An Ibsen’s drama with unpredictable outcome and various notions has already gained public admiration and approval. Its name – “A Doll’s House” – clarifies only at the end of the book; yet, till this point, the author keeps the culmination and captures the imagination and participation of a reader. People, who live in a distance, at a glance find themselves intertwined with each other’s destinies and, finally, realize that their decision may have influence upon the whole future of another person. And, seeking for help, they found out that it is they, who give a hand to more influential and powerful persons than they are. The colors on Nora’s and Krogstad’s fabrics of life may differ, yet they have the same structure.
The key four characters of the drama seem to have different lifestyles, yet two of them have too much things in common. Nora Helmer seems to have no troubles and burdens in life. Torvald Helmer, her husband, is a man of honor and principles; therefore, he gets the position, he worthy of – a manager of the Joint Stock Bank. Christina Linden, a widow who lost her husband three years ago, had a helpless mother and two young brothers to take care of, but now it seems she has no one to live for. Nil Krogstad is a man who lives his whole life in a mask and gains reputation of liar and hypocrite.
Henrik Ibsen, as an original dramatist, has neatly portrayed Nora and Nil by weaving similarities in their distinct life patterns:
- Promising start: Krogstad had a fiancée; Nora had the best life ever with a man she loved.
Criminal life: both have committed forgery – Krogstad did it intentionally to support his family; Nora, ignoring the law, unintentionally, to save her husband’s life.
- Attitude to a society: “What do I care for your tiresome society?” (p.14). Interrelation with other creatures, except for them, was the last point in their list of priorities.
Social report of them: hypocrites and liars, who are always “lying and canting and shamming” (p.24).
- Reconciliation: Krogstad had evident facts of forgery, was punished by a society and, finally, was forgiven and accepted; Nora had a secret deception, was alienated from her family and had to start a new life of investigation.
Just like Krogstad, Nora Helmer induces to negative feelings at first. She looks like a spoiled child and is treated accordingly – her husband used to call her no other names but “lark”, “squirrel”, “featherbrain”; but the one especially fits her to describe Nora’s nature – “a little spendthrift”. Her husband blames her in buying useless things (Ibsen, p.3), Christina says she knows so little of the troubles and burdens of life (p.9), and even Nora remembers the time she had to write a condolence letter to her best friend, but “kept putting it off, and something always came in the way” (p.6). Her whole life had been passing in singing, dancing, playing with her three adorable kids, and amusing her husband.
On the other hand, Krogstad did not have such a cloudless past. He was a widower with many children; but, as a lawyer, he was corrupted “to the very core of his character” (p.14). He came off clear in the court case, concerning forgery, but gained a spotted record for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, as anyone in the society, he must live and want to regain his footing in the world (p.42).
Nora and Krogstad were proud of their present situation: both of them had a spotless record for the past eight years and eighteen months accordingly; but the past hindered them from the social life. Nora borrowed money from Krogstad in secret, knowing her husband’s principles – “No debts! No borrowing!” (p.2), but, instead of her father who was at the deathbed, she signed the I.O.U. by herself and now could be condemned, according to the law. Krogstad was keeping this document for the hard times and, just like Nora who wanted to save her husband’s life for $200-Italy travel, he wanted to save his family from bankruptcy.
When the truth was about to be revealed, both of them had to “fight as though for life to keep [their] little place” (p.19) in the Bank (Krogstad) and in the family (Nora). Step by step they have been gaining respect and authority, but, at once, they have lost everything and now wanted to rise. As a sensible woman, Nora decided to put up with the horror of disgrace and humiliation by committing suicide; while Krogstad, who had a little bid of feeling, wanted to fight his way up to the manager of the Joint Stock Bank.
Both of the characters had anti-social motives and had been ruining their family lives. Torvald Helmer uses psychological description of this kind of life. First, a person, who committed crime, has to wear a mask, but the nearest affected people are the family members – husband, wife, and children. Then, the atmosphere of lies poisons and contaminates every fiber of the home life, and the most terrible effect reveals on children. Torvald concludes that “every breath the children draw contains some germ of evil” (p.25). To support this evidence, Henrik Ibsen uses a well-off Doctor Rank, who had a terrible life in his father’s house, watching all the mistresses, champagne, truffles, oysters and wild oats his father had. Rank’s innocent spine had to suffer for his father’s sins, “in one way or another you can trace in every family some such inexorable retribution” (p.35).
Being a rather young lady, Nora Helmer felt a “womanly helplessness” (p.64) and, as she “passed from father’s hands into [Torvald’s]” (p.66), Nora did not pretend to make any decisions. She had the same tastes, opinions, mentality, because her father and husband liked it. Everything was arranged according to their tastes. But at the miracle point Nora realized that she was treated like a doll, “lived by performing tricks” (Ibid) to husband and now her life came to nothing. According to Helmer’s words, she had “no religion, no morality, no sense of duty” (p.62). The remains were the duties towards herself, and the time after the masquerade was the right moment to start a new educational stage in Nora’s life. The ball in her life was over and she had to enter a real life with its hardships and burdens.
The criminals in the past put their minds to find the right path and follow the social methods. Krogstad can be another man with Christina and will “make others see [him] as [she does]” (p.52). He realized that the sincere outward attitude to live and work for somebody else brings more happiness and joy than all positions and money earned for his self-esteem. On its turn, Nora, who had no intention to ruin further her family life that was based on hypocrisy, entered the society in full – she started self-supporting life, and turned down any further relationship with her ex and children. The only thing that differed Krogstad from Nora was that Nil testified the miracle of miracles in his life with Christina; while Nora no longer believed in it.
Ibsen, Henrik. “A Doll’s House”. Dover Thrift Editions. Dover Publications, 1992.