In the final scene of Act III in Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House, was Nora upset? Please help me understand Nora's emotions starting from the line "you have never loved me" and ending with "It is your fault that I have made nothing of my life."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Nora (undisturbed): I mean that I was simply transferred from
papa's hands into yours. You arranged everything according to
your own taste, and so I got the same tastes as you--or else I
pretended to, I am really not quite sure which--I think
sometimes the one and sometimes the other. When I look back
on it, it seems to me as if I had been living here like a
poor woman--just from hand to mouth. I have existed merely
to perform tricks for you, Torvald. But you would have it
so. You and papa have committed a great sin against me.
It is your fault that I have made nothing of my life (Act III).

Henrik Ibsen's final scene in A Doll's House is certainly full of emotional surprises. Indeed, Nora is not angered or upset by the time she speaks the lines in question. Her exchange with Torvald brought her a dawning of enlightenment. First she realizes that Torvald is unwilling to sacrifice anything for her sake in the same way that she is willing to sacrifice for him. Torvald's lack of sacrifice is one reason why she realizes that Torvald does not truly love her. Furthermore, her realization occurs because, the truth is, Torvald does not truly know her. He does not know her true thoughts and opinions because she has never expressed them to him, instead she adopted his own thoughts and opinions. Instead of truly loving her, he only enjoyed being "in love" with her. He enjoyed her beauty, her sexuality, and her company, but he never truly knew or loved her.

We can tell that Nora is not angered when she gives this speech because of the stage command "undisturbed." She is not flustered by Torvald's expressed shock at her account of their marriage. She is remaining calm, rational, and merely stating facts. There are a few words in her speech that may sound harsh. They sound harsh because they are harsh facts, but with respect to the stage direction, we know that they are spoken calmly. For instance, Nora says, "it seems to me as if I had been living here like a poor woman--just from hand to mouth." Her statement seems harsh because she has been well provided for by her husband, but that is just it; she has lived first under her father's care and now under Torvald's and only her basic needs are being met. Ultimately her desires for a well-rounded life are not being fulfilled. A second line that sounds harsh is "You and papa have committed a great sin against me." This line refers to the fact that both her father and Torvald have made her feel that she is living a life of imprisonment, which is true, because they have shown her little respect and felt she only existed to please them. While all of these lines sound harsh, the fact is that they are merely harsh truths. Nora has very calmly come to her realizations and is very calmly making her claims.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial