Two significant dynamics take place in Act I of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. These dynamics come in the form of two specific visits which, slowly, bring down the initial high of great spirits and hope that we see in the beginning of the play.
The first visit is from Nora’s old friend, Mrs. Linde. Linde is clearly Nora’s foil: her husband died three years prior, left her no money, and she never had children. Her life feels empty and her sorrow is quite evident. The importance of the women’s conversation comes when Mrs. Linde hits Nora’s weakest nerve by calling her “a child” that has not had to work hard to obtain anything.
It is here when Nora tries to impress Mrs. Linde by telling her the secret of how she acquired the money to take care of Torvald during his illness some years back. Nora confesses to Mrs. Linde that she had made dealings with a man from the bank (who happens to be the very shady Krogstad, an old flame of Mrs. Linde).
This exposes Nora’s basic problem: in hopes of helping her husband, she borrowed money from another man. This is a huge social faux pas for a woman to commit. Women are not meant to conduct any monetary businesses with men. Although Nora had the best intentions back when things were rough, what she did would never be appreciated as a sacrifice; instead, it would be condemned as an act of disobedience towards the marital institution.
The second visit comes from Krostad himself, who needs Nora to intervene on his behalf because he is about to be fired from the bank for forgery and theft. During his visit, he holds Nora responsible for his situation using their past dealings as blackmail. If this information was to leak, it could destroy Nora’s marriage, and her future, forever.
Now, Nora is in a desperate situation that contrasts considerably with the cheerful nature of her character which we see at the beginning of the play. Therefore, these visits cause Nora to second guess her actions, and change her attitude about them, for the first time ever.
Prior to Mrs. Linde’s visit, Nora thought that she had committed a great act of sacrifice by dealing with Krogstad. Now, she realizes the gravity of having done such a thing and keeping it secret from her husband.
Prior to Krogstad’s visit, Nora also thought that she had the situation under control by paying him on time. Now she realizes that she is more attached to Krogstad than she thinks, and in a negative way.
For this reason, Nora’s attitude changes considerably, from cheerful and naïve, to scared and desperate. So desperate she feels that she does not even want her children near her. This is because Nora is beginning to feel the gnawing of guilt and fear in her heart for the first time ever.
NORA: [pale with terror].Deprave my little children? Poison my home? [A short pause. Then she tosses her head.] It's not true. It can't possibly be true.