In Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, what is the importance of Torvald Helmer's character? How does Ibsen present him?

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wesadcott eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In A Doll's House, Torvald Helmer is portrayed as a hypocrite. He claims that he is firing Krogstad, not because Krogstad committed forgery but because he did not receive punishment in the court of law.

“Many a man might be able to redeem himself, if he honestly confessed his guilt and took his punishment.”

When he finds out that his wife, Nora, has also committed the same crime, he says, “The thing must be hushed up at all cost.” After Krogstad sends the IOU back to Nora, Torvald destroys all evidence of her crime in the fire.

Torvald also states that he sometimes wishes that Nora were in danger so that he "could risk everything, body and soul, for [Nora's] sake.” Moments later he finds out about her crime and rather than step forward to take the blame for her, he worries that someone might think he is an accomplice.

In addition to his hypocrisy, Torvald is important to the play due to his portrayal of masculine pride in the late 19th century. Torvald treats Nora as a child, or a doll. He controls the money, and he even has rules about what his wife can eat. In order to eat a macaroon, Nora must hide it from Torvald. Torvald's treatment of his wife as a doll, rather than as a human being, prevents Nora from developing a sense of self and ultimately leads to her decision to leave him and the their children to explore the world and achieve self-fulfillment.

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A Doll's House

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