Key Plot Points
Last Updated on July 8, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1099
While we recommend reading Ibsen’s A Doll’s House in its entirety, we understand that your classroom may have time constraints. The following Key Plot Points are meant to guide you and your students to the most relevant parts of the text so you can plan your lessons most efficiently.
Nora Tells Christine About the Loan (Act 1): Nora Helmer is preparing her home for Christmas. She is visited by an old school friend, Christine Linde, who is a widow and has to work to support herself. Nora agrees to advocate on her behalf for a position at the bank of which her husband, Torvald, has just become manager. During their conversation, Nora reveals that she took out a large loan several years previous to pay for a trip that facilitated Torvald’s recovery from a serious illness. As it is illegal for a wife to borrow money without her husband’s consent and Torvald was unwilling to spend the money himself, Nora has been explaining the money as a gift from her now-deceased father. She has been working in secret to supplement her housekeeping allowance and pay the loan back.
Krogstad Is Introduced (Act 1): Both women are distressed by the arrival of Krogstad, an employee at the bank where Torvald works. While Krogstad meets privately with Torvald, the Helmers’ friend Dr. Rank arrives and describes Krogstad as “morally diseased.” After Krogstad leaves, Nora flatters and charms Torvald into agreeing to find a position for Mrs. Linde at the bank.
Krogstad Blackmails Nora (Act 1): Krogstad asks Nora to use her influence with her husband to ensure he retains his position at the bank, which he intimates will be threatened by Mrs. Linde’s presence. He considers this position a step into respectability, which he lost years ago with an unnamed indiscretion, and fears that its loss will leave him otherwise unemployable. Krogstad reveals that he oversaw Nora’s loan, and he blackmails Nora into helping him by threatening to expose the fact that she forged her father’s signature on the bond. Nora stands by the morality of her decision, by which she avoided troubling her dying father and saved her husband’s life, but legally she is guilty of forgery and fraud.
Nora and Torvald Discuss Krogstad (Act 1): Nora flatters Torvald before broaching the subject of Krogstad’s employment with him. Torvald tells Nora that Krogstad’s past indiscretion was forgery, and that his deception has poisoned not only his own moral character, but also that of his children, leaving Torvald no choice but to dismiss him. Nora, aghast at the thought of corrupting her children, begins questioning the righteousness of her own past actions.
Krogstad Is Dismissed (Act 2): Torvald rejects Nora’s request on behalf of Krogstad, angry at the idea that he should be thought to be governed by his wife. Pride injured, he posts Krogstad’s dismissal letter. He then immediately forgives Nora for what he sees as her unreasonable stubbornness, believing her concern is driven by fear of potential slanderous retaliation against him.
Dr. Rank Confesses His Love for Nora (Act 2): As Nora is panicking about Krogstad’s reaction to his dismissal, Dr. Rank arrives and tells Nora that he is preparing to die. Nora attempts to charm him out of his morbidity—and perhaps into giving her the money to pay off the remainder of her loan—but he reveals that he is in love with her. Nora rebukes him and changes the subject. She does not bring up the loan, though she reveals she is more open with him about her thoughts and feelings than she is with the paternal, demanding Torvald.
Krogstad Reacts (Act 2): Krogstad confronts Nora about his dismissal. He tells her that he will not reveal her forgery publicly, but will not release her from her bond. Instead, he will use the bond as evidence to force Torvald into promoting him to a higher position at the bank, ensuring his respectability in the future. He leaves, dropping a letter explaining the situation into the Helmers’ locked letter box on his way out.
Preparing for the Worst (Act 2): Mrs. Linde discovers Nora’s situation and reveals that she once had a relationship with Krogstad. She goes to try to convince him to ask for his letter back before Torvald can open it. Nora distracts Torvald from the letter box until Mrs. Linde returns and tells Nora that Krogstad is out of town until the following evening. Nora repeats that she is only waiting for something wonderful to happen—for Torvald to take the blame for her crime onto himself.
Krogstad and Christine Reconcile Their Feelings (Act 3): Mrs. Linde meets with Krogstad at the Helmers’ to discuss the letter while Nora and Torvald are at the party. They reconcile from their break-up years before and Mrs. Linde proposes marriage. Krogstad is initially suspicious, given his terrible reputation and dubious prospects, but Mrs. Linde is adamant. He then states his intention to retrieve his letter, but Mrs. Linde stops him, saying it will be better for the Helmers to be honest with each other.
Dr. Rank Departs (Act 3): Torvald brings Nora home early from the party so that he can seduce her, but his attempts are rebuffed and they are interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Rank. The doctor is merry, having celebrated the night with champagne and cigars. When Torvald opens the letter box after Dr. Rank’s departure, he and Nora discover Dr. Rank’s promised sign that he is going to seclude himself to die.
Torvald Discovers the Truth and Nora Makes a Choice (Act 3): Torvald reads Krogstad’s letter. Nora assumes he will understand the sacrifice she made for him and take her scandal onto himself, but instead he eviscerates her character. He tells her he no longer loves her and that she will not be allowed to raise their children. As Torvald scolds Nora, another letter from Krogstad arrives, apologizing and returning Nora’s fraudulent bond. Torvald is overjoyed and offers Nora his forgiveness, talking to her as he would a child who did not understand their actions. Nora confronts Torvald about her lack of personal independence and the amount of performance he requires from her. Disillusioned by his refusal to sacrifice for her as she has for him, she says that she doesn’t love him anymore and declares their marriage a sham. She leaves him and their children to discover for herself how she feels and thinks and wants to interact with the world.