A Doll's House

Nora Helmer Character Analysis

Nora Helmer is the heroine of the play. Still a young woman, she is married to Torvald Helmer and has three children. At the play’s outset, she is bubbly and carefree, excited about Christmas and her husband’s recent promotion. Although she is frustrated by the fact that the other characters believe she is a “spendthrift,” she does not seem to really mind, and happily plays along with Torvald’s pet names for her, which include “skylark,” “songbird,” “squirrel,” and “pet.” Torvald also regularly refers to her and treats her as a child, for example, by forbidding her from eating macaroons, something she does anyway despite her promises of total obedience to him. The animal and child imagery both reflect Nora’s apparently innocent, carefree nature, and suggest that her husband does not think of her as a proper adult because she is a woman. As the play progresses, it is revealed that Nora’s disobedience consists of more than simply eating the occasional macaroon: at the beginning of her marriage, she secretly borrowed money from Nils Krogstad and forged her father’s signature in order to finance a trip to Italy that was necessary to save Torvald’s life. When Torvald finds out about the debt and fails to forgive her until he is sure that his reputation is safe, Nora realizes that her understanding of herself, her husband, her marriage, and even her society was all wrong. She decides that she can no longer be happy in her life and marriage, and resolves to leave Torvald and her home in order to find a sense of self and learn about the world. The play's final image of Nora is of an embittered yet sophisticated, intelligent, and newly empowered woman boldly escaping the infantilizing clutches of her old life.

Nora Helmer Quotes in A Doll's House

The A Doll's House quotes below are all either spoken by Nora Helmer or refer to Nora Helmer. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Oxford University Press edition of A Doll's House published in 1998.
Act One Quotes

Nora! Just like a woman. Seriously though, Nora, you know what I think about these things. No debts! Never borrow! There’s always something inhibited, something unpleasant, about a home built on credit and borrowed money.

Related Characters: Torvald Helmer (speaker), Nora Helmer
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

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I would never dream of doing anything you didn’t want me to.

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker), Torvald Helmer
Related Symbols: Macaroons
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

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Oh, sometimes I was so tired, so tired. But it was tremendous fun all the same, sitting there working and earning money like that. Almost like being a man.

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker)
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

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Oh, I think I can say that some of us have a little influence now and again. Just because one happens to be a woman, doesn’t mean… People in subordinate positions, ought to take care they don’t offend anybody… who… hm…

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker)
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

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Just think how a man with a thing like that on his conscience will always be having to lie and cheat and dissemble; he can never drop the mask, not even with his own wife and children. And the children—that’s the most terrible part of it, Nora… A fog of lies like that in a household, and it spreads disease and infection to every part of it. Every breath the children take in that kind of house is reeking evil germs.

Related Characters: Torvald Helmer (speaker), Nora Helmer, Nils Krogstad
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act Two Quotes

You see Torvald is so terribly in love with me that he says he wants me all to himself. When we first married, it even used to make him sort of jealous if I only as much as mentioned any of my old friends back home. So of course I stopped doing it.

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker), Torvald Helmer
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

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A man’s better at coping with these things than a woman…

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker)
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

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If it ever got around that the new manager had been talked over by his wife… As long as the little woman gets her own stubborn way…! Do you want me to make myself a laughing stock in the office? Give people the idea that I am susceptible to any kind of outside pressure? You can imagine how soon I’d feel the consequences of that!

Related Characters: Torvald Helmer (speaker), Nora Helmer
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

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Now Dr. Rank, cheer up. You’ll see tomorrow how nicely I can dance. And you can pretend I’m doing it just for you—and for Torvald as well, of course.

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker), Torvald Helmer, Dr. Rank
Related Symbols: The Tarantella
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

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I want to get on my feet again, Mrs. Helmer; I want to get to the top… For the last eighteen months I’ve gone straight; all that time it’s been hard going; I was content to work my way up, step by step. Now I’m being kicked out, and I won’t stand for being taken back again as an act of charity. I’m going to get to the top, I tell you… It’ll be Nils Krogstad, not Torvald Helmer, who’ll be running the bank.

Related Characters: Nils Krogstad (speaker), Nora Helmer, Torvald Helmer
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

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You can’t frighten me! A precious little pampered thing like you…

Related Characters: Nils Krogstad (speaker), Nora Helmer
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

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Tell me what to do, keep me right—as you always do.

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker), Torvald Helmer
Related Symbols: The Tarantella
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

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But my dear darling Nora, you are dancing as though your life depended on it.

Related Characters: Torvald Helmer (speaker), Nora Helmer
Related Symbols: The Tarantella
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act Three Quotes

For a man, there is something indescribably moving and very satisfying in knowing that he has forgiven his wife—forgiven her, completely and genuinely, from the depths of his heart. It’s as though it made her his property in a double sense: he has, as it were, given her a new life, and she becomes in a way both his wife and at the same time his child.

Related Characters: Torvald Helmer (speaker), Nora Helmer
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

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I have been your doll wife, just as at home I was Daddy’s doll child. And the children in turn have been my dolls. I thought it was fun when you came and played with me, just as they thought it was fun when I went to play with them. That’s been our marriage, Torvald.

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker), Torvald Helmer
Related Symbols: The Doll’s House
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

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I believe that first and foremost I am an individual, just as much as you are—or at least I’m going to try to be. I know most people agree with you, Torvald, and that’s also what it says in books. But I’m not content anymore with what most people say, or what it says in books. I have to think things for myself, and get things clear.

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker), Torvald Helmer
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Nora Helmer Character Timeline in A Doll's House

The timeline below shows where the character Nora Helmer appears in A Doll's House. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
The play opens to a nicely decorated living room. The doorbell rings. Nora Helmer enters though the front door, dressed in her outdoor clothes and carrying lots of... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Torvald Helmer calls from his study, asking if Nora has just returned home and calling her his “little sky-lark” and “little squirrel.” Nora beckons... (full context)
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Nora suggests they could borrow money and pay it back after Torvald receives his paycheck. Torvald... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Nora concedes: “just as you say, Torvald.” Torvald, not wanting to see her sulk, gives her... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Nora shows off the presents she has bought for the children (a doll for her daughter;... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Torvald says that Nora is looking guilty and asks several times if she went to the candy store. Nora... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Torvald and Nora look forward to the evening, while recalling earlier Christmases when they didn’t have as much... (full context)
Gender Theme Icon
...as Dr. Rank is already in his study. Meanwhile, the lady is waiting to see Nora. (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Nora asks if Mrs. Linde’s husband left her any money or children, and Mrs. Linde confirms... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Nora asks to hear about Mrs. Linde’s life, but before Mrs. Linde can say anything, Nora... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Mrs. Linde says she remembers Nora being a “spendthrift” in their school days, and Nora admits that Torvald still calls her... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Mrs. Linde says she knows that Nora and Torvald spent a year in Italy, and Nora explains that, although it saved Torvald’s... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
...asks about Dr. Rank, wondering if his visit means Torvald is still in bad health. Nora explains that Dr. Rank is her and Torvald’s best friend and that he visits once... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Nora asks if it is really true that Mrs. Linde did not love her husband, and... (full context)
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Nora says Mrs. Linde must feel relieved, but Mrs. Linde says she feels empty and purposeless... (full context)
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Nora promises to help persuade Torvald to give Mrs. Linde a job. Mrs. Linde thanks her,... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Nora mentions that Mrs. Linde is proud of having been able to look after her mother... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Nora at first won’t reveal how she acquired the money, delighting in keeping Mrs. Linde in... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Mrs. Linde, worried, asks if Nora has done something rash. Nora says that she saved her husband’s life, something that couldn’t... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Mrs. Linde asks if Torvald ever found out about the money, and if Nora ever confided in him. Nora says he never found out, and that she would never... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Nora asks what Mrs. Linde thinks of her now that she knows about her secret, and... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Nora goes on to explain that she supplemented the savings from her allowance by doing copying... (full context)
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
...isn’t sure whether to show him in yet as Torvald is still with Dr. Rank. Nora asks who it is, and Nils Krogstad announces himself. Mrs. Linde gasps and turns away.... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Mrs. Linde asks Nora who it was at the door. Nora replied that it was Krogstad. Mrs. Linde reveals... (full context)
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Dr. Rank enters. Nora introduces him to Mrs. Linde. Mrs. Linde says they came in to the house together,... (full context)
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Nora, breaking the tension, says that Dr. Rank is as keen to live as anybody. Dr.... (full context)
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Nora suddenly bursts out laughing and Dr. Rank inquires what she laughing about, asking if she... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Nora offers Dr. Rank a macaroon. He says he thought they were forbidden in Nora’s house.... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Torvald enters and Nora quickly hides the macaroons. Nora asks if Torvald “got rid of” Krogstad, and Torvald replies... (full context)
Gender Theme Icon
Nora talks to her children, who tell her what they’ve been doing outside. The nursemaid offers... (full context)
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
The door half opens. Krogstad stands in the doorway, waiting. Eventually he announces himself. Nora jumps up, startled, and asks what he wants. He says that someone left the door... (full context)
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Krogstad says that he saw Torvald walking down the street earlier with a lady. Nora asks if the lady was Mrs. Linde; Krogstad says it was, and explains that he... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Krogstad asks in a more polite tone if Nora will use her influence to his advantage. He explains that he needs Nora’s help to... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
...their student days and is sure he is no more “steadfast” than other married men. Nora, outraged, tells Krogstad he must leave if he talks disrespectfully of Torvald. Krogstad remarks that... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
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Nora says she cannot help Krogstad; he insists that this is only because she doesn’t want... (full context)
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Krogstad remarks that either Nora doesn’t have a good memory or she doesn’t know much about business. He then recalls... (full context)
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Krogstad tells Nora how dangerous it was for her to admit to signing her father’s name, and says... (full context)
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Nora, alone, tells herself that Krogstad is just trying to scare her. The children stand in... (full context)
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Nora decorates the tree, still talking to herself, saying everything Krogstad has said is nonsense and... (full context)
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Nora continues to decorate the Christmas tree and tells Torvald she is excited for the Stenborgs’... (full context)
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Nora strokes Torvald’s hair and says that if he weren’t so busy she’d ask him to... (full context)
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Nora casually asks what Krogstad’s crime was. Torvald replies that it was forgery, and asks if... (full context)
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...as a lawyer he knows that most juvenile delinquents are the children of dishonest mothers. Nora asks why it is mothers in particular who have this affect. Torvald admits that fathers... (full context)
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Nora backs away from Torvald, saying she feels hot. Torvald gets up and says he must... (full context)
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Nora repeats to herself “it’s impossible.” The nursemaid calls saying that the children keep asking if... (full context)
Act Two
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The curtain opens to the same room, with the Christmas tree now stripped and “bedraggled.” Nora’s outdoor clothes are on the sofa, and Nora, who is alone, walks around restlessly, before... (full context)
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...it is the box of fancy dress costumes and admits they are in a mess. Nora exclaims, “if only I could rip them up into a thousand pieces!” The nursemaid, taken... (full context)
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Nora asks how the children are, and the nursemaid replies that they are playing with their... (full context)
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Nora begins unpacking the box, but quickly throws it down. She mutters to herself about wanting... (full context)
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Nora tells Mrs. Linde she would like her help with her costume for the fancy dress... (full context)
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Nora remarks that Torvald knows how to make the home nice, and Mrs. Linde says that... (full context)
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Nora explains that Dr. Rank was Torvald’s best friend as a boy and is also a... (full context)
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Mrs. Linde chastises Nora, saying she is still a child and that she must stop “all this business with... (full context)
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Mrs. Linde points out that Nora’s own husband would be able to cope with the matter, but Nora responds: “Nonsense!” She... (full context)
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Nora goes to meet Torvald and says she’s been “longing” for him to come back. She... (full context)
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Nora stops him, and asks that if “a little squirrel” (referring to herself) asked nicely would... (full context)
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Torvald says he hopes Nora is not referring to the conversation they had that morning about letting Krogstad keep his... (full context)
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Nora insists that Krogstad is capable of great evil, implying he could destroy the peace and... (full context)
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...of bad behavior that makes him unable to let him keep his job. He tells Nora that he and Krogstad were friends in their youth, which he says was rash and... (full context)
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Nora desperately begs Torvald to get the letter back, for the sake of himself and the... (full context)
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Nora, alone and “wild-eyed with terror,” talks to herself, trying to decide whether Krogstad is capable... (full context)
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Dr. Rank says he will keep taking advantage of the ability to talk to Nora as long as he is able. Nora, taken aback, asks what he means, and Dr.... (full context)
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Nora tells Dr. Rank he is being absurd, saying she hoped he would be in a... (full context)
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Suddenly, Nora asks Dr. Rank why he smiled, and Dr. Rank replies that it was in fact... (full context)
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Nora tells Dr. Rank to cheer up and promises that he’ll see her dance tomorrow and... (full context)
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...he couldn’t imagine what would have happened to him if he’d never encountered Torvald and Nora and become a regular visitor in their house. He laments the fact that he will... (full context)
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Nora tells Dr. Rank that there is something he must help her prevent happening. She tells... (full context)
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The maid enters with the lamp, before exiting again. Dr. Rank asks if Nora knew that he loved her, and she replies that she can’t tell whether she knew... (full context)
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Dr. Rank explains that he can’t figure Nora out, and that it’s often felt to him that she’d just as rather be with... (full context)
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The maid enters, whispers something to Nora and hands her a visiting card. Nora, looking at the card, exclaims. When Dr. Rank... (full context)
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Nora asks the maid if “he” (Krogstad) is in the kitchen. The maid replies that he... (full context)
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Nora remarks to herself that Krogstad is coming and that this is what she has been... (full context)
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Krogstad asks if Nora has a clearer idea of her crime than she did yesterday. She replies bitterly that... (full context)
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...remainder of the debt is paid off, he will still keep the IOU. He tells Nora that if she is thinking of running away, or doing something worse, that she should... (full context)
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Krogstad reveals that he has a letter already written to Torvald explaining the situation. Nora insists that Torvald must never read the letter and tells Krogstad to tear it up.... (full context)
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Nora tells Krogstad that he will never live to see himself run the bank. Krogstad asks... (full context)
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Nora watches Krogstad exit and sees him drop the letter in the letter box. She cries... (full context)
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Nora asks Mrs. Linde to be her witness in case she goes mad or anything else... (full context)
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Mrs. Linde announces that she is going to talk to Krogstad. Nora asks her not to, saying Krogstad can only do her harm. Mrs. Linde responds that... (full context)
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Nora opens the door to Torvald’s study. Torvald asks if he can return to his own... (full context)
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...himself, saying before he forgets he should look to see if he has any letters. Nora desperately asks him not too, but he persists. Nora begins to play the opening bars... (full context)
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Mrs. Linde enters “as though spellbound.” Nora asks her to see what fun they are having, but Torvald says that Nora is... (full context)
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Nora urges Torvald not to open any letters, and Torvald says he can tell that there... (full context)
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Nora asks Mrs. Linde what happened when she went out. Mrs. Linde replies that Krogstad has... (full context)
Act Three
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Nora asks Torvald if he is tired, but he says he is extremely lively. Nora admits... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Torvald holds Nora and says that he sometimes wishes her life were in danger so that he could... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Nora promises Torvald that after she dies, he will be free. Torvald says she is pretending... (full context)
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Torvald tells Nora to take her shawl off and begins to talk about what he plans to do... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Torvald asks Nora where she is going, and she answers that she is going to take off her... (full context)
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Nora returns, wearing her everyday clothes. Torvald, surprised, asks why she’s not in bed. Nora replies... (full context)
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Nora explains that Torvald has never understood her and that she has been wronged both by... (full context)
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Torvald, infuriated, says that Nora is being ungrateful. He asks if she was happy in their marriage, and Nora replies... (full context)
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Nora reveals to Torvald that she is planning to leave him immediately, and that she will... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Torvald asks if Nora does not have an infallible guide to the question of her position in the home... (full context)
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Torvald says Nora is ill and delirious. Nora replies that she has never felt so calm and collected,... (full context)
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Torvald tells Nora that nobody sacrifices his honor for the person he loves, but Nora replies that thousands... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)