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A Doll's House | Study Guide

Henrik Ibsen

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A Doll's House | Quotes


Nora! The same little featherhead.

Torvald, Act 1, Section 1

When Torvald calls Nora a featherhead, it implies he does not think she is smart. Her thoughts are just empty fluff, as birds' feathers are light and shed easily. Torvald views Nora as a flighty songbird throughout the play, and he believes a woman should be as he sees Nora, naturally dependent on a man to make important decisions.


The law cares nothing about motives.

Krogstad, Act 1, Section 4

Nora believes that the love she showed by borrowing money to save her husband and by not concerning her papa when he was on his deathbed assures her innocence for forging her father's signature for a loan. Krogstad, a lawyer who loaned Nora money, has come to bribe her and explain her criminal act, and this is his reply to her emotional defense of her actions.


Because such an atmosphere of lies infects and poisons the whole life of a home.

Torvald, Act 1, Section 5

Torvald is speaking about Krogstad, ignorant of the fact that Nora is guilty of the same crime and lies as Krogstad. Torvald is thus unknowingly talking about his own wife and his own house. Continuing the metaphor of lies as infections, Torvald says right after this, "each breath ... in such a house is full of the germs of evil."


Nora—Do you think he is the only one—

Dr. Rank, Act 2, Section 2

Nora is just about to tell Dr. Rank about her secret loan from Krogstad, and she has just said Torvald is willing to give his life for her. Dr. Rank's admission of love shocks Nora and deeply disappoints her because now she cannot ask him for help.


But surely you can understand that being with Torvald is a little like being with Papa.

Nora, Act 2, Section 2

Nora explains to Dr. Rank why she prefers his company to her husband's. Earlier, Torvald has said that Nora is like her papa because she is always asking for money. In this conversation Nora says Torvald is like her papa because he is always moralizing. Later, Nora will realize that both her father and Torvald have treated her as if she were a doll and forced her to agree with them.


My dear darling Nora, you are dancing as if your life depended on it.

Torvald, Act 2, Section 3

Nora rehearses the tarantella to distract Torvald. Each time he begins to lose interest, she becomes more frantic in her dance moves. She must prevent him from reading Korvald's letter that exposes her forgery and debt. Torvald doesn't know he is speaking a deeper truth here; Nora's marriage—her life as she has known it—literally does depend on this dance.


And then four-and-twenty hours till the next midnight. Then the tarantella will be over.

Nora, Act 2, Section 3

The tarantella is the dance Nora plans to perform at the Stenborgs' costume party, but it symbolizes Nora's desire to please Torvald and, by doing so, keep her role as wife and mother. Her words foreshadow the great shift in her internal and external circumstances that will come in the next day.


I have learned to act prudently. Life and hard, bitter necessity have taught me that.

Christine, Act 3, Section 1

A long life of poverty and loss has given Christine wisdom, contrasting with Nora's good luck in life. Nora's resulting lack of wisdom or self-awareness is in equally sharp contrast.


And life has taught me not to believe in fine speeches.

Krogstad, Act 3, Section 1

Krogstad is responding to Christine's plea not to expose Nora's treachery to Torvald. Because Krogstad has had to struggle as Christine has, he is annoyed by what he sees as her overly emotional appeal.


Well, I am like a shipwrecked woman clinging to some wreckage—

Christine, Act 3, Section 1

Christine echoes Krogstad's earlier words, saying her life, too, has been a failure, and she is barely surviving.


Do you understand now what it is you have done for me?

Torvald, Act 3, Section 2

Torvald is being sarcastic as he says these words to Nora. She believes she acted from love by forging her father's signature on a loan when she borrowed money to save her husband's life. Torvald believes she ruined his life and reputation.


I should not be a man if this womanly helplessness did not just give you a double attractiveness in my eyes.

Torvald, Act 3, Section 2

In this moment, Torvald is revealing his true nature to his wife. He says these words just after he has told Nora that she is immoral and unfit to be the mother of his children. These words not only show how sexist Torvald is but also how hypocritical and lacking in self-awareness.


I am going to see if I can make out who is right, the world or I.

Nora, Act 3, Section 3

All her life, Nora has adopted her opinions from her father, husband, and the society she grew up in. This is the moment she no longer cares what men or society think. She has decided to discover—on her own—what she believes.


I cannot spend the night in a strange man's room.

Nora, Act 3, Section 3

Nora has learned that she and Torvald do not love or understand each other. In light of her revelation, he is a stranger to her.

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