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A Doll's House | Study Guide

Henrik Ibsen

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Act 1, Section 4

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 1, Section 4 of Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House.

A Doll's House | Act 1, Section 4 | Summary



Krogstad threatens to reveal the secret loan, explaining to Nora how she has committed a criminal act. This is how he intends to blackmail her into convincing Torvald not to fire him from his modest post at the bank.


This section opens with stage directions indicating Nora "gets up onto her knees." (She had been hiding under a table in a game of hide and seek with her children.) Nora's physical position at the beginning of her interaction with Krogstad foreshadows the new relationship he establishes with her by the end of their encounter. With Krogstad hovering over her, Nora will look like a beggar, and by the end of the scene, Krogstad makes it clear he will bring her even lower if need be. "If I lose my position a second time, you shall lose yours with me."

A dramatic pattern established earlier in the act continues; a character arrives, small talk is exchanged, and then the conversation becomes deeply philosophical. In this scene the themes that emerge are influence and respect and how they relate to individuals in society. Can there be such a thing as individuality outside the boundaries of society? Ibsen asks the audience to think deeply about this question through Krogstad and Nora's interaction in this scene.

Krogstad's motive for blackmailing Nora is not money but a desire to secure respect again from society, and he is willing to fight "as if I were fighting for my life." He views his post at the bank as his one and only chance to find redemption.

Nora represents ideas of individual influence and power, ideas that slip away as Krogstad explains how he has trapped her. By the end of the scene, Nora and Krogstad are mirror images of each other. They have made mistakes for which society will punish them. They both must fight to remain within a society that cares not at all for their individual reasons or motivations.

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