Last Updated on February 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1045
As act III opens, Mrs. Linde reads a book in the Helmers’ apartment while they are at the party upstairs. Krogstad arrives to see her, having received the note she left for him. He reveals that he and Mrs. Linde were once romantically involved but that Mrs. Linde left him to marry her now deceased husband. Krogstad accuses Mrs. Linde of jilting him for money. Mrs. Linde explains that she was responsible for taking care of her family and that Krogstad could not have supported them all, given his financial circumstances. The two reconcile, having realized that life has treated them both poorly. Mrs. Linde offers to marry Krogstad, giving his children the mother they no longer have.
After Mrs. Linde and Krogstad reconcile, Krogstad offers to take back the letter he sent to Torvald about Nora’s loan. However, Mrs. Linde tells him to leave it be so that Nora can stop lying to Torvald. They both remark upon the good fortune of having been reunited. Krogstad then departs with the promise that he will send a second letter explaining that he no longer intends to blackmail the Helmers. Mrs. Linde stays behind and greets the returning Helmers. Mrs. Linde informs Nora that she must tell her husband everything, and Nora dejectedly resigns herself to “do what [she] must.”
After Mrs. Linde departs, Torvald makes amorous advances towards Nora, which she rebuffs. Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Rank, who stops by on his way out of the party. Using coded language, Dr. Rank tells Nora that he is going to die soon. She tells him to “sleep well” and asks him to wish her the same. After Rank departs, Torvald checks the letter box. Upon seeing the card with the black cross on it, Nora tells Torvald that Rank is dying. Torvald laments the loss of his friend. He tells Nora that he has often wished she were in “some great danger” so that he might save her. He continues his amorous advances, only to be rebuffed again. He retires to his study to read his letters.
While Torvald reads, Nora hurriedly prepares to depart with the intention of ending her life. However, Torvald storms out of his office and confronts her before she leaves the house. Rather than behaving in the chivalrous manner that Nora expected him to, Torvald harshly berates Nora and reveals that he plans to accede to Krogstad’s demands rather than suffer the damage to his reputation. He tells Nora that she will remain in his house to maintain appearances but bars her from being near the children. His tirade is interrupted by the arrival of a second letter addressed to Nora, which Torvald takes and reads.
After learning that Krogstad no longer intends to blackmail him, Torvald is relieved and instantly offers Nora his forgiveness. He tells her that he feels like both a father and a husband to her, since he now has to teach her how to be more responsible. However, Nora is disillusioned with her husband after being upbraided for doing what she felt was necessary in order to save his life. She tells Torvald that she must leave him and learn how to be a more independent person. She asserts that both her father and Torvald have treated her like a subservient “doll.”
Torvald attempts to convince Nora to stay with him by citing the religious, moral, and social repercussions of her departure. Nora tells him that she no longer trusts her own knowledge of the world and that she cannot be a proper wife or mother until she has educated herself more thoroughly. She tells Torvald that the two of them never truly loved each other. Rather, they loved idealized conceptions of each other. Torvald eventually resorts to begging, asking Nora how he can convince her to stay. Nora sadly remarks that “the most wonderful thing of all” would have to happen. She walks out, shutting the door behind herself.
Act III culminates in the dissolution of Nora’s illusions about her husband and her marriage. Rather than bravely facing the consequences of Nora’s actions, Torvald accedes to Krogstad’s demands and berates Nora for her irresponsibility. For Nora, who took pride in her loan and assumed that Torvald would feel indebted to her, Torvald's reaction comes as a shock. This shock quickly becomes disillusionment, as Nora realizes that her marriage is founded on deceit. She blames Torvald and her father for forcing her to conform to patriarchal gender roles instead of teaching her how to be an independent and rational thinker. Nora that she has never been able to be herself because society forces women to be economically dependent on men.
Mrs. Linde and Krogstad’s reunion showcases the importance of equality in marriage. Whereas Nora has never been independent or self-sufficient, Mrs. Linde has had to provide for herself for years. This has made her mature, confident, and independent. Because Mrs. Linde can provide for herself, marriage becomes a choice rather than a necessity. Since she does not have to be wholly dependent on Krogstad, as Nora does with Torvald, Mrs. Linde enters her relationship as a competent and respected equal. Similarly, Krogstad recognizes the influence of women in a way that Torvald does not. As a widower, Krogstad has been a single parent to his children, which has forced him to perform illegal activities on occasion to secure their well-being. Whereas Torvald views Nora as decorative, Krogstad respects Mrs. Linde and recognizes the practical value that a strong woman can add to his life.
Act III also confronts how the differences between masculine pride and feminine pride shape Nora's and Torvald’s worldviews. Torvald’s reaction to Krogstad’s blackmail is based on his fear that his reputation will be ruined if he does not give in to Krogstad’s demands; for Torvald, his reputation must be protected above all else. However, Nora calls him a hypocrite. She asserts that women sacrifice for their families everyday, cementing her belief that taking out the loan was the right thing to do. Their differing conceptions of pride speak to the ways that the Victorian gender roles in the story inhibit understanding and lead to unbalanced, unhappy relationships.