A Doll's House Act II Summary and Analysis
by Henrik Ibsen

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Act II Summary and Analysis

At the start of act II, Nora is fretting about Krogstad’s blackmail. Her nursemaid, Anne-Marie, arrives with a box containing the fancy dress that Nora will wear to a dance the following day. Nora inquires after her children, to which Anne-Marie responds that they are sad about not having seen their mother as much as of late. Nora worries that they will forget her entirely if she “went away altogether.”

Mrs. Linde arrives to help Nora repair the fancy dress for the ball. As the women work, Mrs. Linde interrogates Nora about Dr. Rank. Mrs. Linde falsely believes that Nora borrowed the money from Dr. Rank, but Nora indignantly denies it. Despite Dr. Rank’s not being the source of the loan, Mrs. Linde still cautions Nora against consorting so casually with a single man of means. Nora, however, fixates on the idea of asking Dr. Rank for help in paying off her loan. Their conversation is interrupted by Torvald’s arrival, and Mrs. Linde retires to a different room to finish mending the dress.

Nora once again attempts to persuade Torvald not to fire Krogstad. When begging and whining don’t work, she insists that if Krogstad gets fired, he will write slanderous articles about the Helmers in the newspaper, just as others did about her father. Torvald assures her that his reputation, unlike Nora’s father’s, is above reproach. However, Nora continues pleading. Frustrated, Torvald explains that he cannot rescind his decision because the other bankers already know that he intends to fire Krogstad. If Torvald changed his mind, he would appear weak to his colleagues. Torvald remarks that he could have overlooked Krogstad’s moral failings and that the real reason he is firing Krogstad is because Krogstad behaves too familiarly with Torvald. Shocked over hearing about Torvald’s petty reasoning, Nora accuses him of being “narrow-minded.” Torvald then angrily posts Krogstad’s dismissal letter.

Torvald comforts a suddenly fear-stricken Nora. He promises to protect her from Krogstad’s retribution, believing that she is afraid of a slanderous article. However, Nora vows that she will not let him take the full brunt of the fallout. Torvald then retires to his office, telling Nora to practice her dance for the party.

Soon afterwards, Dr. Rank arrives. He tells Nora that his disease has progressed and that he is likely to die soon. He makes her promise not to tell Torvald, as Torvald cannot stand “ugliness.” Dr. Rank plans to lock himself away when it is time to die, and he tells Nora that he will send her a card with a black cross on it when the time comes. Nora chides him for being morbid. When Dr. Rank laments that he will be leaving the world without having left behind any grand gestures, Nora asks him for a favor. Before she can explain her request, Dr. Rank confesses his love for Nora. She grows uncomfortable, scolds Dr. Rank for his imprudence, and refuses to ask the favor of him.

Nora and Dr. Rank’s discussion is interrupted by Krogstad’s arrival. Nora ushers Dr. Rank into Torvald’s study under the pretense that she is receiving a new dress that she wants to keep secret from Torvald. She then tersely greets Krogstad, who has received his dismissal letter. Krogstad tells her that he does not plan to make her forgery public. Instead, he hopes to use it as leverage so that Torvald will give him his job back. A distraught Nora begs him not to tell Torvald and promises to pay him any sum. However, Krogstad does not want money. He wants to regain the reputation that he lost in order to provide a better life for his children. Nora threatens to take her own life in order to prevent Torvald from being exposed to shame, but Krogstad dissuades her by saying that her being alive or dead will not matter.

After Krogstad departs, Nora tearfully admits everything to Mrs. Linde. Nora worries that Torvald will take all of the blame onto himself in order to protect her. Shocked, Mrs. Linde offers to speak with Krogstad, whom she claims...

(The entire section is 1,128 words.)