Compare and contrast Krogstad and Torvald. Who is the stronger character? Please explain your answer.

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Torvald and Krogstad are both dislikable characters who have a façade of strength and dominance about them. For both of them, strength is tantamount to bullying. Krogstad bullies in a sniveling way through attempted blackmail. Torvald, however, is a conventional representative of the system, of society. He seems obsessed with...

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Torvald and Krogstad are both dislikable characters who have a façade of strength and dominance about them. For both of them, strength is tantamount to bullying. Krogstad bullies in a sniveling way through attempted blackmail. Torvald, however, is a conventional representative of the system, of society. He seems obsessed with his own righteousness and the supposed fact that he's an exponent of morality and order. It's unjustified power, not "strength," that he exhibits. In a contest between Torvald and Krogstad, it's somewhat immaterial which is the stronger character. But if forced to choose, I would almost have to say the unsavory and slimy Krogstad is ironically the better, or rather the less negative, exponent of strength.

Krogstad is at least consistent in his campaign to secure some kind of breakthrough in his own life, to reestablish the successful career he thinks he deserves—despite the nearly criminal way he goes about it. He acts with ruthlessness, but he's not exactly a hypocrite. We learn that his business life and his reputation have already been destroyed because of the "indiscretion" he committed, which is the same thing Nora did, though up to the last scene she's gotten away with it. Torvald, on the other hand, has evidently never done anything society judges wrong. Even his criticism and dominance of Nora are what would have been considered normal in the nineteenth century, and later.

Yet this doesn't indicate any real type of strength of character, or of anything else. Torvald shows himself a complete coward when he learns of Krogstad's threat to Nora and, by extension, to himself. His vicious outburst at Nora, though an exaggerated version of the way he acts toward her in general, is rooted in his own fear for himself. He's so aghast at the prospect of his own career and reputation being destroyed that he launches into a stream of abuse at his wife (his "little skylark"). When the threat is defused, he prefers to congratulate himself on his supposed tolerance of Nora's imperfections rather than to apologize for his behavior. At least in my view, that makes him even weaker than the corrupt Krogstad.

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While I agree with many of the excellent points made by other educators, no one has yet identified one particular point of contrast between Krogstad and Torvald. Although Krogstad may seem like a rancorous and manipulative individual while Torvald, at least, has some principles, in the end it is Krogstad who ranks love as more important than money or appearances or position. Torvald cannot see that his wife did something compromising in order to benefit him; she forged her father's signature not because she is without principle but because she wants to get the money for the trip that would save her husband's life. However, Torvald accuses her of all manner of wrongdoing, calling her names and insulting her, and yet insisting that they remain together for the sake of appearances. He cannot appreciate her sacrifice for him though she has worked and scrimped for years in order to pay back the loan. Krogstad, on the other hand, is reunited with Christine Linde, Nora's old school friend, and forgives Nora's debt at Christine's apparent request. Krogstad is willing to give up his position, his money, and his leverage over the Helmers all because he has found love; Torvald, on the other hand, had it and ruined it with his selfishness and condescension.

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There seem to be more differences than similarities between the two men, but one thing they have in common is that each thinks he is strong but neither really is.

Torvald is happy to live a life of illusion and resents it when reality is forced on him. In constantly belittling his wife over her spending habits, he not only trivializes her activities but shows he has no concept of what things actually cost. Wanting to hold himself apart in the man's world, he has actually placed himself at Nora's mercy, as she runs the household. Imagining himself the intellectual superior, he speaks to her like a child and in doing so sounds infantile. Appearances are more important than truth: his belated "forgiveness" of Nora is primarily to keep her in the house and the news from reaching other people's ears. In all these regards, Torvald is fundamentally dishonest—a hypocrite.

Dishonesty is the primary trait he shares with Krogstad. The emotional blackmail that Torvald tries on Nora at the end is parallel to Krogstad's financial blackmail throughout. Like Torvald, he underestimates Nora, thinking himself smarter than she—probably because she is female but also because he has more ego than common sense. It shouldn't be that hard to figure out you can't extort someone forever, but he seems to think he can. This greed, ironically, stimulates Nora's strength through her own class-based ego, as she snobbily reminds him that he is an employee.

To make his point that society in his day pigeonholed and infantilized women, Ibsen created male characters whose flaws were often socially inflicted. Both men are exemplars of hubris; their misplaced pride in their accomplishments has blinded them to the power that Nora embodies. Neither man shows true strength.

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This is an excellent question. Torvald is a good man, a man of conventions, and obsessively concerned with appearances. He is scrupulously moral, and similarly self-righteous. When threatened with blackmail, he goes into a rage that his wife has disgraced him. Rather than stand up to Krogstad, he knuckles under. He has no real loyalty to Nora; she is what we might now call his "trophy wife."

By contrast, Krogstad resorts to treachery for financial gain. However, unlike Torvald, he has the inner strength to admit his mistake, to forego his vengeance, put aside his anger, and make a fresh start. Clearly, it is Krogstad who is the stronger - and, ultimately, more admirable - character.

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