In Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, how do Nora and Christine compare in terms of being better off after marriage?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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At the beginning of the play, it looks like Nora is better off than Christine. Christine has suffered a great deal; so much so, that she looks aged, pale, and thin, as we see in Nora's lines, "You are a little paler, Christine, and perhaps a little thinner ... Perhaps a little older" (I). Christine had to care for her mother until her mother's death, as well as her two younger brothers. She married a man who was well-off in order to care for her family, but his business collapsed after his death, leaving her penniless and all alone. After his death, Christine had to work non-stop for three years doing any job she could find.

In contrast, Nora has a husband that treats her kindly and affectionately, plus three children. Nora confesses that they struggled financially and that Torvald even had health problems that she needed to tend to. While Nora has had her fair share of struggles, she never suffered the same strain that Christine did. Nora's struggles never had any affect on Nora's beauty; she has not grown paler nor thinner nor older. Therefore, in terms of struggles, Nora has definitely been far better off than Christine.

However, by the end of the story, Nora discovers that she feels imprisoned in her marriage. She learns that she has not been treated as a real human being, but rather as a play thing by both her father and her husband, as we see in Nora's line, "I have been your doll-wife, just as  at home I was papa's doll-child" (III). Typical of women in her society and era, she feels that she has not been treated as an equal. In this sense, Christine and Nora are very similar. The only difference is that Christine has exercised the small amount of freedom granted to women back then by working menial jobs in shops and schools. This is the sort of freedom that Nora is now envying. However, jobs women could work back then paid so little that going off on her own will only give Nora more tribulations.

Therefore, we can say that Christine has suffered more tribulations than Nora, making Nora better off than Christine. However, Christine has exercised a small amount of freedom through her work. Nora now wants to do the same and will soon suffer as many tribulations as Christine has, making them equals in the end.  


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