In what ways does the play explore the conflict between the physical and the spiritual in A Doll's House?

Quick answer:

A Doll's House explores the conflict between the physical and the spiritual through the conflict between Torvald and Nora Helmer. While she is focused on the spirit of her loving actions to save him, he is ultimately focused only on the physical proofs of the illegal steps she took. He believes he is unquestionably upright, and thus he views her as spiritually corrupt. She realizes that he does not love her in the same spirit as she loves him.

Expert Answers

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The physical reality for Nora Helmer is that, as a woman, she simply does not have the rights and privileges that her husband has or her father had. When her husband, Torvald, learns of what Nora has done—taken out an illegal loan, despite his well-known personal abhorrence of borrowing money, and forged her father's signature on the loan documents—he believes that this shows her spiritual weakness, something he claims she inherited from her father, in fact. He fails to realize that these were the lengths to which Nora was willing to go to protect Torvald's own deteriorating health and to save his life, as the money paid for a doctor-prescribed trip to warmer climes so that he could convalesce and recover from an illness.

The legal or ethical ramifications of what she'd done meant to nothing to Nora compared to the great love she bore for her husband, and so she was willing to risk everything else just to save him. Torvald sees her actions as a sign of her spiritual corruption because she is a woman when, in reality, it is truly a sign of her higher spiritual goodness. He is so concerned with appearances, with the physical proofs of what she'd done, that he failed to realize what a selfless and beautiful spirit of generosity lay behind them.

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