The play is set in Victorian Norway. Mrs Nora Helmer and Mr Torvald Helmer seem, on the surface to live a very happy middle class life. But from the outset of the play we see that there may be cracks in this relationship. In the first scene we see Nora lie to her husband about eating macaroons. The way that her husband talks to her is very patronising in this section and the rest of the play. “Has my little songbird been indulging herself in town today? ” We can see therefore, from the outset that Torvald treats Nora as a chid, and consequently they cannot have a healthy adult relationship.
We also find in this section a key idea to the play’s plot. Her husband continually calls her a “spendthrift”. This statement is justified as we see that in the beginning of the play Nora tips the porter heavily. We also learn of hteir attitudes to taking out loans. Nora is trying to persuade Helmer to take out a loan to pay for Christmas. He replies, “Nora you know how I feel about this, never borrow, no debts! ” Later that day Nora’s old friend Mrs Christine Linde visits her. Mrs Linde also treats Nora like a child. In retaliation to this Nora proves she is not a child by revealing her great secret.
She tells Mrs Linde of how she saved her husbands life by taking out a loan to pay for him to go to Italy. Mrs Linde is shocked because she knows the trouble Nora may get into by taking out a loan without the permission of a man in her family. Mrs Linde asks Nora if she may be able to persuade Helmer to offer her a job as he has now become the manager of a bank. While Mrs Linde is visiting a man named Mr Krogstad arrives to visit Mr Helmer. Both women have strange reactions to his arrival. After Mrs Linde leaves we find out that Mr Krogstad is the man who leant Nora the money.
We also realise that Mr Krogstad knows that Nora took out the loan without permission from a male member of her family because Nora signed the papers in her fathers name 3 days after he had died. Mr Krogstad uses this to his advantage. They both know that he could get Nora in serious trouble and so he blackmails her. He is currently working at the bank which Mr Helmer is about to overtake. Mr Helmer does not like Krogstad as Krogstad also once forged a signature. Krogstad tells Nora she must make Helmer keep him on at the bank, if she does not he will tell her husband what she has done.
When Torvald returns he has seen Krogstad leaving the house. He asks Nora if Krogstad had been there and she lies and tells him know. When he tells her he knows Krogstad has been there he reprimands her like a child, “My little songbird must never do that again. A songbird must have a clean beak to sing with or she’ll start twittering out of tune. ” Torvald explains to Nora why he dislikes Mr Krogstad so much- because he forged someone else’s name. He explains to Nora that now his children will be poisoned by his lies. The scene ends with Nora questioning herself if she too is poisoning her children.
Mrs Linde comes to talk to Nora and the conversation turns to Dr Rank. Nora tells Mrs Linde of how she can talk to Dr Rank. While Mrs Linde is out of the room Nora again pleads with Helmer to protect Krogstad’s job at the bank.. Torvald gets annoyed at her and so immediately writes a letter to Krogstad sacking him. Dr Rank arrives to tell Nora that he is dying and that when he goes into hospital he doesn’t want them to visit so he shall send them a note with a black cross on it so they know he is at his end. Nora then tries to flirt with Dr Rank to cheer him up but it backfires when Dr Rank tells her he loves her.
Dr Rank leaves to see Helmer and Krogstad arrives to talk in secret with Nora he tells her he’s lost his job and says he will tell her husband. He says that he will now not just be satisfied with getting his job back, he wants a promotion. He tells he not to do anything drastic such as suicide as it will kill her husband’s reputation. As Mrs Linde returns Krogstad leaves a letter to Torvald explaining everything in the locked letterbox to which only Helmer has the key. Nora breaks down and tells her that it was Krogstad she borrowed money from. Mrs Linde decides to go to talk to Krogstad to see if there is anything she can do to stop him.
As she leaves Torvald enters with the intention of opening his letters. Nora desperately tries to distract him by practicing her dance she will perform at the ball that night, The Tarantella. She is so worked up and hysterical she dances frantically, which keeps Torvald occupied. Her plan has worked, for now anyway and Torvald agrees not to open the letter till after the dance. In the next Scene Krogstad and Christine meet in secret at the Helmers’, while they are at the dance. We learn here that Christine and Krogstad were once in love but that Christine married someone else because they were rich and she had to support her family.
They talk and realise they are still in love. Krogstad says he will talk to Mr Helmer and ask for his letter back but Christine tells him to leave it there, as Helmer must know the truth. Dr Rank arrives as Mrs Linde leaves and puts his Black cross in the letterbox, announcing he is close to death. Then Torvald reads Nora’s letter. Torvald reacts in a way Nora did not expect at all. She thought he would perform “The Miracle” and take the blame but he shouts at her. He is so angry at her he says she is not responsible enough to be left with the children anymore.
Suddenly another letter arrives from Krogstad it is the I. O. U. Torvald realises now that his reputation can’t be damaged and so suddenly forgives Nora and pretends everything is as it was. But Nora realises everything is not the same. She realises that he does not understand her and even though they have been married eight years they do not know each other and have never had a serious talk together. She realises she has never really loved him, only had fun with him. She decides to leave him so she may find out the truth about herself and life. This play has many themes and parallels in it.
First is the thought of corrupting your children. This is expressed in the fact that Torvald says Krogstad has corrupted his children by his forgery, that Dr Rank’s father has corrupted him by his promiscuity and therefore given him syphilis and that Nora is corrupting her children with her lie. The second is the parallel between Christine and Nora. Nora has led her sheltered life with Helmer but is now going out in the world to be herself. Mrs Linde however has always had a hard life trying to support her family and now she is together with Krogstad she will have someone to look after her and care for her.