Nora is the cheerful wife of Torvald Helmer and mother of their three children. She takes small jobs and scrounges money from Torvald to slowly pay back a loan she took without her husband's consent or knowledge, for a trip his doctors said would save his life. The financial burden wears on Nora's generous and caring attitude, causing resentment and a desire to be respected by her husband and free from the limitations society places on her because she is a woman. Nora's faith in her husband's superior morality unravels over the course of the play. When he removes his affection from her in response to the possibility that she will harm his reputation, and then just as quickly restores it, Nora sees the marriage as a sham. She leaves Torvald, intent on discovering who she really is and what she really believes in.
Torvald is the condescending husband of Nora. He feels it is his duty to provide a moral reality for his wife, including how she should think, feel, behave, and act. He instructs her in how to manage the children, how to dress and eat, and how to spend his money. He believes she needs such constant guidance because he considers her to be intellectually inferior and childish. All the while, however, he delights in her beauty. Torvald resents Nora's deceased father for what he sees as negative character traits his wife has inherited, without realizing that he is similar to the man he criticizes. When Torvald catches Nora in an act he finds morally reprehensible, his ugliness and narrow perspective rise to the surface, but he remains blind to these faults. As Nora leaves, he is adrift in confusion and despair.
Through employment in a bank, Krogstad is vying for a chance to regain his reputation in society after being caught and ruined for a crime he committed in the past. Society has been unforgiving to Krogstad. His current desperation drives him to blackmail Nora, even though it goes against his nature. It is Christine offering him a second chance that saves him. His happiness at her offer proves he is not motivated by money or desire to win respect from society. Rather, he needs love, honesty, and understanding, and these things redeem him.
Christine, lonely and tired, arrives on Nora's doorstep in search of a reason to live. Having chosen money over love in her marriage, she now finds herself without means or family life. She tries to steer her friend Nora from making bad choices and losing all she has. She wishes for Nora to have a future based on honesty and understanding. Christine acts as an impetus for Nora's revelation that she must seek self-awareness and independence. At the same time, Christine reverses her misfortune and finds love, purpose, and a second chance.
Dr. Rank, a close friend of Nora and Torvald, diagnoses not only the physical conditions but also the moral ailments of those around him. He, like Torvald, believes that morality or immorality is inherited both physically (nature) and through upbringing (nurture). However, Dr. Rank ultimately turns out to contrast Torvald's self-delusion of moral superiority. Dr. Rank sees reality. He faces his impending death and admits his feelings to Nora, making Torvald the only character in the play who remains in the dark about his own true nature.