How is servitude a primary theme of A Doll's House?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The theme of servitude is developed in the play through several characters, primarily through Nora Helmer. Nora is trapped into servitude, socially and economically. As Torvald's wife, she exercises no power in her own home. Her role is to serve him since he is the head of their household, deferring to his every wish and bowing before his every command. She is to manage his home, care for their children, meet social obligations, and contribute to his pubic reputation. Nora has no money of her own; Torvald doles out money to her as he sees fit. As his wife, she is completely dependent financially, just as she had depended financially upon her father before she married. Complicating Nora's economic servitude is the bank loan she took under false pretenses and struggles to repay out of her household funds and gifts from her husband.

The theme of servitude is developed, also, through the characters of Christine Linde and Nils Krogstad. Mrs. Linde has been widowed and left with nothing. She is penniless, desperate to find work to support herself. Krogstad is also desperate in regard to his economic situation. He is a widower left to support five children. Losing his job at the bank represents catastrophe for him, pushing him into his initial attempted blackmail of Nora.