What are the turning points in A Doll's House?

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In literature, a "turning point" is when the plot crisis leads to a moment of decision that turns the plot direction and that makes the upcoming climax inevitable. There can be minor turning points during the rising action and complication and for secondary characters where things can take a "turn...

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In literature, a "turning point" is when the plot crisis leads to a moment of decision that turns the plot direction and that makes the upcoming climax inevitable. There can be minor turning points during the rising action and complication and for secondary characters where things can take a "turn for the worst," but the central "turning point" drives the upcoming plot climax. 

... opposing forces interlock in a decisive action upon which the plot will turn (i.e., the turning point of the plot) ... the point at which the end becomes inevitable ... the climax [is] the point of maximum intensity and the crisis [is] the turning point in the action; ... the climax and the turning point do not always occur together. (Mary Fonseca, Santa Monica College)

Two types of turning points can be seen in A Doll's House

  • a) the turning points in each character's storyline.
  • b) the turning points that are pivotal to the play and its timeline, as a whole

Let's start with the secondary characters. 

In A Doll's House each character, except for Torvald, has a chance to make a decision for their own sake, whether the decision is one to make their lives better, or not. 

Dr. Rank

Even though Dr. Rank's personal turning points do not affect the action of the play, as he is a symbolic character,  his turning points are important to his own life story.

When he finds out that he has tuberculosis of the spine, the diagnosis leads him to decide to do two important things: a) declare his love for Nora and, b) stop visiting the Helmers, which he has done for quite some time. His final good-bye comes in the form of two cards with crosses on them, which are used to announce his impending death. These are his turning points because the two very difficult decisions he had to make, in light of the tragedy coming his way, altered the directions his and Nora's lives were to take. 

Mrs. Linde and Krogstad

Mrs. Linde, Nora's lifelong friend, and the mischievous Krogstad have mutual turning points. Right in the midst of blackmailing Nora by using their common secret as bait to make her convince Helmer not to fire him, Krogstad finds his old flame, Christine Linde, after so many years.

After a deep discussion about how each of them ended up going their own way, Christine proposes that they get together again and make up for their past.

In a move that surprises many, Krogstad immediately agrees, showing a much softer side of his personality that nobody ever predicts would appear. 

This is a turning point for both characters because their decision (together) to move away from their current lives changes the direction their lives go as they start over a new life together. 

Mrs Linde. I want to be a mother to someone, and your children need a mother. We two need each other. Nils, I have faith in your real character--I can dare anything together with you.

Krogstad [grasps her hands]. Thanks, thanks, Christine! Now I shall find a way to clear myself in the eyes of the world.

The big turning points

Moving on to the main characters, Nora and Helmer, the turning points become more poignant as they are pivotal to the turning plot of the play. 

In Nora's life, there is a flashback to a turning point that led her to where she is now. 

  • 1. The death of her father left her with no choice but to find aid elsewhere after Helmer gets very ill
  • 2. She makes the decision of seeking help from Krogstand, who loans her money; this is something very much against social norm and that may lead Nora to fall in disgrace if it is ever found out. 
  • 3. Nora's life takes a turn as a result of saving Helmer's life and binding herself in a pledge to repay all the money to Krogstad. 

This particular flashback turning point, asking for money from Krogstad, is what causes the central problem in the plot of the play. Being bound to Krogstad's payments, Nora hides it all from Helmer so he will find out about her actions, actions which would ruin her if known.

Nora's solution is to be a pleasing wife to Helmer with the hope that, if he ever found out, he would see that she is a good wife, anyway. Her biggest hope, her "miracle", would be that Helmer would see beyond the social norms and understand the sacrifice that Nora does for him.

Turning point 2: 

Nora decides against asking Dr. Rank for money

While Dr. Rank could have lent, or even given, Nora all the money that she needed, she decided against asking for it, setting up a deepening of the complication in the plot of the play. This is an interesting aspect Nora's character. It shows that she holds deep respect for the people that she loves. had she decided to take advantage of Rank's love, there would have been no crisis. 

Turning point 3:

Nora allows Helmer to read the letter

Nora allows the inevitable by remaining quiet as Helmer reads the letter from Krogstad. Remember that Nora had a hope that a "miracle" would happen, and that Helmer would see beyond her mistake. Unfortunately, the worst outcome occurs. Helmer is horrible to Nora, insults her, demeans her, and thinks absolutely nothing of the fact that his wife entered into a very dangerous pact just to save his (Helmer's) life. This leads to the final and most telling turning point, the one that precedes the climax of the plot and introduces the upcoming resolution.

Turning point 4:

Nora decides to leave Helmer and her children and moves on in what we consider a path to find herself again. 

Nora sees that nothing good came out of her sacrifices. She sees that her husband is unable to move past it. Moreover, she realizes that she is the "doll" of her husband, as she was the doll of her own father. Fed up with this, and completely disappointed at everything, Nora makes the even more controversial sacrifice of moving away from it all, and closes the door behind her back. 


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