In Henrik Ibsen's Act III of A Doll's House, what can we gleam by analyzing the following lines of Torvald Helmer's?Helmer: I would gladly work night and day for you, Nora--bear sorrow and want for...

In Henrik Ibsen's Act III of A Doll's House, what can we gleam by analyzing the following lines of Torvald Helmer's?

Helmer: I would gladly work night and day for you, Nora--bear
sorrow and want for your sake. But no man would sacrifice his
honour for the one he loves (Act III).

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

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Helmer: I would gladly work night and day for you, Nora--bear
sorrow and want for your sake. But no man would sacrifice his
honour for the one he loves (Act III).

In Henrik Ibsen's Act III of A Doll's House, Torvald's speech sheds a great deal of light on his character. After Nora states she was afraid that when Torvald learns of her fraud, Torvald would take the blame on his own shoulders Torvald says things in two mere sentences that reveal his true feelings about Nora, women in general, and even about love.

First, Torvald declares "I would gladly work night and day for you...bear sorrow and want for your sake." This statement indicates that Torvald is willing to do nothing further for Nora than provide basic necessities. Working night and day for Nora is something that men must often do to provide for their wives. In addition, bearing "sorrow and want," in other words feeling for himself any sadness that Nora feels or knowing about anything she wants, are what he considers to be enough.  A man shouldn't need to do anything further than know when his wife is sad and know what she wants. Finally, Torvald states that "no man would sacrifice his honour for the one he loves." In other words, no man would sacrifice his station in life or his reputation for the woman he loves or his children. This line reveals that Torvald is unaware that genuine love requires sacrifice, and he is unaccustomed to thinking that he needs to sacrifice for his loved ones. Nora, on the other hand, is aware that all women know the need to make sacrifices and states it in her reply "It is a thing hundreds of thousands of women have done" (Act III).

Because Torvald is unaware of the need to make sacrifices for the people one loves, Ibsen is demonstrating through this speech that Torvald does not truly understand what love is. Instead, like most men, Torvald thinks of women as merely accessories that need to be provided for.

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