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A Doll's House | Study Guide

Henrik Ibsen

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A Doll's House | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


In Act 2, Section 3 of A Doll's House, why does Torvald agree to wait to read Krogstad's letter?

Torvald cannot miss out on an opportunity to control Nora and show her off to Dr. Rank. She is doing exactly what he wants: dancing for him and taking his advice and instruction seriously. He is also operating under the misconception that Nora is afraid of Krogstad due to "childish nervousness," as he calls it, to Dr. Rank. Torvald indulges Nora temporarily, saying, "The child shall have her way. But tomorrow night, after you have danced—" as if he is so invested in her dancing that he does not want to ruin the party either. He agrees to drinking champagne and eating macaroons, reinforcing their relationship's codified dynamic: if Nora performs appropriately, Torvald rewards her with indulgences.

Why does Krogstad doubt Christine wants to marry him in Act 3 of A Doll's House?

Krogstad's words in reply to Christine telling him "give me someone and something to work for" show he is humble and that he also thinks lowly of himself because he cannot believe that Christine would want to build a life with him, given his disgraced position in society. He asks her, "Could you really do it?" and "Do you know all about my past?" showing that Krogstad is also honest; he must ask her all of these questions until he believes she would truly want him. Krogstad is willing to admit that he has been blackmailing Nora, but Christine assures him that she already knows and has "faith" in his "true character." Krogstad shows that he is honorable also in the way he argues with Christine point by point. He says she took his job at the bank and he would have given it up if the situation were reversed. He scolds her for choosing money over love and being so heartless to him in the past.

Does Christine betray Nora when she tells Krogstad not to take the letter back in A Doll's House?

Perhaps Nora would feel betrayed by Christine, but Nora has resigned herself by the time Christine tells her nothing can be done to remove the letter, and Christine's motives are honorable. She says the secret must be disclosed for Torvald and Nora to "have complete understanding between them," but that has not ever been Nora and Torvald's goal for their relationship. Christine believes in this moment that Nora and Torvald, like Christine and Krogstad, will stay together and have a more honest relationship; she does not know that Nora and Torvald's relationship will not withstand the truth. Also, if Torvald had stood by Nora, she would not have left him. The fact that Christine tells Nora, "Don't be so self-willed anymore," shows that Christine believes Torvald is a better person than he really is, it equally shows that Christine disapproves of Nora and seeks to control her, too. Christine has every hope that Torvald and Nora will have a better marriage, so she does betray her, but it is unintentional.

What is the significance of how Torvald critiques the way Nora danced the tarantella at the party in Act 3, Section 1 of A Doll's House?

Of Nora's dancing style, Torvald says, "the performance was a trifle too realistic—a little more so ... than was strictly compatible with the limitations of art." As Torvald has had champagne, it is easy to believe his character might slip into an almost professional-sounding review of Nora's performance. That he does shows how deeply critical and invested he is in Nora playing the doll or puppet, existing solely to please him. Seeing that these words are just a little out of character for Torvald in their content, and how specifically they relate to art, it is possible Ibsen intends to slide in a self-referential comment about his own art within the play. In fact, his audiences and critics found the realism within Ibsen's plays disturbing, and Torvald's next line seems to further that idea: "But never mind about that! The chief thing is she had made a success—."

How do Nora's and Torvald's reactions after Torvald reads Krogstad's first letter and discovers the forgery and loan in Act 3, Section 2 of A Doll's House compare and contrast?

It is clear Nora believes Torvald will understand why she took out the loan, because just before his reaction to the letter, she says, "You shan't save me, Torvald." She is expressing that she will not let him take the blame, but moments later, her words turn out to be true; he reacts the opposite way she thinks he will, and he will not suffer for her, nor save her. The same type of double meaning conveyed through the opposite literal meaning transpires in Torvald's angry outburst toward Nora when he says of his situation with Krogstad, "I am in the power of an unscrupulous man; he can do what he likes with me, give me any orders he pleases—I dare not refuse." Torvald could easily be describing how Nora has felt in her marriage, yet Torvald, having no understanding of how he treats Nora, does not see the irony. Further, Nora does endure the literal meaning of Torvald's words during Krogstad's threats and blackmail, and she is angry that Torvald is unwilling to endure for her sake what she endures for his. Torvald's reaction shows him to be a liar and a hypocrite.

What is the significance of Nora's shawl in Act 3, Section 2 of A Doll's House?

Torvald reveals a romantic fantasy to Nora, saying he has it often when they go out together; he says when they leave and he puts her shawl around her shoulders, he imagines they are just married and it is their first night together. Torvald suggests he likes imagining Nora is inexperienced and "shy," so it is significant that later when he is yelling at her, he absurdly cries out, "Take off that shawl. Take it off, I tell you." It is Torvald's way of expressing that the fantasy, for him, is over and he sees her as corrupted now. It is also meaningful in that when Torvald angrily explodes and Nora is alone contemplating suicide while waiting for his response to the letter, she covers herself with her shawl, in fear. His demand that she take it off signifies that she is exposed and left with nowhere to hide from her mistakes.

In what ways does Torvald treat Nora like a doll in Act 3, Section 2 of A Doll's House?

Torvald treats Nora as a doll by thinking of her as his "dearest treasure." He assumes that she is unintelligent, including when Nora speaks with Dr. Rank about his illness. Torvald teases her for using the words "scientific investigation" and calls her a "featherhead," accusing her of thinking about the next party already when Nora is actually being polite and trying to determine if Dr. Rank is going to die. After Torvald reads the letter, he gives Nora instructions, such as "You will remain in my house ... I shall not allow you to bring up the children," showing that he thinks it right to have complete control. When he forgives her, he says Nora will be both a "wife and child" to him, and he will give her "a new life," serving as her "will and conscience." It is as if he perceives her to be as empty as a doll that he must fill up with a soul or intellect, or both. After he forgives her, he tells her how she should feel about being forgiven: "I will bring peace to your poor beating heart ... you will yourself feel the certainty that I have done so."

What does Torvald's reaction to Dr. Rank's impending death in A Doll's House reveal about his character?

At first Torvald seems caring, but his character shows a great lack of empathy for his friend when he muses on how Dr. Rank fits into his life: "He, with his sufferings and his loneliness, was like a cloudy background to our sunlit happiness." Torvald has a way of filtering people through his perception of them, and Dr. Rank is no exception. Torvald thinks of the benefit to himself he can find in people, and if there is none, he doesn't see them (as with Christine) or he dislikes them (as with Krogstad). Dr. Rank made Torvald feel as if his life is better, and that is what Torvald enjoys in his friend. Ibsen takes this character trait further when Torvald is excited to feel closer to Nora once Dr. Rank is dead. Dr. Rank seeks to shelter Torvald from the ugliness of death, but it is not that Torvald is "sensitive to ugliness" as much as the truth that he only cares about himself.

Are Torvald's analyses of Nora's character accurate or inaccurate in Act 3 of A Doll's House?

Torvald accuses Nora of having "no religion, no morality, no sense of duty," and in all of these areas, Nora's moral character is debatable. Whether she is religious is not answered at this point in the play. Nora lies, manipulates, and fights for what she wants, but she also sacrifices for Torvald, fears for her children, and tries to help in getting Christine a job, so Nora displays a sense of duty. Throughout the play, she tries to please her husband and save him from embarrassment. Nora's morality is rooted in the idea of love being the greatest intention, more powerful than the law or truth. She does have morality, although her ethics are different from Torvald's beliefs about right and wrong.

Why does Nora's expression "When I came to live with you" anger Torvald in Act 3, Section 3 of A Doll's House?

Torvald says, "What sort of expression is that to use about our marriage?" to cut in on Nora explaining how he is like her papa. This suggests Torvald does not like Nora's neutral words, devoid of any emotion or personal connection between them. Nora has not told Torvald yet that she is leaving him and no longer loves him, but he has begun to detect her detachment, and he protests at each hint she drops, making him realize she is no longer under his control. She remains "undisturbed" in this moment, as in earlier moments, because she finally demands to speak and that he listen.

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