In Act I of Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House, why is Nora pale with terror?
NORA. (pale with terror).
Deprave my little children? Poison my home? (A short pause. Then she tosses her head.) It's not true. It can't possibly be true (Act I).
Nora (pale with terror). Deprave my little children? Poison my
home? (A short pause. Then she tosses her head.) It's not true.
It can't possibly be true (Act I).
In Act I of A Doll's House, Henrik Ibsen gives Nora the stage command "pale with terror" immediately following several speeches of Torvald's in which he berates Krogstad's character. Krogstad is guilty of a fraudulent crime, though he was never punished for it. Krogstad used his knowledge of law to legally clear his name of the crime, however, society still believed him to be guilt. Torvald argues that by conniving his way out of criminal responsibility, Krogstad is a hypocrite and a liar. Moreover, Krogstad must continue to lie to his family about his responsibility. In this way, Krogstad is poisoning his home and his children. Torvald further argues that as a lawyer he has observed that anyone who becomes a criminal has had "a deceitful mother."
At this point in the play the reader/viewer is already well acquainted with the parallels Ibsen has drawn between Nora and Krogstad. Both characters have engaged in fraudulent activity. Ibsen draws this parallel even closer when he shows us through Krogstad's lines in Act II, that just like Nora, Krogstad committed the fraud to save a loved one. Regardless, in Act I, Nora already senses the similarities between herself and Krogstad, thus, when Torvald argues that hypocrisy, lies, and especially lying mothers poison homes and children, Nora takes it very much to heart. Nora knows that she lied to get Torvald to Italy and lied in forging her father's signature on the loan. Nora grows "pale with terror" in Act I because she believes Torvald's comments.
She is pale with terror because Torvald says that the mothers, who teach the children are the root of all evil. It is because the woman do not teach the children properly, and are liars, that the children may become hidrances and criminals of the next generation. Nora is also lying to her family and to Torvald, so she is in distraught, because she thinks she maybe 'poisoning' her own children.
It might be important to note the irony of the situation. Torvald believes that the woman are at fault, but it is only because the females are trapped by males to do what may not be natural to them, that some woman are bitter at heart. For example, this woman could have been a accompished lawyer or scientist, but because society expects all woman to be mothers and housekeepers, that they are bitter.