In Henrik Ibsen's play, A Doll's House, analyze a theme as it is demonstrated in Act Three.Note: right after Nora and Torvald return from the dance, until the time he goes into the study to read...

In Henrik Ibsen's play, A Doll's House, analyze a theme as it is demonstrated in Act Three.

Note: right after Nora and Torvald return from the dance, until the time he goes into the study to read his letters

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, there are several themes throughout the play. They include: appearance vs. reality; betrayal; deception; growth and development; honor; pride; identity and search for self; and, sexism.

A theme is generally a "life truth" the author is trying to share with his/her audience.

In Act Three—after the dance, but before Torvald closets himself away in his office to read his mail—several themes are addressed. The one most striking for me is "appearance vs. reality."

When Nora and Torvald return from the dance, Mrs. Linde is there to see Nora. Torvald, who is oblivious of many things, is aware of how lovely his wife looks. He praises her in front of Kristine, not for Nora's sake, but because it feeds his sense of pride. Torvald treats Nora like a possession and therefore takes pleasure in others admiring her because in his mind, she "belongs" to him.

She's worth looking at, I can tell you that, Mrs. Linde. Isn't she lovely?...A dream of loveliness, isn't she?

This supports the theme of appearance vs. reality. To the outsider, Torvald would seem the doting husband, very much in love with Nora and proud of how lovely she is, but with Torvald, the marriage is all about him: what he does for her, how she depends upon him.

Torvald also prides himself in being a gentleman and a pillar of society, but he lets Kristine Linde leave to return home on foot without an escort—unheard of in this era. Additionally, he acts concerned for her, but this sense disappears as he insults Mrs. Linde once she has left.

I hope you get home all right. I'd be very happy to—but you don't have far to go. Good night...She's a deadly bore.

Then again, we soon see the difference between appearance and reality when Dr. Rank stops by to say goodnight.

RANK (outside):

It's me. May I come in a moment?

HELMER (with quiet irritation):

Oh, what does he want now? (Aloud.) Hold on. (Goes and opens the door.) Oh, how nice that you didn't just pass us by!

We understand that while Torvald pretends to be Rank's friend, he has no time and no regard for him, even when he learns from Nora (after Rank leaves) that his "friend" is dying. (However, we know from dialogue earlier in the play that Rank considers Torvald his friend and does all he can to protect Torvald from any "unpleasantness" his death will cause Torvald.)

Learning of Rank's declining health—instead of dropping everything—Torvald wants to make love to his wife. Only her reminder of Rank's impending death stops Torvald's advances, as he thinks about Rank and states that there is "ugliness between us" because of this news.

Ironically, the ugliness is not just Rank's coming death, but Torvald's "implied" love for Nora as oppossed to (more accurately) his feelings of possession where Nora is concerned. (Later, when Torvald is ready to all but throw Nora out for what she has done, we learn he does not love her, but is only concerned with how she makes him look.)

While Nora is rather child-like in her actions to save her husband—and demonstrates this behavior through a majority of the play— Torvald lies to himself, or quite possibly has no sense as to the person he really is, anymore than he is concerned about Nora's feelings or happiness. He makes a great show of being a fine husband and a "decent" man, but we learn he is shallow and self-centered when things become difficult for him and those around him—who he "allegedly" cares about.