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A Doll's House | Study Guide

Henrik Ibsen

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Act 1, Section 3

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 1, Section 3 of Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House.

A Doll's House | Act 1, Section 3 | Summary



Nora and Christine are both shaken when Krogstad shows up unannounced to visit Torvald. Christine meets Dr. Rank for the first time; then she meets Torvald, and Nora asks her husband whether he can employ her friend at the bank. Nora plays with her three children after Torvald leaves with Dr. Rank and Christine. Krogstad returns and spies on Nora.


The introduction of Krogstad brings a new feeling of suspense into the play. The stage directions indicate that Christine trembles when she hears his voice. As this would be visible to the audience, they will be left wondering what happened between Christine and Krogstad in the past. More suspense is added by the way Nora greets Krogstad, suggesting that she also has a history with him; the audience has learned by now that Nora is full of secrets and surprises, so when she says, "You? What is it?" in a "strained, low, voice," it indicates a mystery yet to be revealed. Dr. Rank comes in and speaks negatively about Krogstad, layering a menacing tone on top of the suspense. This tone dies down in the middle of the scene but rises again when Krogstad lets himself in, lurks about the house, and spies on Nora in a private moment.

The conversation between Dr. Rank and Christine centers on the contrasting ideas of moral sickness and health. This discussion builds the theme of individual versus society. Christine believes the ill should be cared for, while Dr. Rank thinks caring for people is what produces moral illness because people stop caring for themselves. Laughing hysterically, Nora responds to put the focus back on the individual: "What do I care about tiresome society?" She also points out the personal power she has over Krogstad and others in society because of her husband's promotion at the bank.

That the doctor, who is a medical authority and acts as a voice of moral judgment, would be physically sick and morally corrupted is no accident. It is a commentary on the nature of individuals and how they fit into their society. When Dr. Rank speaks of Krogstad, his words could also apply to himself, considering that Dr. Rank is secretly in love with Nora: "there are certain people who go zealously snuffing about to smell out moral corruption, and ... put the person concerned into some lucrative position where they can keep their eye on him." This description fits Dr. Rank's position in Torvald's house. Torvald is a zealot about finding corruption, and he puts his doctor friend in a "lucrative" position," "lucrative" meaning that Dr. Rank feels free to flirt and meet privately with Nora.

The section ends with a glimpse into the sweet and loving side of Nora's personality, as she plays with her children.

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