A Doll's House Characters
The main characters in A Doll's House are Nora and Torvald Helmer, Kristine Linde, Nils Krogstad, and Dr. Rank.
Nora Helmer is Torvald’s wife. She hides her financial debt from her husband and ultimately leaves him after realizing that his love for her is superficial.
Torvald Helmer is Nora's husband. He dismisses his wife after learning that she has compromised his reputations by taking out a loan.
Mrs. Linde is Nora's recently widowed friend.
- Nils Krogstad is a widowed bank employee who blackmails Nora over her loan.
Dr. Rank is the terminally ill family friend of the Helmers. He is in love with Nora.
Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 898
Nora Helmer is the protagonist of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. She begins the play as a coddled housewife and ends it as an independent woman setting out into the world to educate herself. The catalyst for Nora’s transformation is the loan that she took out years ago after her husband Torvald fell ill. In order to obtain the loan, Nora forged her dying father’s signature, a criminal act. The action of the play begins when Krogstad, the man who lent Nora the money, blackmails her into helping him keep his job at the bank that Torvald manages. (Read extended character analysis of Nora Helmer.)
Torvald Helmer is Nora’s husband. He is a barrister, or lawyer, and he was recently promoted to manager at the bank where he works. Torvald prides himself on being a model husband and citizen. Despite the Helmers’ previous financial difficulties, he has steadfastly refused to take out any loans. He feels that debt is “ugly” and scolds Nora for suggesting the possibility, even in jest. However, despite Torvald’s frequent moralizing, he is superficial and prideful. His superficiality leads him to fire Krogstad and, after finding out about her loan, reject Nora. (Read extended character analysis of Torvald Helmer.)
Kristine Linde, referred to as Mrs. Linde, is Nora’s friend from school. Prior to the events of A Doll’s House, the two had not seen each other in ten years. Mrs. Linde visits Nora in the hopes that Nora might ask Torvald to give Mrs. Linde a job at the bank that he manages. Mrs. Linde serves as a moral guide for Nora throughout the play, taking on an almost motherly role. She scolds Nora for going behind Torvald’s back to obtain the loan, and she discourages Nora’s flirtations with Dr. Rank. It is ultimately Mrs. Linde’s intervention that forces Nora to be honest with Torvald about the loan. (Read extended character analysis of Mrs. Linde.)
Nils Krogstad is a low-level employee at the bank that Torvald manages. He is also the man who loaned Nora the money she needed to pay for the Helmers’ trip to Italy. In his youth, he was romantically involved with Mrs. Linde. The plot of the play is set into motion when Torvald dismisses Krogstad from his position at the bank. Worried about his reputation and ability to support his children, Krogstad asks Nora to speak to Torvald on his behalf. When she refuses, Krogstad blackmails her, leveraging his knowledge that she forged her father’s signature in order to secure the loan. (Read extended character analysis of Nils Krogstad.)
Dr. Rank is a terminally ill family friend of the Helmers. He visits Torvald and Nora daily. Dr. Rank has consumption of the spine, a deadly disease that Dr. Rank believes resulted from his father’s promiscuity. As a result of his illness, Dr. Rank is morbid and fatalistic. As a doctor, he gives himself routine check-ups, and he tells Nora that when his disease has progressed to its final stages, he will lock himself away and die alone.
Dr. Rank’s frankness and lack of pretense endears him to Nora and reveals Torvald’s superficiality. Unlike Torvald, around whom Nora feels that she must play a part, Dr. Rank accepts her for who she is. He seems amused by her sweet tooth and swearing, and he lets her talk about her friends and family without getting jealous. He does not shield Nora from his impending death. He confides in her, knowing that Torvald cannot confront such difficult topics. Whereas Torvald loves Nora for the part that she plays, Dr. Rank falls in love with the real Nora. His love for Nora offers a tragic glimpse at what might have been were Dr. Rank not terminally ill.
Despite Dr. Rank’s prominence as a character, he does not have any significant impact on the play’s plot. Due to this lack of influence, Dr. Rank is often read as a symbol for the Helmers’ marriage. Just as Dr. Rank has been diseased since birth, so too has the Helmers’ marriage been diseased from its inception, as it was founded on deceit. The letter that announces Dr. Rank’s death also coincides with Krogstad’s letter. Upon receiving Krogstad’s letter, the Helmer’s marriage symbolically dies as well, linking the death of their marriage with the death of Dr. Rank.
Nora’s father died prior to the events of A Doll’s House. He is frequently compared to Torvald in that they both infantilize Nora. Nora clearly loved and admired her father. However, by the end of the play, she begins to blame him for never having taught her to think for herself.
Helene is the Helmers’ maid.
Anne-Marie is Ivar, Bob, and Emmy’s nurse. She was also Nora’s nurse when Nora was a child. Anne-Marie reveals that she gave up her own child in order to raise Nora, highlighting the sacrifices that women make in order to ensure their own financial well-being.
Ivar, Bob, and Emmy Helmer
Ivar, Bob, and Emmy Helmer are Nora and Torvald’s children. They are usually left in the care of their nurse, Anne-Marie. Though Nora is an affectionate mother, she withdraws from her children after Torvald insinuates that deceitful parents corrupt their families.
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