A Doll's House | Study Guide

Henrik Ibsen

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Act 3, Section 3

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

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



Nora and Torvald talk seriously about their marriage and Nora's intention to end it. Nora tells Torvald he is no longer obligated to her, and they give their wedding rings back to each other. Nora leaves, and Torvald cries out in despair and hope.


Nora, having been treated as a "doll" by her father and then her husband, has never had to develop her own opinions about religion, morality, and the law. By the end of the play, she must develop them. Torvald lacks a general understanding of Nora's desire for self-awareness and, point for point in their final conversation, he tries desperately to define Nora's views on "sacred duties," "religion," and "conscience" with his own. However, those days are over for Nora, who replies, "But you neither think nor talk like the man I could bind myself to."

Ibsen's choice of an ending declares the play's message that women and men will have no understanding between them until women have gone through the necessary experiences that lead to self-awareness. Those experiences include education, which results in equality. Then, and only then, is "real wedlock" possible.

Torvald's character elevates to represent all men when he tells Nora, "But no man would sacrifice his honor for the one he loves," and she responds as if representing all women, "It is a thing hundreds of thousands of women have done." The last section of the play addresses the misunderstandings between them, and Nora's voice casts judgment upon men's "great sin" against women: they have never sat down to a serious conversation or tried "in earnest" to "get at the bottom of anything." This addresses the ideas woven throughout the play linked to men thinking of women as less intelligent.

Nora does not care what others in society will say about her leaving. She sees that Torvald is exactly like her papa, and their home has "been nothing but a playroom." And the most thematically powerful example of Nora's transformation is conveyed to the audience when she says, "I believe ... I am a reasonable human being just as you are."

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