study guide- Ibsen's A Doll's House

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Reading/Study Guide Assignment


Spring Semester- Part III- IB

Kaitlyn Oppenheim

  1. Write the full title and the author's full name.

A Doll's House (Et dukkehjem)- Henrik Ibsen, translated by James McFarlane

  1. Genre: What type of work is it? Play

What literary period is it from? Victorian Time Period, late 1870s time frame

  1. One Paragraph Summary: In no more than eight sentences, write a general plot summary that covers the entire work.

Torvald Helmer, one of the main characters in the play, got a promotion in his banking company, which gives the family the money they always wanted. Nora, Torvald's wife, is very happy about the promotion, but has a few problems hanging over her. A while back, she borrowed money from one of Torvald's employees, Krogstad, in order to take her family to Italy and heal her husband of his fatal illness. Krogstad threatens Nora to tell Helmer about the money she still owes, but she tries to end it on her own because she knows that her husband is too proud to be in debt. Helmer finds out about the debt and insults Nora, and she is in awe and simply can't believe that the man she loved so much, the very same man that treated her like a 'doll', could ever say such things about her. Nora leaves Helmer and her children.

  1. Chapter/Section Summary: 


In Act I, the play opens in in the living room as a porter brings a Christmas tree to the Helmer family's house. Nora finally meets up with her old childhood friend, who surprises her on her doorstep after not seeing each other for over 10 years. Nora tries to get Mrs. Linde (her friend) a job working at her husbands bank. After his promotion which starts in the New Year, their family will be well off and he is able to provide a job for Mrs. Linde. Nora, having borrowed money in the past from her husband's employee, is not being somewhat blackmailed to make her husband let the man keep his job, in order for her husband not to find out about the lending of money.


In Act II, we experience the holiday season in the Helmer home. Nora is frantically trying to find a costume, and ignores her own children. Mrs. Linde thinks that Dr. Rank is the source of all the mysterious money, but Nora insures her that this is not the case. Dr. Rank professes his love for Nora as she is flirting with him, after she finds out that Mrs. Linde is Krogstad's replacement at the bank because Torvald is embarrassed being associated with Krogstad. Nora is constantly stressed out about Krogstad spilling the beans about the money to Torvald, especially after the letter in the box and his being fired from the bank. Mrs. Linde tells Nora that she once had a relationship with Krogstad and will go talk to him. 31 hours to live...


In Act III, we open with Mrs. Linde confessing to Krogstad the true reasons why he was forced to leave him- money. She tells him that she wants to get back together, and he is very pleased. Mrs. Linde also tells Krogstad that she wants Torvald to know the truth about Nora, even though her original plans were different. Torvald speaks sexually to Nora after both Krogstad and Mrs. Linde have left the room, trying to turn her on. Dr. Rank interrupts their small talk, and lets Nora know in code that he is going to die. Torvald was angered by the letter that Krogstad wrote, and even more angered to find out from Nora that it is all true. The fight begins, and Nora ends up leaving to discover her true self.

  1. Lists of Characters and their Importance in the Play 

Major Characters: 

  1. Torvald Helmer- a lawyer, husband of Nora, takes Nora (and woman in general) for granted which ultimately leads to her leaving in the end
  • “I would gladly toil day and night for you, Nora, enduring all manner of sorrow and distress. Bus nobody sacrifices his honour for the one he loves” (Act Three)
  1. Nora Helmer- Torvald's wife who takes the whole play to realize that her life is not what she wants it to be, so she leaves in order to “discover” her true self. Nora is a fairly immature behaving adult and a bit naïve, which is why she is not taken seriously. It is surprising when she stands up for herself in the end, going against all that woman stood for in the Victorian era.
  • “Hundreds and thousands of woman have.” (Act Three)
  • “Oh, please, Torvald dear! I beg you.” (Act One)
  1. Dr. Rank- Nora and Torvald's best friend, in secret love with Nora, falls ill
  • “Thank you. A privilege I shall take advantage of as long as I am able.” (Act Two)
  1. Mrs. Kristine Lin de- Nora's old childhood friend, comes to Nora in hopes of getting a job with Torvald, and she is a hard working woman who is now left alone after her husband leaves her and her mother has died. Falls in love with Krogstad again.

  • “Well, I had to fend for myself, opening a little shop, running a little school, anything I could turn my hand to. There last three years have been one long relentless drudge. But now it's finished, Nora. My poor dear mother doesn't need me any more, she's passes away. Nor the boys either; they're at work now, they can look after themselves.” (Act One)
  1. Nils Krogstad- works for Torvald at the bank, gets fired, shares with Torvald that Nora borrowed money

  • “Mrs. Helmer, will you have the goodness to use your influence on my behalf?” (Act One)
  • “It never got as far as the courts; but immediately it was as if all paths were barred to me” (Act One)

Minor Characters: 

  1. Anne Marie- [nursemaid] takes care of the children and keeps Nora sane, took care of Nora and gave up her own child to continue being with the Helmer family.

  • “Well, there was nothing else for it when I had to come and nurse my little Nora” (Act Two)
  • “Ah, well, children will get use to anything in time.” (Act Two)
  1. Helene- [maid] shows people around the house, cleans

(no significant quotes)

  1. Helmer's Three Children- Ivar, Bob, and Emmy- the children represent

(no significant quotes)

  1. A porter- plays no significant role in the play besides bringing the Christmas tree to the house

(no significant quotes)

  1. Setting: The setting for the whole play takes place in the Helmer's Flat in Norway. As for the household settings, the play mainly takes place in the living room of the flat. This represents an isolated power constraining area, giving Torvald complete control of Nora's life and style. This is a “one-room-setting” which is also where most the living and action in the household takes place, which can be why the appearance and the setting plays an important role in the play and the actions in the play. This setting is the room that the family is most proud of. It can falsely represent who they are as a family and their status in society.
  2. Thematic statement : Nora, like most typical 19th century woman, led a simplistic life under their husbands, oblivious and naïve as to what was truly going on around them. With this in mind, men were able to have power and command over the woman, however, Nora soon learns this not to be the only way to live her life to the fullest, led by a clear example from Mrs. Linde and Anne-Marie.
  3. Ten quotes indicative of the thematic statement, 3-5 sentence explanation of the quote that connects it to the theme
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  • Well, I had to fend for myself, opening a little shop, running a little school, anything I could turn my hand to. There last three years have been one long relentless drudge. But now it's finished, Nora. My poor dear mother doesn't need me any more, she's passes away. Nor the boys either; they're at work now, they can look after themselves.” (Act One)
  • This quote is said by Mrs. Linde in Act One. Mrs. Linde sets a clear example from the beginning of the play, that not all woman lived the “perfect” life that Nora ...

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