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Critical Analysis of 'A Dolls House'

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1757 words Published: 1st Sep 2021

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The essay is a critical analysis of the play, A Doll’s House written by a Norwegian playwright Ibsen Henrik back in 21 December 1879. It deemed to be the most famous of the writers play and has been read in many institutions of learning. The play is written in three main acts and has been very influential in what human kind thought. The essay will briefly summarize the play plot, list the characters and discuss in details the main themes of the play. It is worth noting that in any piece of art, it is the characters that are used to bring forth the main objectives of any play or literature. On the same note, the setting of the play is in Helmer’s apartment in which all the three acts take place. Similarly, the ball room and Torvald study formed part of the play setting where Nora danced and some off-stage action taking place in that order.

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The characters in the play are broadly categorized into two groups; main characters and minor characters. The formers constitute of Torvald Helmer a lawyer and was promoted as a bank manager and a husband to Nora, Nora is the wife to Torvald she left her husband because she was being treated as a kid, Dr. Rank a secrete admirer of Nora and suffers from spinal Tuberculosis, Krogstad the person whom Nora borrowed money for treating Torvald (Ibsen 2).

Other characters categorized as minor include, Linde Christine an old friend of Nora seeking to get a job, the three kids of Helmers, a house maid, porter and Ann, the kids nurse.

Play Summary

The play takes place in Helmer’s residence. It is in the eve of Chrismas in which Nora, Torvald’s wife is making arrangements. As she ate macaroons, Dr. Rank accompanied with Mrs. Linda visits. The former seeks to go and see and probably talk to Nora’s husband as the later talks to Nora. She makes Nora aware that since the passing on of her husband, who left her no saving, life has become difficult and she is looking for a job; (McFarlane 42) with this conversation, Nora gave in to talking to her husband to offer Linde a job in the bank. Continuing with the conversation, Nora late Linde know that she borrowed the money that financed her husband treatment in Italy and Torvald is not aware of this.

Dr. Rank leaves the study and talks to the two ladies about the issue of corruption. The man who Nora borrowed money, Krogstad enters and goes to speak with Torvald in the study concerning keeping his job. He later leaves shortly and Dr. Rank asserts that Krogstad is one of the morally corrupt individuals is the society. Rank and Linde later leaves and Krogstad comes again. He blackmails Nora to that he will tell her husband of her forgery if she will not convince her husband to retain him in the bank. He leaves after saying this, Nora’s husband comes and he is confronted by what she had discussed with Krogstad. Torvald stood his grounds that Krogstad must be fired due to his dishonesty so that Linde gets the job; he goes back to the study (Ibsen 5-20).

Ann, the nurse enters giving Nora ball gown, she make a statement that explains her leaving her kids to take care of Nora, she later leaves. Linde comes back and helps Nora in stitching her dress, both talked about Dr. Rank. With the entrance of Nora’s husbands, Linde leaves and goes to the nursery. His wife asks her for the second time not to fire Krogstad of which he does not accept. He gives a pick slip to the maid so that it can be mailed to Krogstad and leaves his study.

Dr. Rank enters and tells Nora about his worsening health conditions; the two flirt and Ranks confesses that he loves Nora making her say that she never loved him but liked having fun with him. With his departure comes Krogstad, he is very furious about his dismissal and he leaves a letter explaining Torvald’s wife crime, this makes Nora very worried. Nora then tells Linde what has transpired and the later assured Nora that she will set things straight by talking to Krogstad. Linde left and Dr. Rank and Nora’s husband come to the stage from the study (Ibsen 87). The two assisted Nora in her dance practice and later left.

The arrival of Linde make Nora aware that Krogstad has left town and she left him a note, Nora asserts that only miracle can help the situation. During the dance, Linde conversed with Krogstad and made him understand that she left him for money but still loves him, they reconciled and Krogstad forgot the whole issue of Nora borrowing him money. Linde masked Krogstad not to demand for his letter since Torvald need to know of it. The two leaves and comes the Helmers, the husband goes to the mail box where he finds letters some being business cards from Rank having black crosses, Nora mean while was contemplating to committing suicide (Ibsen 105). She was confronted by her husband who requests what the black meant, Nora tell him that it is Ranks announcing his fatality.

The content of Krogstad letter made Torvald to say that his wife is unfit to raise his kids as he calls her dishonest and immoral and their marriage will be referred to a matter of appearance. A letter brought by the maid coming from Krogstad. The content made Nora’s husband asks back his harsh words that he had lied on his wife. He tries to convince her but she seems to have made her mind to leave. Nora left her wedding rings together with the keys, leaving her husband completely surprised with what had transpired (Ibsen 145-153).


The main themes in the play are parental and filial obligations, unreliability of appearance, marriage and sacrificial role of women. All these have been brought out clearly through use of characters as well as other skills such as use of symbolism (Törnqvist 17).

Marriage and sacrificial role of women

From the play, it is evident that women do play a bigger role in shaping men and the entire family through hard work and sacrifice. It is evident from scene one that Nora did borrow money to finance their trip to Italy. She kept that secretes and only confesses it to Linde that indeed it was Krogstad who provided her with the money to restore the health status of Torvald, Nora’s husband. Additionally, she worked hard in her quest to repay the loan without engaging her husband (123HelpMe, 5).

Similarly, when things seemed to have hit a snag when she was blackmailed by Krogstad that her secrets will be revealed if she fails to convince her husband to retain him in the back, she contemplated committing suicide. This was to show that she did not want her husband to sacrifice for her deed. The sacrifices women make despite their economic status is summarized with what Nora says in Act 3, “although most men refuse to sacrifice their integrity, hundreds of thousand of women have”.

Another woman who showed an element of sacrifice is Linde; she left Krogstad for a richer man so that she can be in an opposition to support two of her brothers and mum. At the end of the play, she confesses to Krogstad that she left him for money but still loves him. Nora additionally exhibited self sacrifice when she left not only her husband but also the kids, although she deeply loved them. She says that this will give her time to realize who she is (Törnqvist 124).

Within this theme, minor theme of husband dominance comes into play. Nora is treated just like a kid by her husband. He is the one who dictates everything in the family. Nora asserts that she is tired as her father controlled her life and her husband is doing the same.

Unreliability of appearance

From the onset of the play, characters are depicted in a manner that is not real when the play unfolds. We later learn some very strong attributes of characters painted to be weak while those we deemed to be strong and morally up right are later seen to be undercuts. Nora is painted as being a childish and silly woman but as the play unfolds, we see her as being an intelligent woman who is determined courageous and can work very had to realize her dreams. She worked round the lock to repay the loan she borrowed from Krogstad. Additionally, she is brave.

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On the same note, we see her husband as being a strong character and very bold. Later, after receiving the letters from Krogstad, his characters change and we see him as a coward man, petty who is very selfish. It is also gathered that despite his threats, Krogstad have mercy and sympathy; initially, no one could think that he could reverse his action against (Nora Ibsen 77).

Additionally, there is a misinterpretation of events; whereas we thought that Krogstad and Linde hated one another, the reality at the end is that both were in love. Rank also confesses that he loves Nora, although the later assures him that she does not love him but enjoy having fun with him. The marriage of Nora and her husband is full of suspicion and lucks trust although it can be seen from initial stage that it is a good one.

Parental and filial obligations

The main characters especially Rank, Nora and her husband hold the opinion that parents need to be honest and show standard of morals to kids as this will shape their future life. Dr. Rank blames his ill health on his father sexual desire that led him to contact venereal illness that he transferred to him (Rank) that eventually caused his death. Nora’s husband holds the same opinion when he asserts that, “Nearly all young criminals had lying -mothers.” (Ibsen 91) With the knowledge that she lied, he tells Nora in the face that she is unfit to raise his kids believing that she will corrupt their innocence (Unwin 12).

Similarly, children do have an obligation to their parent. In the case Nora, she seemed aware of it but she opted to staying with her husband rather than her sick father. Linde in her part toiled in ensuring that her sick mother was cared for by working tirelessly.


From the review of the play A Doll’s House written by Ibsen Henrik, a number of themes come out clearly and include; are parental and filial obligations, unreliability of appearance, marriage and sacrificial role of women. It is a good play that warrant reading as it teaches a lot despite being written back in 1879.

Work Cited

A Doll's House. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1999. Ibsen, Henrik, and Nicholas Rudall.


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