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A Doll's House | Study Guide

Henrik Ibsen

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Act 3, Section 1

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

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



Christine reveals she still harbors love for Krogstad and wishes for them to "join forces." Krogstad offers to recall his letter to Torvald and not expose Nora's loan and forgery now that Christine wants to marry him, but Christine tells him to leave the letter in the box. Krogstad waits for Christine outside while she says goodnight to Torvald and Nora. Torvald, who is bored with Christine, tells her he will not walk her home because she "[hasn't] any great distance to go."


As they reunite, Christine and Krogstad form a relationship that sharply contrasts Nora and Torvald's relationship. Christine and Krogstad have both learned to be honest by paying the consequences of their dishonesty. Nora and Torvald still have these difficult lessons looming ahead. This new relationship is here to show that it is impossible for Nora and Torvald to be together without going through the process of becoming honest with each other and obtaining individual self-awareness.

Christine reveals to Krogstad her true motivation in visiting Nora, and it is significant that it is not, as she told Nora originally, to find pleasure in work, but because "there is not the least pleasure in working for oneself." Christine will play a part in pushing Nora to relinquish her role as a wife and mother—although it is not Christine's intention that Nora should do so. Christine's wisdom goes beyond what Nora will learn by the end of the play, but Ibsen leaves Christine and Krogstad to exemplify finding the necessity of honesty and self-awareness in a marriage rooted in depth and truth. Their honest interactions serve to shine a spotlight on the Helmers' rather superficial and dishonest relationship.

The ensuing exchange between Nora, Torvald, and Christine supports the idea that Christine and Krogstad are wiser and more honest than Nora and Torvald. A little drunk on champagne, Torvald reveals his shallowness, indicating how erroneously he sees his true nature. He forces Nora through the door, commenting that she ought to come inside from the cold, and then moments later takes her shawl off as if she really were a doll for Christine to admire.

Torvald comes into the scene wearing a mask, and, although he takes it off, his character metaphorically keeps it on, in that he is only concerned with the appearance of things. For instance, he launches into a diatribe on how the act of embroidering makes a woman look prettier than knitting does.

Moreover, Torvald's actions show on several counts that he is not a true gentleman. He does not bother to walk Christine home, contrasting with Krogstad's concern that she not walk alone at night. Torvald reveals how two-faced he is when he says "What, already?" when Christine rises to leave and then, "At last we have got rid of her" after she is gone. His further criticism of Christine as a "frightful bore" suggests how distasteful he finds the very qualities that Nora lacks: honesty and self-awareness.

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