Last Updated on February 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 508
Extended Character Analysis
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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.
Krogstad is a foil for Torvald. They share a similar background, but have lived very different lives. Torvald is an upstanding and hardworking man who survived financial hardship by honest means. By contrast, Krogstad resorted to forgery in order to overcome financial difficulty. As a result, Torvald is a respected member of the community, whereas Krogstad is considered “morally diseased.” However, Torvald’s upstanding nature proves to be the result of an obsession with appearances. Torvald cares little for motive and instead condemns Krogstad and Nora based on how their actions—Krogstad’s overly familiar greetings and Nora’s forgery—will impact his reputation. By contrast, Krogstad does what he feels is necessary to ensure that his children live a good life, even if this is at Nora’s expense.
Though Krogstad begins the play as an antagonist, he does not end up entirely villainous or unsympathetic. He tells Nora that he does not want to hurt her or her family and that he is only blackmailing her out of necessity. He wants to keep his job to continue providing for his children and to rehabilitate his public reputation. Though initially described as a “morally diseased” criminal, his crime is later revealed to be the same as Nora’s: forgery. This aligns him morally with Nora. Like her, he did what he felt necessary at the time. If readers sympathize with Nora, then they are also asked to sympathize with Krogstad. Krogstad is made even more sympathetic when he dissuades Nora from taking her own life. He admits that after experiencing his own scandal, the idea crossed his mind. However, he was unable to go through with it, and he seems genuinely invested in ensuring that Nora does not end her own life either.
Rather than a heartless blackmailer, Krogstad proves to be a good man who made some bad choices. After reconciling with Mrs. Linde, Krogstad readily offers to take his letter back. Only Mrs. Linde’s assertion that Nora needs to be honest with Torvald prevents Krogstad from doing so. He expresses genuine remorse for his actions and attempts to correct them by sending a second letter to explain that he no longer intends to blackmail the Helmers. Much like Nora, Krogstad’s story ends on a redemptive note of self-discovery. After years being cast as the villain, Krogstad is given the chance to start over and become an upstanding man.