In A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen, does Helmer have the right to dismiss Krogstad from the bank? Does he make the right decision? Why?
In A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen, it is Christmas time and Torvald Helmer has recently been promoted at work. He provides for his family while his wife Nora, whom he often affectionately calls "my little spendthrift" and sometimes "my little squirrel" because he feels she is incapable of making any real decisions so he must indulge her, cares for the children. Torvald says in Act 1 that "No one would believe how much it costs a man to keep such a little bird as you." It would not be fitting for a woman of Nora's station to work and only unmarried or widowed women can retain their respect through active employment. As the newly appointed manager of the bank, Torvald does have the right to dismiss Krogstad from his employment at the bank. Krogstad has a reputation because of some previous dealings and although he was never found guilty of anything, his reputation is now tarnished. The family's friend Dr. Rank suggests that Krogstad is "corrupt to the very core." Torvald believes Krogstad should not hold a position at the bank as he would not be able to trust such a person.
Torvald makes the decision to dismiss Krogstad when Nora asks him about helping her widowed friend Christina Linden to find work because she has returned to the town. This gives Torvald the excuse he has been looking for and an opportunity to dismiss Krogstad while satisfying his wife's request at the same time. It is a poor decision as Torvald does not give Krogstad a chance to prove himself nor was he ever found guilty of any crime so there is no real basis for Torvald's decision and he has acted in haste, taking a moral high ground and judging Krogstad. Torvald and Nora's marriage will unravel when Krogstad, bitter at having been unfairly judged, reveals Nora's secret.
In A Doll's House, in terms of whether Torvald should have dismissed Krogstad, the outcomes suggest that it was a very bad decision because it changed several lives, not just Krogstad's.
1. It seems that Krogstad has turned his life around and his job at the bank is a reflection of that and yet Torvald judges him without first allowing Krogstad to prove himself.
2. Employing Christina Linden in Krogstad's place shows that Torvald has no respect for the rights or opinions of others. Fortunately for Torvald, he can fire Krogstad and not even have to be inconvenienced because Mrs Linden will step straight into that position. Torvald is very pleased with himself because he thinks everything has slotted nicely into place. He does not care what happens to Krogstad and this also enables him to keep his wife happy, or so he believes.
3. It is also apparent that Torvald underestimated Krogstad and in fact , he underestimated Nora. By the end of the play, the audience knows that Krogstad is not a bad person but he has suffered misfortune and needed support not judgment. The audience also knows that Nora has recognized Torvald's self-serving love which she knows is not real and, despite giving him ample opportunity to show his support for her, he does not.
Had Torvald behaved differently it is possible that Nora would have felt able to tell him the truth without being forced to tell him because his actions would have indicated that he is perceptive and understanding.
I hope this helps.