The play's protagonist and the wife of Torvald Helmer, Nora has never lived alone, going immediately from the care of her father to that of her husband. Inexperienced in the ways of the world as a result of this sheltering, Nora is impulsive and materialistic. But the play questions the extent to which these attributes are mere masks that Nora uses to negotiate the patriarchal oppression she faces every day. The audience learns in the first act that Nora is independent enough to negotiate the loan to make Krogstad's holiday possible, and over the course of the play, Nora emerges as a fully independent woman who rejects both the false union of her marriage and the burden of motherhood.
Nora's husband of eight years, Torvald Helmer, at the beginning of the play, has been promoted to manager of the bank. Torvald has built his middle-class living through his own work and not from family money. Focused on business, Torvald spends a great deal of his time at home in his study, avoiding general visitors and interacting very little with his children. In fact, he sees himself primarily as responsible for the financial welfare of his family and as a guardian for his wife. Torvald is particularly concerned with morality. He also can come across as stiff and unsympathetic. Still, the last act of the play makes very clear that he dearly loves his wife.
Friend of the family and Torvald's physician, Dr. Rank embodies and subverts the theatrical role of the male moral force that had been traditional in the plays of the time. Rather than providing moral guidance and example for the rest of the characters, Dr. Rank is a corrupting force, both physically and morally. Sick from consumption of the spine as a result of his father's sexual exploits, the Doctor confesses his desire for Nora in the second act and goes off to die in the third act, leaving a visiting card with a black cross to signify that--for him--the end has come.
Sometimes given as Mrs. Linden (for example, in the 1890 translation by Henrietta Frances Lord). An old schoolmate of Nora's, Mrs. Christine Linde comes back into Nora's life after losing her husband and mother. She worked hard to support her helpless mother and two younger brothers since the death of her husband. Now, with her mother dead and her brothers being adults, she is a free agent. Pressed for money, Mrs. Linde successfully asks Nora to help her secure a job at Torvald's bank. Ultimately, Mrs. Linde decides that she will only be happy if she goes off with Krogstad. Her older, weary viewpoint provides a foil to Nora's youthful impetuousness. She perhaps also symbolizes a hollowness in the matriarchal role. Her relationship with Krogstad also provides a point of comparison with that of Nora and Torvald.
Nils Krogstad is a man from whom Nora borrows money to pay for trip to Italy, an acquaintance of Torvald's and an employee at the bank which Torvald has just taken over. Krogstad was involved in a work scandal many years previously; as a result, his name has been sullied and his career stunted. When his job at the bank is jeopardized by Torvald's refusal to work with a man he sees as hopelessly corrupt, Krogstad blackmails Nora to ensure that he does not lose his job.
Ivar, Bob, and Emmy
Nora's young children. Raised primarily by Anne, the Nurse (and Nora's old nurse), the children spend little time with their mother or father. The time they do spend with Nora consists of Nora playing with them as if she were just another playmate. The children speak no individualized lines; they are "Three Children." Ibsen facilitates their dialogue through Nora's mouth, and they are often cut entirely in performance.
The family nurse. Anne raised Nora, who had lost her mother, and stayed on to raise Nora's children. Nora is confident that she can leave her children in Anne's care.
A housemaid employed by the Helmers.
A porter who brings in the Christmas Tree at the very beginning.
A Doll’s House Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for A Doll’s House is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
This play focuses on the ways that women are perceived in their various roles, especially in marriage and motherhood. Torvald, in particular, has a very clear but narrow definition of women's roles. He believes that it is the sacred duty of a...
A Doll’s House was written in a form of Norwegian that still bore heavy traces of Danish. Ibsen deliberately chose a colloquial language style to emphasize local realism, though Torvald Helmer does speak in what Michael Meyer has described as “...