A Doll's House

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A Doll's House Act Three Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The act opens on the same room, this time only occupied by Mrs. Linde, who is trying to read a book but doesn’t seem able to concentrate. Dance music is heard from the floor above. Mrs. Linde listens for a sound at the front door, checks her watch, obviously waiting for someone. Eventually, she sees that someone is there, and goes out to let them in. Krogstad enters, saying he found a note from her, and asking what it means. Mrs. Linde explains that she had to talk to him and that it had to be at the Helmers’ house as her house doesn’t have a back entrance. She explains that the Helmers are at the ball, and Krogstad is shocked that they are out dancing.
Mrs. Linde’s behavior in the opening moments of the act build suspense. Her decision to make Krogstad use the back entrance to the Helmers’ house shows that, despite being the play’s biggest advocate for honesty, she is also willing to employ secrecy and deception when she deems it necessary.
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Mrs. Linde addresses Krogstad by his first name and asks that the two of them talk. Krogstad asks if they have anything to talk about. Mrs. Linde insists that they do; Krogstad disagrees, but Mrs. Linde says that’s because he never understood her. Krogstad says there is nothing more to understand of the “old, old story” of a “heartless woman” leaving a man as soon as she gets an offer from someone richer. Mrs. Linde asks if Krogstad truly believes it was easy for her or that she is heartless. She explains that there was nothing else she could do and that she felt bound by duty to break things off with Krogstad. Krogstad angrily remarks that it all happened for money, but Mrs. Linde points out that she had to take care of a helpless mother and two brothers. Krogstad maintains that Mrs. Linde still did not have the right to throw him over for someone else, and Mrs. Linde says she’s spent a lot of time wondering if she was justified.
Mrs. Linde’s assertion that Krogstad never understood her is significant as this is what Nora also says to Torvald in the final scene of the play; the parallel suggests that perhaps men at the time were unable to understand women. This is backed up by the fact that Krogstad judges Mrs. Linde so harshly for having married someone else. He seems to fail to understand the concept of sacrificing one’s own happiness for the sake of others, something that both women in the play are forced to do.
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Krogstad tells Mrs. Linde that when he lost her it felt as if the ground slipped away from under his feet, and that he is now “a broken man clinging to the wreck of my life.” Mrs. Linde says that help might be near, but Krogstad argues that Mrs. Linde has got in the way of help. He tells Mrs. Linde to withdraw from the position at the bank. She says she won’t because it wouldn’t benefit Krogstad if she did. He tells her to do it anyway, but she replies that life has taught her to be cautious.
This is one of the first times that we see a more human side to Krogstad, The fact that he has led a corrupt and dishonest life because he was heartbroken makes him more likeable as well as more complex. Indeed, one message within the play is that, even when people behave badly, there is often a good reason for behind it.
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Mrs. Linde points out that both she and Krogstad are struggling alone in bad situations. She laments that she has “nobody to care about, and nobody to care for.” Krogstad says it was Mrs. Linde’s own choice, but she insists that she had no choice. She then offers for the two of them to “join forces,” as together they would have a better chance than if they were each on their own. She suggests to Krogstad that she came to town because of him. She explains that she has worked all her life and that this has been a source of joy, but without anyone to work for but herself she feels empty. At first, Krogstad resists, saying Mrs. Linde is suffering from “women’s hysteria” and that she only wants to be “self-sacrificing.”
Mrs. Linde clearly finds a genuine sense of joy and purpose in being of service to others, and feels that her life is completely without meaning if she cannot do so. Thus Krogstad is correct in some ways when he accuses her of being self-sacrificing; however, what he fails to understand is that this is what Mrs. Linde truly wants. Mrs. Linde believes selfishness is not good for her; this stands in contrast to Nora’s proclamations at the end of the play that she needs to honor herself as an individual above anyone else.
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Krogstad, still uncertain, asks if Mrs. Linde knows about his past, and what people think of him. Mrs. Linde replies that Krogstad had just suggested that he would be a different person with her. Krogstad asks Mrs. Linde if she knows what she’s doing and if she has the courage to go through with it. Mrs. Linde tells him that the two of them need each other, that Krogstad’s children need a mother, and that she needs someone to mother. Krogstad takes her hands and thanks her, promising that soon he will have everybody looking up to him.
Here, Mrs. Linde and Krogstad conjure for themselves an unlikely version of the fairytale happy ending. By disregarding society’s judgment of Krogstad and allowing him the opportunity to change, Mrs. Linde ensures that they both have a chance at happiness.
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Mrs. Linde interrupts Krogstad, saying that she can hear the tarantella. She explains this means the dance is about to end and that he must go. He says he will, but tells her she doesn’t know the things he’s done against the Helmers. Mrs. Linde tells him she does know. He is surprised that she still wants to go through with being with him, but Mrs. Linde explains that she knows what despair does to people. Krogstad regrets that he can’t undo his actions, and Mrs. Linde points out that he can, that the letter is still in the box. Krogstad becomes briefly suspicious that Mrs. Linde’s whole promise to marry him is only to save Nora, but she insists that it isn’t, saying after a person has sold themselves once for other people’s sake, they don’t do it again.
Mrs. Linde’s claim that nobody sells themselves twice for other people’s sake is interesting, as it calls into question the idea of duty and self-sacrifice. Although Mrs. Linde does not regret her first marriage as it allowed her to support her family, she has emerged from that experience with the belief that she has the right to her own happiness. This is similar to Nora’s situation; having risked everything to save Torvald’s life, she realizes at the end of the play that she cannot sacrifice her own happiness by continuing to live with him when she doesn’t love him anymore.
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Krogstad resolves to ask for his letter back unread, but Mrs. Linde asks him not to. Krogstad, confused, asks if that wasn’t the whole reason Mrs. Linde asked him to come. She says that it was, but having seen what she has seen in the past twenty-four hours she has come to the conclusion that Torvald has to know everything, saying that “all this secrecy and deception must end at once.” Krogstad tells Mrs. Linde that he won’t ask for his letter back but says that if there is anything he can do he will do it. Mrs. Linde hears the tarantella ending and tells Krogstad to go. He says he will wait for Mrs. Linde downstairs, and exits saying he has never felt so happy in his life.
Here, Mrs. Linde radically disrupts the course of events in the play. While it would have been easier for her to ask Krogstad to get his letter back, thereby ensuring that life between the Helmers went on as normal, Mrs. Linde’s steadfast belief in honesty triumphs over her promise to Nora. This ultimately benefits Nora, as Torvald’s behavior when he reads the letter allows her to see the reality of her situation and that she no longer wants to remain in her marriage.
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Mrs. Linde tidies the room and talks to herself about how things can change and how happy she is that she has people to work for and to live for. She gets her coat and hat ready and waits excitedly for the Helmers to return. They enter, Torvald pushing Nora, who is dressed in the Italian costume, “almost forcibly” into the hall. Nora stands in the doorway, saying she wants to stay longer at the ball. She begs Torvald for another hour there, but he refuses, leading her “gently but firmly” into the room.
In a somewhat ironic twist, Mrs. Linde and Krogstad’s happiness now stands in contrast to what is now shown to be Nora and Torvald’s unhealthy relationship. Torvald’s physical manipulation of Nora shows his disregard for her autonomy and the way he handles her like a doll.
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Mrs. Linde greets them, and both Nora and Torvald are shocked to see her there so late. Mrs. Linde says she was too late to catch them before they went upstairs but says she wanted to see them before leaving. Torvald says that Nora is indeed “worth looking at.” He says that everybody at the party thought she was lovely, but adds that she is stubborn, and that he had to use force to get her to leave. Nora says that Torvald will soon be sorry he didn’t let her stay longer. Torvald recalls the evening, saying Nora danced the tarantella well and was wildly applauded, although the dance was perhaps too realistic. He explains that he then wanted to take Nora immediately after so as not to “spoil the effect,” saying that exits must be dramatic, but that Nora doesn’t understand this.
In this passage it is clear that Torvald is thinking of Nora far more as a possession that he can flaunt in order to impress other people than a real person with her own thoughts and feelings. To him, Nora was at the party merely to perform for the enjoyment of him and others, not to have a good time herself.
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Torvald notices that it is dark and goes in to light candles. While he is out of earshot, Nora asks Mrs. Linde what has happened. Mrs. Linde replies that she has spoken to Krogstad and that Nora has nothing to fear from him, but that Nora must tell Torvald everything. Nora responds: “I knew it” and says she won’t tell Torvald. Mrs. Linde says that then the letter will tell Torvald for her. Nora thanks her and says she now knows what must happen.
Nora’s bitter reaction to the fact that Mrs. Linde did not get Krogstad to retrieve the letter shows that she has cut herself off even from her close friends in her obsession with the secret of the debt. All the hope and innocence seems to have drained out of her, and she has become a much more serious, grave person.
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Torvald returns and asks if Mrs. Linde has finished admiring Nora. Mrs. Linde says she has and that she must go. Torvald reminds her to take her knitting, and suggests that she should embroider instead, as embroidery is prettier than knitting. Mrs. Linde bids them goodnight and tells Nora to stop being so stubborn. Once she is gone, Torvald remarks that she is “a frightful bore.”
Torvald’s harsh judgment of Mrs. Linde and recommendation that she embroider because it’s “prettier” suggests he thinks women’s value lies in their looks.
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Nora asks Torvald if he is tired, but he says he is extremely lively. Nora admits that she is very tired and wants to go to sleep, and Torvald asks if he wasn’t then right that they shouldn’t have stayed longer. Nora tells him that everything he does is right, but says it without much conviction. Torvald points out that now she is talking common sense again, and asks her if she noticed how happy Dr. Rank seemed. Nora says she didn’t get a chance to talk to him.
This exchange suggests that Nora is beginning to see the emptiness of her role as a woman who always obeys her husband unquestioningly. Torvald doesn’t seem to notice her increasing disillusionment, showing his obliviousness to her thoughts.
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Torvald says how happy he is to be alone with Nora. Nora asks that he not look at her “like that,” and Torvald responds by asking if he can’t look at his “most treasured possession.” He says that he can tell she still has the tarantella in her blood and that makes her even more desirable. He delivers a speech explaining that when they are out at a party together he does not talk to Nora much, instead pretending that they are secretly in love and engaged. He then says that when they leave he pretends that they have just got married and that he is taking Nora to their new home for the first time. He tells her that as he was watching her perform the tarantella his “blood was on fire” and that was why he took her downstairs immediately after. Nora continues to refuse him, telling him to leave her alone. Torvald asks if this is a game Nora is playing, and reminds her that he is her husband.
In this speech we see that Torvald’s love and desire for Nora relies more on a fantasy than an appreciation for who she truly is as a person. He talks about his sexual desire for her with no consideration of whether she is feeling the same way at the moment; indeed, when she tells him that she doesn’t want to be with him that night, he dismisses her feelings by saying she must be playing a game. In reminding her that he is her husband, Torvald is suggesting that their marriage means Nora does not have the right to refuse sex with him, a commonly held belief at the time.
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There is a knock at the door, and Dr. Rank announces himself. Torvald is annoyed by the intrusion, but greets Dr. Rank in a friendly way. Dr. Rank explains that he heard the sound of their voices and just wanted to stop by. He tells them what a good time he had upstairs and talks about how excellent the wine and champagne were. Nora remarks that Torvald also drank a lot of champagne. Dr. Rank says he was celebrating the best possible results of a laboratory test, saying that he now has “certainty.” Nora comments that he is fond of masquerades, and asks what she and Torvald should go as next time. Torvald remarks that it is “frivolous” that Nora is already thinking about the next time, but Dr. Rank responds that she should go as Lady Luck and simply wear her everyday clothes. Nora asks what Dr. Rank will be, and he replies “invisible.” He asks Torvald for a cigar, lights it, and bids them goodnight. Nora tells him “sleep well” and asks that he tell her the same. He does, and exits. Torvald remarks that he seemed drunk, and Nora absently agrees.
The source of Dr. Rank’s joy seems to not only lie in the fact that he is now certain of his impending death but also his newfound ability to indulge in Earthly pleasures such as cigars and alcohol without worry. This is ironic, as he is convinced that his father’s consumption of luxurious food and alcohol was what caused his spinal tuberculosis. Although Dr. Rank drops several quite obvious hints that he is about to die, Torvald and, to a lesser extent, Nora seem fairly oblivious, revealing the extent to which they are too wrapped up in their own lives to truly notice anything around them.
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Torvald goes to the letter box and says he must empty it. He notices that somebody has tried to open the lock, and finds one of Nora’s hairpins. She says it must have been the children, and Torvald instructs her to tell them not to play with it. Looking through the mail, he finds two visiting cards from Dr. Rank with black crosses above his name. He remarks that it is as if Dr. Rank is announcing his death, and Nora replies that he is, explaining that Dr. Rank told her that he would not see them when he died. Nora says she thinks it’s best when that sort of thing happens without words. Torvald, not paying much attention to her, gives a speech about how he can’t imagine Dr. Rank gone, saying that his suffering provided a background that made Torvald and Nora’s happiness even brighter. He says that it may be for the best that Dr. Rank’s suffering will end, for Rank himself and for Nora and Torvald, as it will now be just the two of them.
The momentary distraction of the appearance of Dr. Rank’s symbolic visiting cards builds suspense for Torvald’s eventual discovery of the letter from Krogstad. Torvald’s reaction to learning that he will never see Dr. Rank again is unfeeling and selfish. His view that Dr. Rank’s suffering made his own life seem even happier suggests that the basis of his happiness is highly superficial and dependent on the idea that he has a better life than others. Torvald’s lack of sadness at Dr. Rank’s death shows that he must not have been a very good friend.
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Torvald holds Nora and says that he sometimes wishes her life were in danger so that he could risk everything to save her. Nora tears herself away and tells Torvald to read his letters. At first Torvald says he will leave them until the morning because he just wants to be with Nora that night, but Nora asks if he can do that knowing that Dr. Rank is dying. Torvald concedes that he does feel unsettled and that “an ugly thing” has come between them because now they are thinking of death. He resolves that they go to sleep separately and kisses Nora goodnight. She puts her arms around his neck and bids him goodnight too.
Torvald’s supposed desire to risk everything for Nora’s sake is revealed as false at the end of the play when the “miracle” she was hoping for—that he take the blame for her crime—does not happen. At this point, Nora’s embrace with Torvald before she goes to bed shows that she does have a small lingering affection for him, but we get the sense that this is disappearing fast.
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Torvald takes the letters into his study. Nora, wild-eyed, wraps Torvald’s cloak around herself and whispers about never seeing him and the children again. She talks of black icy water and wishes it were all over. She says goodbye out loud to Torvald and her children and goes to leave. However, she is stopped by Torvald pushing open the door of his study.
Nora is preparing to kill herself, perhaps the ultimate symbol of self-sacrifice. Her whispering murmurs on the stage suggests that she is descending into madness, and her resemblance to the many other literary heroines who go mad before killing themselves is clear.
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Torvald holds up the letter and asks if Nora knows what’s in it. She admits that she does, and asks that he let her go, insisting that he not try to save her. Torvald asks in disbelief if what Krogstad writes is true, and Nora says it is, saying she loved Torvald more than anything in the world. He says this is a “paltry excuse,” calls her a “miserable woman” and asks what it is she’s done. Nora tells him again to let her go and not to try and take the blame for her. He tells her to stop play-acting, locks the front door, and says she must stay to give an account of herself.
Nora’s repeated insistence that Torvald not take the blame reveals a misguided and, it turns out, overly optimistic belief that he would do that. His reaction to Krogstad’s letter suggests that he has lost all his love and respect for her in an instant, and his totally unforgiving attitude shows the precariousness and superficiality of their relationship.
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Torvald paces up and down, saying that in the eight years they have been married, Nora has been “a hypocrite, a liar, worse than that, a criminal!” He says he should have realized something like this would happen because her father had no religion, morals, or sense of duty. He claims that this is his punishment for turning a blind eye to Nora’s father. He says that Nora has ruined his happiness and jeopardized his future, as he is now at the mercy of Krogstad. He says he must now do whatever Krogstad wants, and all because of Nora, who he calls “a feather-brained woman.”
Here is another example of the belief in how parents influence children, with the specific idea that moral corruption is passed from parent to child. The fact that Torvald doesn’t even consider standing up to Krogstad shows that Krogstad was right to suggest that Torvald didn’t have “courage” and wouldn’t defend Nora.
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Nora promises Torvald that after she dies, he will be free. Torvald says she is pretending and says it would not do him any good if she died, because Krogstad could still tell other people about Nora’s crime and that people might even suspect Torvald was an accomplice, or that he was behind it. He asks if Nora understands what she has done to him, and adds that it is after he has taken care of her so well all through their marriage. Nora replies coldly that she understands.
Torvald’s reaction to the knowledge that Nora wants to kill herself is harsh and entirely self-centered, suggesting he doesn’t care for Nora at all. Throughout this whole section of the play Torvald only thinks of himself and doesn’t pause to consider the way Nora has been and will be affected by Krogstad’s threats, or that Nora did what she did purely out of love for him.
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Torvald tells Nora to take her shawl off and begins to talk about what he plans to do next. He says he will try to find a way of appeasing Krogstad, and will make sure that nobody finds out about the whole situation. He tells Nora that things must appear to be the same between them, but that he will not let her raise the children, as he can’t trust her to do so. He insists that they must preserve appearances.
Torvald’s thoughts about preserving appearances reveal that respectability matters more to him than his own happiness, the happiness of others, or love. It also suggests that he believes that, no matter how badly he treats Nora, she will continue to obey him and play along with whatever plan he devises.
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The doorbell rings. Torvald tells Nora to hide, but she doesn’t move. The maid enters and says there is a note for Nora. Torvald snatches it and says Nora cannot read it. He announces that it is from Krogstad. He reads it, and cries out that he is saved. Nora asks about herself, and he adds that she is also saved. He reveals that Krogstad has sent Nora’s IOU back, saying his circumstances have improved and that he regrets what he did. Torvald rips up the IOU and throws it in the fire, telling Nora that nobody can do anything to her now. He says that in the note Krogstad has written that Nora knew about the forgery and Krogstad’s threat since Christmas eve, and Torvald says how hard it must have been for her. Nora says that yes, it has been hard.
Torvald’s snatching of the note addressed to Nora shows that he doesn’t believe she has the right to privacy. The fact that his first words after reading it are “I’m saved” is telling; Torvald has only considered this situation in light of his own fate, with Nora barely even existing as an afterthought.
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Torvald talks about the “agonies” that Nora must have suffered, but then declares that they should forget all about it. He says they can rejoice because the whole thing is over. He asks Nora why she still looks down, and before she can reply says it must be because she can’t believe Torvald has forgiven her. He tells her that he has forgiven her because he knows that she did what she did because she loved him, and that she simply didn’t have the experience to know what to do. He says that he doesn’t love her any less for that, and that she need only rely on him for guidance. He tells her he wouldn’t really be a man if he didn’t find women more attractive when they are helpless. He tells her to forget about what he said when he first found out about the debt, because now he has forgiven her. Nora thanks him for his forgiveness, and goes to leave.
Torvald’s sudden, more forgiving way of talking to Nora highlights the fact that he understood as soon as he first read the letter from Krogstad that she had been forced to borrow the money and couldn’t really be blamed for the consequences. This makes his initial reaction to the situation even more awful. His belief that he is doing her a great kindness in forgiving her—and doing so only after the consequences of forgiving her are no longer dire—conveys how deluded he is. His statement about finding a helpless woman doubly as attractive highlights the warped effect ideas about gender at the time had on marriage and relationships.
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Torvald asks Nora where she is going, and she answers that she is going to take off her dress from the dance. He tells her that’s a good idea, and that she should get some rest. He uses imagery of Nora as a hunted dove who he has rescued and will look after, saying that tomorrow she will see things differently and that everything will seem like it once was. He asks her if she really thought he was going to turn her out, saying that that is not what a real man would do. He says that it is a satisfying feeling for a man to know he has forgiven his wife, because it makes her his property in two senses: she is now both his wife and his child. He tells her not to worry about anything, and that he will make all the decision for her.
Torvald, rather than foreseeing that the unfolding events will be the destruction of his marriage, is so deluded that he believes his and Nora’s relationship will emerge even stronger and more to his liking. His comment that Nora is now doubly his property and like a child to him reveals explicitly the extent to which he does not believe she is an autonomous adult, and that treating her like a child and his property is the proper way to behave within a marriage.
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Nora returns, wearing her everyday clothes. Torvald, surprised, asks why she’s not in bed. Nora replies that she won’t sleep that night, and asks Torvald to sit down so they can talk. Torvald says he is frightened and doesn’t understand, and Nora replies that this is exactly her point; he does not understand her. She asks that he doesn’t interrupt and simply listens to her. She asks if it is striking to him that, in their eight years of marriage, this is the first time they have had a serious conversation together. Torvald says it depends what she means by serious, and says he wouldn’t have wanted to got her involved in things that would worry her. Nora, however, replies that she is not talking about things that would worry her.
Nora has evidently undergone a transformation both visually and in the way she speaks to Torvald. For the first time, she is addressing him as an equal and demanding that he treat her with respect by listening and not interrupting.
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Nora explains that Torvald has never understood her and that she has been wronged both by him and her father. Torvald, shocked, asks how that can be true of the two people who loved her more than anyone else. Nora replies that neither of them really loved her, only thought how nice it was to be in love with her. She explains that she felt pressured to think the exact same way as her father. She adds that he played with her as she played with her dolls, and that it is the same now she is married to Torvald. She says she has survived by doing “tricks” for Torvald, and that it is his fault she has never made anything of herself.
Nora’s sudden insight into her relationships with Torvald and her father is surprising and cathartic. The fact that she claims to have lived by doing “tricks” for Torvald is certainly backed up by all their talk of her singing, dancing, and otherwise performing for him. To blame Torvald and her father for the fact that she has never become the person she wants to be would have been an extremely radical and shocking claim at the time.
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Torvald, infuriated, says that Nora is being ungrateful. He asks if she was happy in their marriage, and Nora replies that she only thought she was happy, but in reality she wasn’t. She explains that, although Torvald has been kind to her, she has only ever been his doll-wife, just as she was her father’s doll-child, saying she found it fun when Torvald came to play with her. Torvald concedes that although Nora is speaking in an “exaggerated and hysterical” way, there is some truth to what she says. He adds that now it will be different, promising that playtime will end and there will now be lessons for both her and the children. Nora tells him that he is not able to teach her how to be a good wife to him, and that she is not able to teach the children, as he pointed out only a moment ago. Torvald tells her to ignore what he said earlier, but she says he was right, and that she must now go about educating herself.
This is the first time that the metaphor of the doll’s house becomes explicitly clear in the play. Nora’s comments about being a doll-wife suggest that every marriage in which the wife is in some way controlled by the husband is comparable to a doll’s house, a daring assertion at the time. It is significant that Torvald does not disagree with her, but rather agrees and yet sees nothing wrong with the idea of having a doll-wife. This reveals the extent to which such relationships were accepted and even encouraged by society as healthy and normal.
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Nora reveals to Torvald that she is planning to leave him immediately, and that she will go to stay with Mrs. Linde for the night. Torvald forbids her, but Nora says there’s no use, and that she will take only her personal belongings and nothing of his. She tells him that the next day she will go back to her old home, where it will be easier for her to find something to do. Torvald says that this is madness and that Nora is blind and inexperienced. Nora points out that she is trying to get experience.
Mrs. Linde and Nora’s childhood home both (at least for now) symbolize the status of being an unmarried woman, an identity that Nora believes will afford her more freedom.
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Torvald asks if she cares about leaving her husband and children, or what people will say. Nora replies that she has no interest in what people say, and that leaving is necessary for her, with an emphasis on the word “me.” Torvald says that she is betraying her “most sacred duty” to her husband and children. Nora replies that she has an equally sacred duty to herself. Torvald refutes this, saying she is “first and foremost a wife and mother.” But Nora says that even though this is what most people think, she no longer believes it, arguing that she is primarily an individual and must think for herself.
For Torvald, a woman’s duty to her husband and children and her reputation within society are clearly interlinked. Because Nora now has little interest in her reputation, she is able to overcome the idea of a duty to others and focus on herself. Torvald clearly considers women to be wives and mothers before they are even people; it is only after much struggle that Nora is able to refute this belief.
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Torvald asks if Nora does not have an infallible guide to the question of her position in the home and in life: her religion. Nora replies that she doesn’t really know what religion is, and intends to figure out her thoughts on the subject when she goes away. Torvald replies that if religion cannot keep Nora “on the right path,” then he will try to awaken her moral conscience, if she has one. Nora replies that she doesn’t know, and that it’s not an easy thing to judge. She says she knows that her morals are different from Torvald’s, and also different from the law’s, which she believes must be wrong as it did not preserve her right to protect her husband and father on his deathbed. Torvald replies that she is talking like a child and doesn’t understand society. Nora replies that she doesn’t, but wants to learn.
Nora’s radically modern view of religion would have been highly scandalous at the time. She also seems to be an advocate of moral relativism, the belief that there are no fixed, objective moral rules but rather that morality means different things to different people. This, along with her criticism of the law, are all sophisticated ideas, but Torvald responds to them by saying she is talking like a child. However, Torvald’s refusal to critically evaluate the rules of society suggests that it is actually he who is naïve and ignorant, not Nora.
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Torvald says Nora is ill and delirious. Nora replies that she has never felt so calm and collected, and Torvald says that the only explanation behind what she is doing then must be that she doesn’t love him anymore. Nora confirms that this is true, that she is sorry because he has always been kind to her, but that she can’t help not loving him. She explains that she fell out of love with Torvald when the miracle she was waiting for didn’t happen, and that Torvald is therefore not the man she thought he was. She says that she hoped that when Torvald learned of Krogstad’s demands, he would not give in and tell Krogstad to tell the whole world. She hoped he would then step forward and take the blame for everything. However, Torvald was not willing to sacrifice himself for her.
In this section, it becomes clear that Nora has an additional reason for leaving Torvald, related but nevertheless distinct from her thoughts on religion, society, and individuality: she no longer loves Torvald. The fact that she has both an emotional and intellectual basis for deciding to leave proves that it is not the rash, insane decision that Torvald is making it out to be, but rather, as Nora claims, a rather rational one. Nora had expected Torvald to "act like a man" and offer to protect her even if it ruined him, but in discovering that he would do no such thing she realized that she had misunderstood the entire structure of their marriage. She had thought that there was love beneath the roles, but in fact there were just the roles.
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Torvald tells Nora that nobody sacrifices his honor for the person he loves, but Nora replies that thousands of women have done so. Torvald repeats that Nora thinks and talks like “a stupid child.” Nora responds that Torvald thinks like someone she would not want to spend her life with. She points out that once he received the IOU back from Krogstad, he wanted to go on pretending that nothing had happened, except to protect Nora even more because he had realized how weak she supposedly was. She says that this made her realize she had been married to a stranger. She says she cannot bear to even think about it, and that the thought makes her want to tear herself to shreds.
Nora and Torvald’s exchange about honor and love is interesting: it highlights a disparity between the genders in that men were expected to put their reputation first, whereas women were often forced to disregard their own honor for the sake of others. Nora’s comment that she is married to a “stranger” show the extent to which her view of the world as changed; her old life is unfamiliar and even repulsive to her.
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Torvald acknowledges sadly that there is a “tremendous gulf” between them, and asks if there is any way to bridge it. He even promises to change, but Nora says the only way that would be possible were if his “doll” were to be taken away. Torvald says he cannot imagine being separated from her, and Nora replies that this is why she must go. She gets her things ready, and Torvald begs her to at least wait until the morning. She insists that she can’t spend the night in a strange man’s room. He asks that they stay living together “as brother and sister,” but Nora says it couldn’t last. She bids him goodbye and says she doesn’t want to see the children, knowing they are in better hands.
This is a turning point in Torvald’s attitude to Nora. While at first he—perhaps convinced that she would not really go—called her actions insane and childish, he is now taking what she says seriously and even offering to change for her. This suggests that there is a part of Torvald that does perhaps truly love Nora. Nora’s cold attitude towards both him and the children, which would have been considered outrageous at the time, reveals the intensity of her convictions, and that Torvald himself isn't the sole problem—the institution of marriage itself is.
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Torvald asks if some day things might change. Nora says she cannot know what she will be in the future, and Torvald says she will always be his wife. Nora points out that when a wife leaves her husband, he is absolved of responsibility of her, and that this is necessary for both of them to feel free. She gives him her wedding ring, and asks for his. Nora says the maids know the house better than she does, and that Mrs. Linde will come the next day to have Nora’s belongings packed and shipped. Torvald asks if Nora will think of him, and Nora replies that she reckons she will think of him and her children often. He asks if he can write to her but she refuses. He asks if he can offer to help her, but Nora replies that she does not accept help from strangers.
Here Nora conducts what can be considered an unofficial divorce ceremony. Although Torvald doesn’t want her to go, the fact that he agrees to give her his ring and not to write or try to help her shows that he finally respects her wishes and ability to make decisions for herself. Nora’s comment that the maids know the house better than she does suggests that the role of wives of Nora’s social class was something of a façade, and that this is perhaps one of the reasons why she feels she has to escape her marriage.
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Torvald asks if there is any way that he could one day be more than a stranger to Nora. Nora replies only by “a miracle of miracles,” if both of them would change. Torvald seems hopeful, but Nora says she no longer believes in miracles. Torvald says he does believe, and asks how he must change. Nora said he would have to change to a point where they could make their marriage work. She bids him goodbye and exits. Torvald sinks to a chair with his face in his hands and cries out Nora’s name. He looks around at the room and exclaims that it is empty. He looks up with sudden hope, saying: “the miracle of miracles?” The play ends with the sound of the door slamming shut.
The final moments of the play deal with the theme of the destruction of hope. Nora’s capacity for hope has already been destroyed, as shown by the fact that she says she no longer believes in miracles. Meanwhile, the devastated Torvald has one final moment of hope at the very end of the play; however, the decisive slam of the door brings this moment to an abrupt end, finally shattering the illusion of his and Nora’s marriage.
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