Extended Character Analysis
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.
Some portion of Torvald’s need to maintain appearances likely stems from the same place as Krogstad’s desperation to keep his job. Torvald knows that without a good reputation, his ability to provide for his family will be compromised. However, his obsession with appearances also seems rooted in vanity. Torvald enjoys having Nora perform at parties because other people are impressed by her. He views her beauty and her dancing abilities as a reflection of his own status as a husband. He also states that he likes having Dr. Rank around, because Dr. Rank’s gloominess makes Torvald and Nora’s life seem happier. For Torvald, the appearance of success and happiness take precedence over genuine human connection. Dr. Rank is Torvald’s best friend, but Torvald’s aversion to ugliness is so strong that Dr. Rank declines to tell him about his impending death. Similarly, Torvald’s “doll wife” and “doll children” are fun to show off, but when it comes to actually caring for Ivar, Bob, and Emmy, the house transforms into a scene only “bearable by a mother.”
Torvald's Role as Victorian Husband
Torvald exhibits the qualities typical of a Victorian husband. He feels obligated to nurture, protect, and guide his wife; rather than viewing Nora as his equal, Torvald treats her as a child. He expects her to be obedient to his whims, and he frequently moralizes to her. Torvald even tries to restrict Nora’s behavior by banning her from simple indulgences, such as buying macaroons. Since he controls the money in their relationship, Nora is almost entirely dependent on him. Rather than viewing this control as an injustice, Torvald appears to enjoy the idea of Nora’s dependence. After the Stenborg’s ball, he remarks that he likes to imagine Nora as his “young,” “secret” bride. He also fantasizes about “rescuing” Nora from some...
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