How is betrayal portrayed in A Doll's House?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The play A Doll’s House was written by the Norwegian author and playwright Henrik Ibsen and was first put on stage in 1879. Betrayal is a big theme throughout this play right from the start.

In order to finance their trip to Italy, Nora Helmer forged her father’s signature to be able to get a loan. Whilst fraud can be seen as an act of betrayal in itself, the fact that Nora keeps this from her husband adds further betrayal to the story line. It is this initial act of betrayal that forms the basis of this play.

The fact that Nora does not tell her husband about her secret could be interpreted as betrayal, as she is not open with her husband and keeps things from him, thus betraying his trust. However, Torvald himself could also be accused of being guilty of betrayal, as he lets his wife down when he eventually does find out: he does not try to help Nora. This leads to Nora’s decision to leave Torvald, which in return could be interpreted as another act of betrayal: the betrayal of their marriage vows.

Another person guilty of betrayal in this play is Nils Krogstad, a man who worked in the bank and who knows about how Nora managed to get the loan. Instead of trying to help her by keeping her secret safe, he wants to use this knowledge to his advantage by blackmailing her: he threatens to reveal Nora’s secret if she doesn’t help him to keep his job. When he does lose his job, Krogstad reveals Nora’s secret in order to take revenge.

Kristine Linde, Nora’s old friend, also betrays Nora in the course of the play. When Nora asks her to help her, Kristine betrays her friend's trusts and does the opposite of what she should have done: she encourages Krogstad to reveal Nora’s secret rather than asking him to remain honorable and keep his knowledge to himself. Given that she used to be Nora’s friend, one would have expected more loyalty towards Nora from her, and it is disappointing to see how she happily betrays her friend for her own benefit.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial