What are two forwards with which the audience is left at the end of Act One in Henrik Ibsen's A Doll House?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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A forward in a piece of literature is something—an event, for example—that interferes with the flow of the plot development. While it may be a surprise, it may also be anticipated—even foreshadowing—an allusion to a future event, serving the same purpose as foreshadowing. The important elements are identified based on events that involve Nora's actions. These are central to the development of the plot and the presentation of the story's central conflicts.

...the exposition and complication are combined in the first act when the audience learns of...Nora's deception...

The two forwards that I find at the end Act One of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll House are Torvald Helmer's interjection of two items.

First is the forgery Torvald speaks of referring to Krogstad; Helmer treats Krogstad with disdain and condemnation in that this was a crime that Krogstad had once committed.


...But tell me, was it really such a crime that this Krogstad committed?


Forgery. Do you have any idea what that means?


Couldn't he have done it out of need?


Yes, or thoughtlessness, like so many others...

It is a forward because it alludes to a crime Nora has also committed at the time (though she was unaware that it was a crime at the time)—to save Helmer's life—that will come to light and represent a major element (and conflict) in the story, later in the play.

The second forward is how committing a crime affects children, especially when the crimed is carried out by the mother.


...with the children, Nora—that's when it's most horrible.




Because that kind of atmosphere of lies infects the whole life of the home. Every breath the children take in is filled with the germs of something degenerate.


Are you sure of that?


Oh, I've seen it often enough as a lawyer. Almost everyone who goes bad early in life has a mother who's a chronic liar.


Why just—the mother?


It's usually the mother's influence that's dominant...I literally feel physically revolted when I'm anywhere near such a person.

In this case, Nora has also lied. Of course, she has done so to save Torvald's life and protect him from the knowledge, believing it would harm his pride to know his wife saved him in the first place. And while Helmer tells his wife that he is not heartless in the face of one mistake, when Nora's actions are revealed, the reader finds that Torvald is a hypocrite. He is unforgiving; he cannot appreciate that his wife saved his life, and only cares about his own reputation.

Both of these forwards indicate integral components of the plot development. Though she would not believe it, Nora and Krogstad have more in common than she might at first believe. Each of their crimes will have to be confronted, by each character, before the play is over. These forwards allude to major plot developments regarding Nora, as Helmer identifies them in Krogstad at the end of the first act.


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