A Doll's House

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Torvald Helmer
Mrs. Linde
Dr. Rank

A Doll's House (Norwegian: Et dukkehjem) is an 1879 play by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. Written one year after The Pillars of Society, the play was the first of Ibsen's to create a sensation and is now perhaps his most famous play, and required reading in many secondary schools and universities. The play was controversial when first published, as it is sharply critical of 19th century marriage norms.[1] It follows the formula of well-made play up until the final act, when it breaks convention by ending with a discussion, not an unravelling. It is often called the first true feminist play. The play is also an important work of the naturalist movement, in which real events and situations are depicted on stage in a departure from previous forms such as romanticism. The influence of the play was recognized by UNESCO in 2001 when Henrik Ibsen's autographed manuscripts of A Doll's House were inscribed on the Memory of the World Register in recognition of their historical value.[2]

Act I

A Doll's House opens as Nora Helmer gets back from Christmas shopping. Her husband Torvald comes out of his study to banter with her. They discuss how their finances will improve now that Torvald has a new job as a bank manager. Torvald expresses his horror of debt. With her husband, Torvald, Nora behaves very childishly, and he enjoys treating her like a child to be instructed and indulged.

Soon an old friend of Nora's, Christine Linde, arrives. She is a childless widow who is moving back to the city. Her husband left her no money, so she has tried different kinds of work, and now hopes to find some work that is not too strenuous. Nora confides to Christine that she once secretly borrowed money from a disgraced lawyer, Nils Krogstad, to save Torvald's life when he was very ill, but she has not told him in order to protect his pride. She told everyone that the money came from her father, who died at about the same time. She has been repaying the debt from her housekeeping budget, and also from some work she got copying papers by hand, which she did secretly in her room, and took pride in her ability to earn money "as if she were a man." Torvald's new job promises to finally liberate her from this debt.

Nora asks Torvald to give Christine a position as a secretary in the bank, and he agrees, as she has experience in bookkeeping. They leave the house together.

Krogstad arrives and tells Nora that he is worried he will be fired to create a position for Christine. He asks her to help him keep his job and says that he will fight desperately to keep it. Nora is reluctant to commit to helping him, so Krogstad reveals that he knows she committed forgery on the bond she signed for her loan from him. As a woman, she needed an adult male co-signer, so she said she would have her father do so. However the signature is dated three days after his death, which suggests that it is a forgery. Nora admits that she did forge the signature, so as to spare her dying father further worry about her (she was pregnant, poor, and had a seriously ill husband). Krogstad explains that the forgery betrayed his trust and is also a serious crime. If he told others about it, her reputation would be ruined, as was his after a similar "indiscretion," even though he was never prosecuted. He implies that what he did was in order to provide for his sick wife, who later died.

Krogstad leaves, and Nora tries to calm herself by decorating the Christmas tree. Torvald comes back home, having seen Krogstad, and guesses that he was there to ask Nora to intercede on his behalf. Nora asks what Krogstad did in order to get a reputation as an immoral man. Torvald says that he committed a forgery, but was able to avoid prosecution by using a "cunning trick." If Krogstad had ever admitted his guilt, Torvald would be willing to trust him, but by continuing to pretend that he never did anything wrong, Krogstad "has lost all moral character." Torvald further states that a parent who lives a lie "poisons" his or her children and causes them to become criminals. Nora is terribly distressed to learn of this notion, which she believes unquestioningly, and worries that she may be harming her children unknowingly.

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