In Henrik Ibsen's play, A Doll's House, what are areas in the play where Tovald Helmer's blameworthy behavior is noted?  Looking for bad or guilty behavior—points of the character...  

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Henrik Ibsen's play, A Doll's House, Torvald's in-admirable behavior is brought up several times.

Though no one speaks of it, Ibsen points out Torvald's impatience when Rank stops by after the masquerade party. Nora knows that Rank has been looking into an illness his father had (a wayward, wild-livng man) that seems to have been passed on to the innocent Rank. When Rank comes by, Torvald is less than a gracious friend:

RANK: (outside)

It's me. May I come in a moment?

HELMER: (with quiet irritation)

Oh, what does he want now? (Aloud.) Hold on...Oh, how nice that you didn't just pass us by?

One might wonder if there isn't the slightest bit of sarcasm in Torvald's comment. Then when Nora asks about the doctor's scientific research, Torvald pompously belittles her capacity to understand anything serious, treating her like an idiot, when (ironically) she knows so much more about Rank's illness that Rank's best friend, Torvald.


Come now—little Nora talking about scientific research!

Another incident is when Nora and Torvald are "notified" by Rank's card in the mailbox with an black "cross" on it, that he has left them for good, to lock himself in his rooms to die. Torvald hardly seems to care.


You've heard something? Something he told you?


Yes. That when those cards came, he'd be  taking his leave of us. He'll shut himself in now and die.


Ah, my poor friend! Of course  I knew he wouldn't ve here much longer. But so soon—And then to hide himself away like a wounded animal...I simply can't imagine him gone...He with his suffering and loneliness–like a dark cloud setting off our sunlit happiness. [It's all about Torvald: what a gross comparison.]


Now you must read your mail, Torvald.


...I want to stay with you dearest.


With a dying friend on your mind?


You're right...there's ugliness between us.

Nora has to redirect Torvald's attention. Returning from the party and Nora's dance of the tarantella, Torvald has become passionate, eager to be with his wife. Even after learning of his friend's imminent death, Nora has to remind him that other things are more important in face of this new development. (I find it strange that he does not offer to go to Rank, even though Rank told Nora he did not want it.)

Finally, Torvald's reason for disliking Krogstad is not (as one would expect from a "pillar of moral virtue" like Helmer) Krogstad's fall from grace—morally and socially—but the fact that he calls Torvald by his first name:


There's something that rules Krogstad right out at the bank as long as I'm the manager.


What's that?


His moral failings I could maybe overlook if I had to—


Yes Torvald, why not?


...he was a crony of mine back in my teens—one of those rash friendships that crop up again and again to embarrass you later in life...we're on a first name basis...[he] makes no effort at all to hide it in front of the others.

Torvald's concern is how Krogstad's sense of familiarity will look to his friends and associates at the job.

Torvald displays behaviors throughout the play that show how shallow a person he is: he gives no thought to the plight of others, he is not at all tolerant or compassionate of other's failings, he is a poor friend, he treats his wife like a brainless...doll, and he cares more about what others think than anything else. By the time the play comes to an end, it is hard to have any sympathy for the man.


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A Doll's House

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