In A Doll's House, do Nora’s motives for committing the crime excuse her in some way?

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hannahhunt09 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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In the play A Doll's House, by Henrik Ibsen, Nora Helmer commits the crime of forgery. She signs her father's signature to a loan document, although her father has passed away. Nora has two reasons, or motivations, for committing this crime. The first is that she believes her father would certainly have signed the document if he had been able to, therefore she thinks it was not wrong to sign it herself. The second is that she loves her husband, and the forgery was something she had to do in order to save him. It could certainly be argued that both her pure intentions in forging her father's name and her motivation to save her husband could somehow excuse her actions in the ethical sense. However, legally, she still committed a crime and is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, so in the eyes of the law, there is no excuse.

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The question of whether Nora's actions are morally justified in  A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen is one of ethics. Different ethical systems evaluate different types of behavior in different ways. Under, for example, a pure deontological systems, such as that of Christianity or Immanuel Kant, her behavior would be consider indefensible, something one could claim that the play illustrates in the way that one lie generates additional lies, leads to blackmail, etc. From the point of view of eudaimonian ethics, Nora's lie may have contributed to her well-[being because it sets her on a course that leads to self-realization. Existentialist ethics would approve of her final commitment to authenticity, whatever the cost, and admire her crime as the test that leads to her final realization:

Torvald--it was then it dawned upon me that for eight years I had been living here with a strange man, and had borne him three children--. Oh, I can't bear to think of it! I could tear myself into little bits!


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