Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
In A Doll’s House, Nora Helmer returns home on Christmas Eve with a Christmas tree that must be hidden from the children until it is trimmed. Indeed, hiding is a major theme in this play. Later in the first act, Nora plays hide-and-seek with her children, and she hides the macaroons that her husband, Torvald, has forbidden her to eat. A more dangerous secret is the fact that, years earlier, she had borrowed a large amount of money to pay for the sojourn in Italy that enabled Torvald to recover from a serious illness. She had borrowed the money illegally from a usurer named Krogstad, and she has secretly been repaying the loan out of the small sums that she is able to earn by copying documents or to save from her household budget. To spare her dying father, who was to have been her cosigner, she even forged his signature on the contract.
That something is wrong with the Helmers’ marriage quickly becomes evident in the first scene: Torvald treats Nora more like a favorite child than a wife, and to please him she seems perfectly willing to pretend to be his little “skylark” or his “squirrel.” In other words, she is content to live in a dollhouse. Nora’s old school friend, Mrs. Linde, is one of those Ibsen characters who has married for money, not for love. The man she did love—and jilted—was Krogstad. Now a penniless and childless widow, she would be very happy to settle down in a dollhouse, but necessity forces her to beg Nora to help her get a job in Torvald’s bank.
The plot hinges upon Nora’s ignorance of three important facts: Krogstad holds a minor position in the bank of which Torvald is shortly to become manager; Torvald is so embarrassed by Krogstad’s...
(The entire section is 701 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
On the day before Christmas, Nora Helmer busies herself with last-minute shopping, for this is the first Christmas since her marriage that she does not have to economize. Her husband, Torvald, is made manager of a bank and after the New Year their money troubles are over. She buys a tree and plenty of toys for the children and even indulges herself in some macaroons, her favorite confection, although Torvald does not entirely approve. He loves his wife dearly, but he regards her very much as her own father did, as an amusing doll—a plaything.
It is true that she does behave like a child sometimes in her relations with her husband. She pouts, wheedles, and chatters because Torvald expects these things; he would not love his wife without them. Actually, seven years earlier Nora demonstrated that she had the courage of a mature, loving woman. Just after her first child was born, when Torvald was ill and the doctor said that he would die unless he went abroad immediately, she borrowed the requisite two hundred and fifty pounds from Krogstad, a moneylender. She forged to the note the name of her father, who was dying at the time, and convinced Torvald that the money for his trip came from her father. However, Krogstad was exacting, and since then she devised various ways to meet the regular payments. When Torvald gives her money for new dresses and such things, she never spends more than half of it, and she finds other ways to earn money. One winter she does copying, which she keeps a secret from Torvald.
Krogstad, who is in the employ of the bank of which Torvald is now manager, is determined to use Torvald to advance his own fortunes. Torvald dislikes Krogstad, however, and is just as determined to be rid of him. The opportunity comes when Christina Linde, Nora’s old school friend, applies to Torvald for a position in the bank. Torvald resolves to dismiss Krogstad and hire Mrs. Linde in his place.
When Krogstad discovers that he is to be fired, he calls on Nora and tells her that if he is dismissed he will ruin her and her husband. He reminds her that the note supposedly...
(The entire section is 862 words.)