Study Guide

A Doll's House

by Henrik Ibsen

A Doll's House Characters

Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Nora

Nora, the “doll-wife” of Torvald Helmer. Seeking always to charm her husband, Nora is his “singing lark,” his pretty “little squirrel,” and his “little spendthrift.” She seems to be a spendthrift because secretly she is paying off a debt she incurred to finance a year in Italy for the sake of Torvald’s health. To get the money, she had forged her dying father’s name to a bond at the bank. Krogstad, a bookkeeper at the bank where Torvald has recently been appointed manager, is aware that the bond was signed after the death of Nora’s father. He puts pressure on Nora to persuade Torvald to promote him. Frightened, Nora agrees to help him. When her friend Christine Linde, a widow and formerly Krogstad’s sweetheart, also asks for help, Nora easily persuades Torvald to give Christine an appointment at the bank. The position, unfortunately, is Krogstad’s. Torvald, finding Krogstad’s presumption unbearable, plans to discharge him. While Christine helps Nora prepare a costume for a fancy dress ball in which she will dance the tarantella, Krogstad writes a letter, following his dismissal, telling Torvald of Nora’s forgery. Nora desperately keeps Torvald from the mailbox until after the dance. She decides to kill herself so that all will know that she alone is guilty and not Torvald. After the dance, Torvald reads the letter and tells Nora in anger that she is a criminal and can no longer be his wife, although she may continue to live in his house to keep up appearances. When Krogstad, softened by Christine’s promise to marry him and care for his motherless children, returns the bond, Torvald destroys it and is willing to take back his little singing bird. Nora, realizing the shallow basis of his love for her as a “doll-wife,” leaves Torvald to find her own personality away from him. She leaves him with the faint hope that their marriage might be resumed if it could be a “real wedlock.”

Torvald Helmer

Torvald Helmer, the newly promoted manager of a bank. Concerned with business, he is unaware that his wife, Nora, whom he regards as a plaything, is capable of making serious decisions. When he discovers her forgery, he is horrified and convinced that he will be blamed as the instigator, and he plans to try to appease Krogstad to forestall his own disgrace. As soon as the bond is returned, Torvald becomes himself again, wants his pet reinstated, and is eager to forget the whole affair. He is baffled when Nora says that she no longer loves him and is leaving him. At the end, he has a sudden hope that what Nora has called “the most wonderful thing of all” might really happen, the “real wedlock” she wanted, but Nora has gone.

Nils Krogstad

Nils Krogstad, a bookkeeper at the bank, dissatisfied with his appointment and with life in general. At first, Krogstad appears as a sinister blackmailer threatening Nora with disaster if she does not help him achieve a promotion at the bank. Later, when he finds the love of Christine Linde, whose loss had embittered him in the first place, he becomes a changed man and returns the bond.

Christine Linde

Christine Linde, a widow and Nora’s schoolfriend. When Mrs. Linde first appears, she is quite worn and desperate for work. She had married for money that she needed to support her mother and two young brothers. Now husband and mother are dead, and the brothers are grown. In the end, when she and Krogstad have decided to marry, she is happy because she will have someone for whom to care. She decides that Nora cannot continue to deceive Torvald and that Krogstad should not retrieve his letter. Presumably, Krogstad will retain his position at the bank.

Dr. Rank

Dr. Rank, a family friend who is in love with Nora. Suffering bodily for his father’s sins, Dr. Rank is marked by death. Nora starts to ask Dr. Rank to help her pay off the debt, but after he reveals his love for her, she will not ask this favor of him. He tells Nora that he is soon to die and that when death has begun, he will send her his card with a black cross on it. The card appears in the mailbox with Krogstad’s letter. Dr. Rank serves no purpose in the play except to show Nora’s fidelity to Torvald when she refuses Rank’s offer of help after she knows that he loves her.

A Doll's House Character Analysis

Nora Helmer
Nora is the "doll" wife of Torvald. She is sensitive, sensible, and completely unaware of her own worth...

(The entire section is 715 words.)