krogstad is concerned with right and wrong. He’s alsoconcerned about his reputation and its effect on his children.Although he has been a forger, he wants to reform and triesdesperately to keep his job and social standing. Once they’re lost, hedecides to play the part of the villain in which society hasimprisoned him. His attempt to blackmail Nora sets the play’s actionin motion.Through his blackmail letter he forces Nora into self-knowledge.He also affects some of the other characters in ways that reveal notonly the truth about him, but the truth about them as well. Forexample, you discover much of Torvald’s pettiness from the way hereacts to Krogstad as an inferior. Despite his superficial role as avillain, Krogstad understands himself and the world. Although somefind his conversion in Act Three hard to believe, he (together withKristine) offers that message of hope that gives promise to Nora’sfuture.
DOLLS_HOUSE|SETTINGOTHER ELEMENTS-SETTING (IDOLSETT)-A Doll’s House takes place in a large Norwegian town. The entiredrama unfolds on one set, a “comfortable room” in the Helmers’ housethat serves both as a drawing room in which to receive guests and as afamily room where the children play and where the family sets up itsChristmas tree. There is a door to the entryway and another toTorvald’s study.Ibsen describes this setting in minute detail. About midwaythrough his career, he adapted a style of drama that has been called”photographic.” Instead of creating various country or city scenesas background for his characters, he “takes a picture” of one roomthey inhabit. Every piece of furniture, every prop reveals thecharacter of the people who live in this place. For example, in theHelmers’ drawing room there is a “small bookcase with richly boundbooks.” What better way to describe Torvald, their owner, than as”richly bound”- someone who looks good from the outside? Also, theChristmas tree serves to represent various stages in Nora Helmer’slife. When her life appears happy, the tree is beautifully trimmed.When her happiness is shattered, the tree is stripped and drooping.Ibsen has described the set and its props precisely, so that everyproduction will reproduce this same “photograph” of the Helmers’living room.Probably the most significant thing about the setting of this playis that it concerns middle-class characters and values. It takes placein an unnamed city, where banking and law would be considered normaland respectable occupations. Banking is the occupation most closelyassociated with money, the symbol of middle-class goals, and thecrimes of the characters- Nora, her father, and Krogstad- are monetaryones. Notice also how Torvald, a lawyer and bank manager, ispreoccupied with Nora’s extravagance, or waste of money.Up until Ibsen’s time, serious drama had been almost exclusivelyconcerned with members of the aristocracy or military heroes. Comedyhad served to depict the lives of the farmers, workers, and lowerclass. But A Doll’s House is a serious drama about the middle class.Some might even say it is a tragedy of everyday life. In light oftoday’s understanding of marital roles and the larger issue of women’sself-awareness, would you call the fate of the Helmers’ marriage atragedy?
DOLLS_HOUSE|THEMESTHEMES (IDOLTHEM)-The major themes of A Doll’s House recur in many of Ibsen’s plays,including Hedda Gabler.-1. THE INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIETYIbsen felt strongly that society should reflect people’s needs,not work against them. In A Doll’s House, society’s rules preventthe characters from seeing and expressing their true nature. WhenKrogstad tells Nora that the law takes no account of good motives, shecries, “Then they must be very bad laws!”At the end of the play, she realizes she has existed in twohouseholds ruled by men and has accepted the church and societywithout ever questioning these institutions. In the third act, Noraseparates herself from the “majority” and the books that support them.”But,” she says, “I can’t go on believing what the majority says, orwhat’s written in books. I have to think over these things myselfand try to understand them.” The individual has triumphed oversociety, but at a heavy price that includes her children. When Norawalks out the door, she becomes a social outcast.-2. DUTY TO ONESELFIbsen seems to be saying that your greatest duty is to understandyourself. At the beginning of the play, Nora doesn’t realize she has aself. She’s playing a role. The purpose of her life is to pleaseTorvald or her father, and to raise her children. But by the end ofthe play, she discovers that her “most sacred duty” is to herself. Sheleaves to find out who she is and what she thinks.-3. THE PLACE OF WOMENThis was a major theme in late nineteenth-century literature andappeared in Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Gustave Flaubert’s MadameBovary, and Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, to name only afew.Ibsen refused to be called a feminist, preferring to be known as ahumanist. He had little patience with people, male or female, whodidn’t stand up for their rights and opinions.Still, he argued that society’s rules came from the traditionallymale way of thinking. He saw the woman’s world as one of human values,feelings, and personal relationships, while men dealt in theabstract realm of laws, legal rights, and duties. In A Doll’s House,Nora can’t really see how it is wrong to forge a name in order to savea life, but Torvald would rather die than break the law or borrowmoney. This difference in thinking is what traps Nora.However, for Ibsen, the triumph of the individual embraces the rightof women to express themselves. In the end, Nora’s duty to knowherself is more important than her female role.-4. APPEARANCE AND REALITYAt the beginning of the play, family life is not what it seems. Norais Torvald’s “little squirrel”; they appear to have a perfect marriageand their home is debt-free. Nora seems content and Torvald is incontrol. Scandal can’t touch them. Everyone concerned wants to keep upappearances. But, little by little, as the play progresses, realityreplaces appearances.Nora is upset when Dr. Rank shatters the appearance that theirrelationship is innocent. Torvald insists on keeping up the appearanceof marriage even after rejecting Nora for her past crime. He isappalled when Krogstad calls him by his first name at the bank- itdoesn’t appear proper. Dr. Rank wants to appear healthy. Krogstadand Nora want to hide their deeds and are enmeshed in a tissue oflies.Only when the characters give up their deceptions and cast off theirelaborately constructed secrets can they be whole. Ask yourself howall the characters achieve this freedom from appearances by the play’send. Do any of them fail?-5. THE COLLAPSE OF THE PARENTAL IDEALNora seems to be under the impression that her father was perfect,and she tried to replace him- first with Torvald, then with Rank. Whenshe realizes her father wasn’t looking out for her best interests,it’s only a short step to discovering that Torvald isn’t either.
DOLLS_HOUSE|STYLESTYLE (IDOLSTYL)-After finishing an earlier play, Ibsen wrote a letter saying, “Weare no longer living in the age of Shakespeare… what I desired todepict were human beings, and therefore I would not let them talkthe language of the gods.” This doesn’t seem unusual to us todaybecause we expect the major characters in contemporary plays andmovies to speak in everyday language. But in Ibsen’s day the use ofcommon speech was shocking. Writers in the mid-1800s were largelydevoted to the tradition requiring plays to be aboutlarger-than-life heroes who spoke grand and noble language. EvenIbsen’s early plays were about heroic events and contained dialoguefilled with poetry.But later he wanted to do something different. He wanted to writerealistic plays about the average middle-class people who made uphis audience and who spoke the way they did. In A Doll’s House, thecharacters use everyday vocabulary and colloquial expressions. Theyinterrupt each other, correct themselves, and speak in incompletesentences. This switch to realistic dialogue is considered one ofthe major breakthroughs in the development of modern drama.It’s also important to note that Ibsen was writing inDano-Norwegian. For centuries, Norway’s art and literature had beenheavily influenced by Denmark. Even when a group of authors finallystarted a Norwegian writers’ society, they met in Denmark. Then in the1800s, Norwegians became very nationalistic. They wanted their own artand their own language. In those days there were only two languages tochoose from: a mixture of peasant dialects or a refined mixture ofNorwegian and Danish. Ibsen was part of the first generation who hadgrown up speaking and writing Dano-Norwegian. (Today in Norway, evenIbsen’s language sounds old-fashioned and stilted because the languagehas reduced the amount of Danish and increased the amount ofcolloquial Norwegian.)There are several notable differences between Ibsen’s originallanguage and English translations. English has many synonyms anduses many modifiers. Dano-Norwegian, on the other hand, tends to besimpler, using fewer words and adjectives. It will use a few verybrief, strong images, instead of effusive descriptions. This isevident in A Doll’s House in several ways. There are very fewmetaphors (elaborate word comparisons) or descriptive adjectives.The sparse language lends itself to understatement and to multilevelmeanings for single words. Much of the humor comes fromunderstanding the layers of different meaning. Ibsen adds his ownstrict control of language to this natural Norwegian economy. Noneof the dialogue is superfluous; it is all packed with meaning. Infact, often the dialogue means more than the character knows it means!An example of this “loaded” dialogue occurs when Torvald talks abouthow an immoral parent poisons the whole family. He is referring toKrogstad, but Nora’s replies refer to herself.The differences between English and Norwegian make Ibsen’s playssomewhat difficult to translate. Ibsen’s own wish was “that thedialogue in the translations be kept as close to everyday, ordinaryspeech as possible.” One difficulty, for example, is that Norwegiandoesn’t use contractions, but English without contractions soundsdry and stilted. Most modern translators try to keep Ibsen’s textclose to everyday English and the spirit, if not the word, of theoriginal. This means that phrases may change from earlier to latertranslations depending on current usage. Also, be aware that someversions available in America are British and use distinctly Britishspeech patterns.
DOLLS_HOUSE|FORMFORM AND STRUCTURE (IDOLFORM)-The basic form for A Doll’s House comes from the French piece bienfaite (well-made play), with which Ibsen became familiar whileproducing plays in Oslo and Bergen, Norway. At the time, France wasthe leader in world drama; however, “serious” dramatists in Francelooked down on the piece bien faite as low-class entertainment.Typically, this kind of play contained the same stock characters-including the domineering father, the innocent woman in distress,the jealous husband, the loyal friend, the cruel villain- whounderwent predictable crises involving lost letters, guilty secrets,and mistaken identity. Intrigue and tension-building delays wereheaped on top of each other until the final embrace or pistol shot.There was always a moral to the story.Ibsen adopted the techniques but changed the characters. Insteadof being cardboard types, they are complicated people whose problemsthe audience can identify with. You (as the reader or audience member)can learn something about yourself and your world through the intrigueand tension onstage. Nora’s plight makes you consider your own ideasand relationships, for example.Another structural technique commonly used by Ibsen is to placeall of the important “events” before the play opens. Instead ofwitnessing the events as they occur, you find them revealed andexplained in different ways as the play progresses. The key past eventin this play is Nora’s secret loan obtained by forging her father’ssignature. Other important past events are Krogstad’s crime, Mrs.Linde’s marriage, and Dr. Rank’s inherited fatal illness.The action of the play is very compressed. It takes place in onelocation (the living room) over a period of three days. The five majorcharacters are closely related, and their lives and roles mirror orcontrast with each other’s. One character cannot act without affectingeach of the others. Even the small part of the nursemaid is tied in tothe major theme of Nora’s development from child to child-wife towoman. She not only connects Nora to the past but foreshadows thefuture when Nora will leave her own children to be cared for byanother.This unity of time, place, and characters gives the play what somehave called “unrelenting cohesion.” In addition, every prop andcostume is meant to be symbolic, every conversation layered withmeanings. For example, one reader points out that Nora addresses herbaby as “my sweet baby doll” (a reminder of her own doll role) andplays hide-and-seek (a reminder of hidden truth) with the olderchildren. You might want to list the ways in which the words,action, and setting give off many messages.Just as the details reveal the meaning, the overall action isconstructed to make you feel the tension mounting within the play. ActOne proceeds from the calm of everyday life to disturbinginterruptions and revelations. In Act Two, thoughts of death andsuicide culminate in the climax of Nora’s frantic tarantella. In ActThree, you feel the calm as the confrontation between Nora and Torvaldapproaches. Some think that the play’s resolution- Nora’s decisionto depart- is also its true climax. (See illustration.)
DOLLS_HOUSE|ACT_ONETHE STORY (IDOLSTOR)-ACT ONE-It’s Christmas Eve at the Helmers’ house, and a warm fire cracklesagainst the cold winter day outside. Nora Helmer, a beautiful youngwife and mother, happily comes home with her arms full of presents.She puts the packages on a table and gives a generous tip to thedelivery boy who’s brought the Christmas tree. Then she tells the maidto keep the tree hidden from the children and hums to herself as sheguiltily nibbles on macaroons, her favorite snack. We’re immediatelycaught up in the surprises and planning that surround Christmas.———————————————————————-NOTE: Ibsen’s stage description of the Helmers’ drawing room isunusually precise and detailed. You’ll find that this fits inperfectly. The play is so carefully planned that every prop serves afunction. Already we know the home fire is burning, and we’ll soon seethat, by eating macaroons, Nora is playing with fire. Her firstword, “hide,” portends that the appearance of a happy home is justthat: an appearance. Many things besides the tree are hidden fromview.———————————————————————-Nora “steals” over to listen at her husband’s study door, much theway a child might sneak around a grown-up. Torvald’s first words toher, “Is that my little lark twittering… my squirrelrummaging…?” could be a father’s to a small daughter. But if she’streated like a child or a pet, she’s an adored one. Torvald isgenuinely glad to see her, and he comes from his study to talk toher and see what she’s bought. Nora seems to be content with thisrelationship. From the beginning she manipulates her husband withthe same ingenious plots that children use to get their way. Shepleads and pouts and flirts, and bolsters his ego by chiming “Whateveryou say, Torvald,” and “You know I could never think of goingagainst you.”———————————————————————-NOTE: This dominant husband/submissive wife relationship representedthe ideal for many middle-class Europeans who first saw this play. Butrecognizing their own type of behavior at the beginning of the playmade the ending seem a personal insult. How do you view Nora andTorvald from this early exchange between the two?Ask yourself how you feel about relationships between men and women.Is there always some kind of role-playing going on? If so, whatkinds of roles seem to fulfill women? to fulfill men? Are rolesnecessary? As you read the play, try to figure out how Ibsen wouldanswer these questions.———————————————————————-Despite their playfulness, Nora and Torvald are speaking about aserious subject: money. Torvald is sure that Nora has a woman’sunderstanding of money- that is, she can’t handle it properly. Thus,all the finances in this household are attended to by him, and whenNora wants money she must wheedle it out of him. Now she wants himto borrow money for Christmas gifts. Even though he has just been mademanager of the bank and they won’t have to worry about money,Torvald doesn’t want to owe anyone anything, even for a month, forthen a bit of “freedom’s lost.” This question of borrowing foreshadowsthe revelation of Nora’s great secret of the past. When it isrevealed, think back to how she might be reacting now to thislecture about debt.Still he rewards Nora’s pout with money and condescendingly lays theblame for her alleged mismanagement on heredity. According to Torvald,Nora’s father let money carelessly run through his fingers in the sameway.———————————————————————-NOTE: HEREDITY This is a favorite theme of Ibsen’s. His nextplay, Ghosts, deals with a fatal illness that is inherited by a sonbecause of his father’s sexual activities.Throughout this play, heredity will be credited for passing onphysical traits or problems (like brown hair or Dr. Rank’s disease)from parent to child. Heredity will also be blamed for passing alongmoral traits like Krogstad’s dishonesty and Nora’s mismanagement ofmoney. But Ibsen wants you to wonder how much of moral characterresults from heredity and how much results from environment. Ischaracter determined by genes or by what you’re taught? What are theconsequences if character is something you’re born with? How is thesituation different if it’s something you learn? Be on the lookout forhow each character views heredity. Who is proven wrong?———————————————————————-Torvald suspects Nora has been eating macaroons, anotherextravagance of which he disapproves. She repeatedly denies it. Younow have a clear picture of the control Torvald exercises and hisway of thinking. Borrowing money or eating sweets is forbidden inthe Helmer house. Nora is adorable and impractical, and money runsthrough her fingers. But there is one flaw in this picture: Nora haslied about the macaroons. It’s a small thing which seems to fit intotheir domestic games. You will soon become aware of how important lieshave been in their married life. Almost immediately after presentingthis picture of typical middle-class married life, Ibsen will take youbeneath the surface. Past truths will be exposed to challenge thismarriage.The first voice from the past to disturb the comfortable presentis that of Nora’s old school friend Kristine, now Mrs. Linde, awidow who has just returned to town. The Helmers’ friend Dr. Rankcomes in at the same time. The men go into the study, leaving thewomen to talk. At first Nora acts the same way with Kristine as shehad acted with Torvald, continuing her pleasant, empty-headed chatter.But instead of being manipulated by it, Kristine treats Nora with pityand subtle insults. Kristine has been through years of hardship. Shemarried a man she didn’t love because she needed money to care for herailing mother. Since then, both her husband and her mother havedied. Kristine is now alone, trying to support herself. She assumes,justifiably, that Nora has been coddled and protected all her life.There is no sign in Nora’s childlike behavior up to this point thatshe’s ever faced hardship. The need for money and the way men in anearlier era controlled it at the expense of women is again beingraised. As you read, keep in mind the role of money and the waywomen had traditionally obtained it.———————————————————————-NOTE: Kristine’s description of her empty marriage, of how herhusband left her nothing, not even children or “a sense of loss tofeed on,” is beyond Nora’s comprehension. Here is anotherforeshadowing, this time of how completely Nora’s attitude towardTorvald and marriage will change in two days’ time.———————————————————————-Nora at once plans to help Kristine get a job in Torvald’s bank. Sheboasts about how she’ll arrange it by manipulating Torvald. Kristinethinks her offer of help is very kind, especially since Nora has noconcept of life’s burdens.Can you remember a time you’ve been indignant with someone forpassing judgment on you when that person didn’t even know all thefacts? That’s exactly how Nora feels when Kristine, who should beher equal, treats her like a sheltered child. She’s annoyed enoughto tell Kristine her biggest secret- the key “event” of the play, eventhough it has already taken place. Like Kristine, who has made asacrifice for her mother, Nora, too, has sacrificed for someone.Near the beginning of her marriage, Torvald became very ill andmight have died if he hadn’t traveled south to a milder climate.Knowing that Torvald’s principles would never have allowed him toborrow money for the trip, Nora herself secretly arranged for alarge sum from a moneylender and pretended it came from her father,who had recently died. For seven years she’s scrimped and saved to payoff the loan. In fact, far from being a spendthrift, she has beeneconomizing by making her own Christmas decorations and by secretlycopying documents to raise money!Now, with Torvald’s new position, she’ll be able to pay off theremainder of the debt and bury her secret.———————————————————————-NOTE: It now seems that Nora’s relationship with Torvald is guidedby keeping secrets. What is the necessity of secrets? Keep a countof the various secrets of each character as the play progresses. Howdo they affect each life? How are they revealed? When does secretinformation give power? When is it a burden?———————————————————————-We get an even more intimate picture of Nora and Torvald’s marriage.Kristine asks if Nora will ever tell Torvald what she’s done, and Noraresponds no! “How painfully humiliating for him if he ever found outhe was in debt to me. That would just ruin our relationship. Ourbeautiful happy home would never be the same.”———————————————————————-NOTE: KNOWING AND REALIZING Nora is absolutely right. Butalthough she knows, she doesn’t yet realize what a petty man Torvaldis. She knows their relationship is completely one-sided- Torvaldkeeps her in constant debt to him. Any sign of strength from her wouldruin their relationship. But she has a hunch she might need thepower over Torvald that this secret will give her, “when he stopsenjoying my dancing and dressing up and reciting for him.” Noraalready knows more about their relationship than she thinks shedoes, but she hasn’t ever been forced to consciously face these facts.What is the practical difference between knowing something andrealizing it? Would Nora behave the same way if she truly realizedwhat kind of man Torvald is?———————————————————————-It might seem a little odd that Nora talks so openly to a woman likeKristine who’s so different from her, and whom she hasn’t seen inten years. But once she’s confided her splendid secret, Nora goes onto talk of her fantasies- including one in which a wealthy old manfalls in love with her and leaves her his money when he dies.———————————————————————-NOTE: This fantasy serves two purposes: it underscores Nora’s”father fixation” for older men, and it announces Dr. Rank’sappearance. Watch for the significance of this fantasy in Nora andRank’s relationship.———————————————————————-No sooner has Nora finished describing her little Eden than theserpent enters the garden in the form of Mr. Krogstad. Both womenreact uneasily to his presence. Mrs. Linde turns away and looks outthe window, and Nora nervously asks why he wants to see Torvald.Krogstad, who works in Torvald’s bank, assures Nora it’s “drybusiness.” As Krogstad goes in to see Torvald, Dr. Rank comes out ofthe study to join the women.The first thing we learn about Dr. Rank is that he is terminallyill. He compares himself to Krogstad, who is “morally sick.” Watch forthe theme of inherited moral defects as the play progresses.In a mood of nervous gaiety, Nora throws caution to the wind bybreaking one of Torvald’s rules- she offers her guests the forbiddenmacaroons. But the minute Torvald appears, she hides the macaroons.Through flattery and exaggeration, she manages to get Kristine a jobin Torvald’s bank.Krogstad has already gone. Rank and Torvald then leave withKristine, who is off to find an apartment.As they are going, Nora’s three children come running in fromoutside with their nurse. Nora immediately drops everything to playwith them. Symbolically, she calls the youngest her “sweet little dollbaby” and joins them in a game of hide-and-seek. Doesn’t this remindyou of Nora’s “doll” status with Torvald and the “games” they playtogether? Not surprisingly, Nora is the one who hides. Also notsurprisingly, as you will learn, Krogstad is the one who returns tocatch her playing her game. He alone knows the game she’s been playingall these years.———————————————————————-NOTE: The fact that Ibsen chooses to bring the children on stagemeans he wants you to see them and hear them. They must be real to theaudience, because they’ll figure prominently in Nora’s future thoughtsand actions. It is also a chance for you to see Nora as a conventionalnineteenth-century mother, just as you have seen her as a conventionalwife.———————————————————————-Nora sends the children to their nurse and faces Krogstad alone.He reveals that he used to know Kristine Linde, and that the job shewas just promised is his job- Torvald is firing him. We alsodiscover another secret- Krogstad is the moneylender that Nora ispaying back. He threatens to tell Torvald about the loan unless Noragets him his job back. This job is vitally important to him, becauseit means respectability for the sake of his young sons. What does thissuggest about Krogstad’s view of transferable morality?Nora insists she can’t help him and dares him to reveal her debt. Itwould only cause a little unpleasantness for her, and Torvald wouldthen surely fire him. But Krogstad holds the cards this time. Nora,being a woman, could not have gotten the loan on her own credit. Infact, Nora had forged her father’s name but dated the signatureseveral days after her father’s death. Nora has committed a seriouscrime, forgery- the same crime that marred Krogstad’s reputation andhas continued to haunt him.———————————————————————-NOTE: In order to emphasize his ideas, Ibsen creates very closeparallels between his characters. Notice how Krogstad’s desire forrespectability echoes Torvald’s position. His plea on behalf of hischildren is no different, it seems, from Nora’s pleas on behalf ofhers. The identical nature of their crimes is not a coincidence. Howdo you react to this type of repetition? Does it seem unrealistic?Does it help you see what Ibsen’s message is? Do you understand thecharacters better?———————————————————————-Nora cries that their crimes weren’t similar at all. Her motives hadbeen pure, to save a life, while his motives had been for selfishgain. He calmly points out that “Laws don’t inquire into motives.”Nora thinks “they must be very poor laws.”———————————————————————-NOTE: There are other instances in the play where a woman stands forindividuality against a male-oriented society. Here, Krogstademphasizes that society is much more concerned with the letter ofthe law than with individual intent. How do society’s impersonal rulesand laws conflict with each character’s specific needs? What does thisplay say about the resolution of this conflict? Which is moreimportant- individual fulfillment or society’s demands?———————————————————————-Krogstad’s blackmail is complete. If he loses his job andrespectability, he will drag Nora down with him. He leaves a stunnedand disbelieving Nora behind. She simply can’t comprehend that aperson can be indicted for a crime committed out of love. Nora isshaken but returns to her usual techniques to keep reality at arm’slength. Torvald returns, asking if someone was just there. Nora liesagain, but to no avail. Torvald saw Krogstad leaving. He guesses theclerk’s purpose and is angered by Nora’s request that Krogstad bereinstated.A discussion of Krogstad’s- and by implication, Nora’s- crimefollows. It condemns her utterly. Like the law, Torvald has nointerest in motives, either. A person who’s committed forgery has toput on a false face even in family circles, says Torvald. Furthermore,dishonesty that turns up so early in life is usually caused by a lyingmother! The theme of moral sickness returns.When he leaves, Nora is clearly shaken by his attitude. The childrenbeg her to play, but she refuses to let them near her. Is she amoral invalid? The question terrifies her. “Hurt my children? Poisonmy home” she cries. “That’s not true. Never. Never in all theworld.” Her values remain intact. Home and family are her firstpriorities.How is Nora likely to respond to Krogstad’s threat at this point?How would you respond? Why is your answer likely to be differentfrom Nora’s? Is there any “right” way out of the situation?———————————————————————-NOTE: By now, you will have noticed that all the importantdramatic events in Nora’s life took place before the play started: theforgery, the borrowed money, the trip to save Torvald’s life. Thefirst act has served to reveal a situation that already exists.Krogstad’s attempt to dislodge and reveal the past sets the actionof Acts Two and Three in motion. From now on, coincidence and thecharacters’ responses to their current situations will determine theplay’s resolution.———————————————————————
DOLLS_HOUSE|ACT_TWOACT TWO-Christmas Eve has turned into Christmas Day.After the presents and excitement, the symbolic tree has beenstripped and the candles are burned out. For everyone else, thewaiting is over, but for Nora it’s just beginning.In the first act, Torvald called her a squirrel and a bird; nowshe paces like an animal that’s newly aware of its cage. She’strying to convince herself that Krogstad won’t carry out his threat,but nevertheless she checks the mailbox and listens fearfully forvisitors.Anne-Marie, the nursemaid, enters. The short dialogue that followsbetween Nora and Anne-Marie serves three important functions:-1. It tells us that Anne-Marie was Nora’s own nursemaid. Thisunderscores the fact that Nora went straight from her father’s”nursery” to Torvald’s home, without having to grow up.-2. It reveals that Anne-Marie had to give up her own illegitimatedaughter to nurse Nora. Nora knows that she might be in a parallelsituation, forced to give up her children for their own good.-3. It establishes that Anne-Marie will be there to “mother” thechildren even if Nora isn’t.———————————————————————-NOTE: In the conversation between Nora and Anne-Marie, you can seehow Ibsen “loads” his dialogue with additional meanings. Forexample, Nora responds not only to what Anne-Marie says, but to whatshe might be implying about Nora’s current predicament. Where elsein the play have you seen characters in the same discussion talkingabout two completely different things? How could this be related tothe pattern of secrets?———————————————————————-When Kristine Linde arrives, Nora begins to discuss with her Dr.Rank and his “inherited” illness. Nora suggests that his fatal illness(possibly syphilis) is the result of his father’s sexual escapades.Again, Ibsen connects two generations with a moral taint. Later on,the old doctor expresses the idea that sometimes one family membermust suffer for the sins of another.———————————————————————-NOTE: Ibsen wrote his plays before Sigmund Freud advanced histheories about our conscious and subconscious being influenced byour parents and our childhood experiences. But notice in this play howfrequently what the characters do and say is attributed to the factthey have been conditioned physically and morally by past eventsbeyond their control. Ibsen calls this influence heredity, but howwould you characterize it?———————————————————————-Kristine recognizes and reveals to Nora the sexual component ofNora’s relationship with Rank, and connects Rank with Nora’s earlierfantasy about a rich admirer. (The sexual longings for a parent figurealso play a large part in Freud’s teachings.)When Torvald returns home, Kristine goes off to repair Nora’speasant-girl outfit for the costume party. Torvald unwittinglycontinues the heredity theme by reminding Nora that her fatherwasn’t above reproach in the business world.Nora again pleads on Krogstad’s behalf, and Torvald’s replies areeven more revealing. He doesn’t mind that Nora is trying toinfluence him, but he minds very much that it would appear that way toothers. To him, appearance and reputation are everything. He evenadmits that it isn’t Krogstad’s moral failings that bother him. It’sthat Krogstad is an old boyhood friend who has the nerve to call himby his first name in front of everyone at the bank!Even Nora recognizes these as petty concerns. When she says so,Torvald feels threatened and insulted. To prove his “power,” heimmediately sends the letter of dismissal to Krogstad.Then Torvald forgives Nora and assures her that whatever comes,he’ll bear “the whole weight” of it for both of them. Nora thinkshe’ll take the penalty of her forgery upon himself should it berevealed. As Torvald leaves, she’s frantic. She can’t let her crimeruin her husband- she’s got to find an escape! The stage directionshere suggest impending doom: “During the following scene, it beginsgetting dark.”Dr. Rank enters with news of a sad discovery. Nora, in her anxiousstate, is so sure he’s discovered her crime that she’s almost relievedat his real discovery- he doesn’t have long to live. In this scene,Dr. Rank forces Nora along her path to adulthood. He tries to make herconfront two things: his impending death and his love for her. Likea child, she calls him “naughty” for bringing up indelicate subjectsand refuses to discuss them. At this point Nora, like Torvald, isconcerned with appearances. She doesn’t mind that Dr. Rank lovesher, but, as a married woman, she minds very much that he improperlybrings the subject out into the open.———————————————————————-NOTE: Even though Nora’s secrets are beginning to be revealed, shestill refuses to deal with them. She was about to ask Rank for helpand advice when he proclaimed his love. By refusing to deal with hisfeelings for her, and possibly her own for him, she loses both herchance for his help and her cherished fantasy about a secret lover’swill.———————————————————————-Rank unwittingly alarms Nora by the implications of two statementshe makes: “To suffer… for somebody else’s sins… in every singlefamily, in some way or another, this inevitable retribution ofnature goes on.” He adds that people who “go away” are soon forgotten.The doctor is talking about himself and his father’s disease, andhis own approaching death, but Nora is thinking about her own past andher own future. Not wanting Torvald to suffer for her sins, she thinksof suicide as an escape.Nora’s level of awareness about herself, her surroundings, and herrelationships is becoming an issue. When Rank asks her point-blankif she’s known about his love for her, she answers, “Oh, how can Itell what I know or don’t know?… Why did you have to be so clumsy,Dr. Rank! Everything was so good.” Nora is experiencing doubt, anuncomfortable emotion, but necessary as a prelude to self-knowledge.The arrival of Krogstad puts even more pressure on Nora. Krogstad isespecially dangerous because he understands Torvald’s pettiness andNora’s fears. In fact, he’s the first character who’s been able toread Nora’s hidden thoughts. He knows she’s considered running away oreven committing suicide. He explains that he had the same thoughtshimself, when his forgery was discovered. But he knows she doesn’thave the courage to die