A Doll's House Questions and Answers

Henrik Ibsen

Read real teacher answers to our most interesting A Doll's House questions.

Compare and contrast Christine Linde and Nora.

The differences between Christine’s life and Nora’s are established immediately with Christine’s introduction into the play. As the drama continues, the fundamental differences in their characters are developed so thoroughly that Christine could be interpreted as a literary foil for Ibsen’s protagonist. Christine’s independence and strong sense of self emphasize Nora’s dependence and lack of personal identity; Christine’s insistence on telling the truth emphasizes Nora’s deceitfulness in all matters, important or insignificant. The literary relationship between the characters, however, is more subtle and complex than that of a character and her foil. Through Christine Linde, Ibsen previews the woman Nora Helmer will become after leaving Torvald and the stifling security of their marriage.

Christine’s personal history is established through exposition early in the play. Responsible for her ailing mother and for several younger brothers, she married a wealthy man she did not love so that she would have the financial resources to take care of them; his business ventures failed, and after he died, leaving her penniless, Christine worked hard to support herself and her family. Her mother died, her brothers grew up, and she continued to work to support herself. In the play’s conclusion, the rest of Christine’s story is revealed; marrying for money had required sacrificing her relationship with Nils Krogstad, the man she had loved and had planned to marry.

Relating the facts of her life to Nora at the beginning of the play, Christine bemoans how hard she has had to work, “[w]ith a little store and a little school and anything else I could think of.” In the play’s conclusion, however, she acknowledges that work has been her “one and only pleasure.” Christine moves to Nora’s town seeking new employment, not a new husband, and she comes to Nora’s home hoping to secure an office job at Torvald’s bank.

When Christine and Krogstad meet again and plan to marry, she does not seek a superficial marriage of convenience that will provide her with financial security. She recognizes that she and Krogstad need each other, and she envisions a true marriage of mind and spirit in which they will bring out the best in each other. With Christine, Krogstad believes he will become a better person and will “raise [himself] in the eyes of others”; with him, Christine declares, “I dare to do anything.” Their marriage will succeed, the play implies, because they reveal the truth about themselves and the past, and they will go into marriage as partners in the relationship.

Christine’s life after the death of her husband foreshadows in several ways what Nora’s life will be after leaving Torvald. Like Christine, Nora will live without the security of marriage, and she will work to support herself. She plans to return to her hometown, where she imagines it will be easier to find “some kind of job” that will give her a start in the new life she seeks. “I must see to it that I get experience, Torvald,” she explains. Working is not the only experience Nora plans to acquire. Like Christine, she will learn to live an independent, self-directed life, thinking for herself, exercising her own judgment, and making her own decisions.

In Nora’s final conversation with Torvald before leaving him, she rejects deceit, speaks frankly, and thus adopts Christine’s regard for the truth. Nora makes it clear that her relationship with Torvald is over unless they can change “[s]o that our living together would become a true marriage.” As the play concludes, Nora strikes out on her own, leaving Torvald behind, and leaving the audience to wonder if the Helmers will find their way back to each other, as Christine and Krogstad have done, and if Nora, like Christine, will one day find genuine happiness as her own person in a marriage between partners. In the drama's final scenes, Christine's long journey to fulfillment ends, and Nora's begins.

How does Nora view motherhood?

Nora’s decision to leave Torvald is not difficult to understand, considering how he betrays her when she most needs his understanding and protection, but how can she abandon her three children? Torvald reminds Nora that her responsibilities to her children are “sacred duties,” suggesting that he believes she does not take seriously her role as their mother. Nora, however, loves her children, understands for the first time the true responsibilities of motherhood, and now recognizes her deficiencies in meeting them. Nora’s leaving her children to pursue a new life is not a selfish act; it is a sacrifice.

At the beginning of Act I, Nora is introduced in Ibsen’s drama not as Torvald’s wife but as Ivar, Bob, and Emmy’s mother. Coming home from holiday shopping, Nora is happy and excited as she thinks of surprising her children that evening with the Christmas tree she has bought and will decorate and with the presents she has found for them. Showing the gifts to her husband, she eagerly anticipates their Christmas celebration. “And the children Torvald!” she exclaims. “They’ll have such a good time!” The children’s nurse attends to the daily tasks of looking after them, but Nora showers her young sons and little daughter with affection and takes delight in playing with them. In the play’s conclusion when Nora leaves Torvald, she doesn’t want to see her children, no doubt because telling them goodbye would be too painful.

Nora finds the strength to leave her children because she believes she is acting in their best interests. She knows she cannot be a good mother to them until she herself grows up, forges her own identity, and lives with integrity. She recognizes that her children have been her “dolls,” just as she has been Torvald’s “doll wife” and her father’s “doll child.” Preparing to leave the house for the last time, Nora speaks to Torvald about her children. “I know I leave them in better hands than mine,” she says. “The way I am now I can’t be anything to them.” Nora does not say that she can never be a good mother to her children, suggesting that she holds out hope that one day she can be more than their playmate. Until then, she will love them enough to leave them behind while she becomes someone who can be a stable, mature presence in their lives.