A Doll's House Summary

A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen

This three-act play by Henrik Ibsen takes place entirely within the house of the Helmer family. Torvald Helmer, the father, is a lawyer who has just received a promotion to work at a bank. His wife, Nora, is excited about his new position because she thinks it will relieve the money problems that they have had in the past. They have three young children who are looked after by a nanny. Torvald doesn't like Nora to work, but she does occasional sewing. He often treats her like a child in the way he speaks to her and thinks she doesn't understand adult concepts of money and work. The story takes place during Christmas time, so they are often decorating the house or planning parties.

Kristine Linde arrives at their house, an old friend that Nora hasn't seen in ten years. Mrs. Linde is all alone, having lost her husband and her mother, for whom she had been caring. Nora gets the idea that her husband can offer Kristine a job. Then Nora reveals a secret to Kristine that she has never told anyone. About eight years earlier, her husband became very ill, and the doctor suggested they move to Italy, so Nora needed to borrow some money to be able to afford it. Women could not take out loans on their own, so she forged her father's signature on the documents because her father was near death. Ever since then, she had been slowly scaping together money to pay back the loan.

After Kristine leaves, Krogstad, the man Nora borrowed the money from, coincidentally arrives at the door. He says that he understands that her husband is about to become his new boss at the bank. Krogstad then confesses that he knows Nora forged her father's signature on the loan, which constitutes fraud. She worries that he will reveal the information to her husband. When her husband finds out that Nora has been talking to Krogstad, he chastises her for talking to a man of such ill repute.

In act two Nora is once again talking to Mrs. Linde. They discuss Dr. Rank who is an old family friend. Torvald tells Nora that he has decided to fire Krogstad in order to hire Mrs. Linde. Nora knows that this news will upset Krogstad, so she tries to convince her husband not to do it.

Nora speaks to Krogstad again and offers to give him all the money that she owes him; however, he doesn't want the money, he wants respect. He wants her husband to not only give him his job back but give him a better job. Krogstad tells Nora that he is leaving a letter in her mailbox for Torvald explaining what Nora has done. When Krogstad leaves, Nora asks Kristine if she can talk to Krogstad about retrieving his letter then Nora tries to keep her husband from finding it by asking him to help her practice dancing the tarantella for the upcoming party.

In act three Mrs. Linde has found Krogstad, and while she's talking to him about retrieving his letter, it comes out that Kristine and Krogstad once had a relationship. Kristine had to leave him for a more stable prospect, but since her husband has died, she would like to get back together with Krogstad. Krogstad is overjoyed at this news and says he will retrieve his letter, but Kristine tells him not to. She says that Torvald needs to find out about Nora's secret. Kristine returns to tell Nora that Krogstad won't be getting his letter just after Nora dances at the party. Nora's husband joins her, then Dr. Rank stops by. He leaves his business card with a symbol on it that indicates he is going to lock himself into his house until he dies. Torvald is upset and takes the mail to go read it.

After he learns the news, he runs back out of his office to find out from Nora if it's true. She says they need to sit down for a serious conversation. He insults her, completely disappointed in her decisions, blaming her father for her bad morals. Then a new letter arrives from Krogstad. It contains the contract and says that he is letting them off the hook. Torvald is elated and tears up the letter. He tells Nora he forgives her, and he will take close care of her in the future. Nora, however, explains to him that she needs to leave him. She is disappointed with the way she has been treated by men in her life. She needs to live on her own in order to discover who she is and what she believes. Torvald is appalled that she would leave her own children, just as audiences as the time would be, but Nora says she needs to do what is best for her. Torvald wonders if she will ever come back to him, and she leaves it open as a possibility.

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A Doll's House Act 1 Summary
A Doll's House Act 1 Quiz
A Doll's House Act 2 Quiz
A Doll's House Act 3 Quiz
A Doll's House Act 2 Summary
A Doll's House Act 3 Summary
A Doll's House Important Characters
Literature Summaries

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