A Doll’s House Synopsis
The main character in Ibsen’s important play is Nora Helmer. It is Christmas and she has been shopping, enjoying the new-found wealth that her husband’s new job is bringing. Torvald, her husband, speaks to her as he would a child, babying her ridiculously and then telling her off for spending too much.
An old friend of Nora’s arrives and the two talk; Kristine tells Nora her sad story – her husband has died leaving her penniless. She has had to look after her dying Mother and brothers, and is now unneeded. Nora tells Kristine that she and Torvald were also poor, describing Torvald becoming ill, forcing them to move to Italy. She assures Kristine that she will try to get her employment with Torvald.
In the spirit of confiding secrets, Nora tells Kristine that she secretly borrowed the money she needed to take Torvald to Italy when he was unwell, lying that to him that the money was from her father. She has been paying the money back slowly through work and being frugal.
One of Torvald’s employees, Krogstad, arrives to speak to Torvald. Nora appeals to her husband and he agrees to find Kristine employment at his bank. It transpires that Krogstad lent Nora the money when he waits behind to speak to her. He tells Nora that her husband is going to fire him because of his bad reputation and blackmails her to intervene, reminding her that he has a copy of her forgery of her father’s signature. When Torval returns, Nora tries to save Krogstad’s job but Torval is determined to get rid of him, as he is immoral and too familiar. They argue, but Nora has no influence over Torval.
Nora plans to appeal to Torvald’s friend, Dr Rank, to save Krogstad’s job, but Dr Rank has bigger issues on his mind – he is dying, and he is in love with Nora. She cannot ask him to intervene for Krogstad and as a result, he is fired. When Krogstad returns he demands that Nora gets him an even better job in the bank, otherwise he will reveal all. He puts his copy of the forgery into the letterbox. Nora is overwhelmed and confides in Kristine, who tells her to distract her husband while she appeals to Krogstad. Nora dances for her husband but he is annoyed with her frantic movements, she manages to convince him to leave the post until after the night’s party. At the party, Nora’s dancing pleases him and he tells her how attractive she looked. Dr Rank interrupts Torvald and leaves him a card indicating his closeness to death. Nora tells her husband to open the letter from Krogstad.
When Torvald finds out about the forgery, he is angry and harshly calls Nora a liar – he says she won’t be permitted to care for their children and is dismissive and mean to her. Kristine arrives with a retraction from Krogstad (the two had been lovers in the past) and instantly, Torvald is ecstatic and tries to take back his harsh insults. Nora has other ideas. She has changed; she refuses his apologies and finally stands up for herself, refusing to be treated like a doll. She walks out, leaving Torvald.
The play is held to be a statement on the treatment of women; that they have to sacrifice their freedom, independence and dignity to men.
A Doll’s House Character List