Act summaries

Henrik Ibsen's drama A Doll's House (1879) represents a typical example of the bourgeois family ideal of the 19th century and addresses the rigid gender roles of the time. The Christmas feast presents at the beginning of the play a seemingly carefree family. But in the course of the coming days, peace is shattered: this small world is shaken by the discovery of an old secret about an alleged inheritance and a secret illegal loan. 

The conflict between the couple leads Nora to her freedom has been restricted and the men in her life have been treating her like a possession. She leaves her husband and children on the spot to start a self-determined life.

Our carefully formulated act summaries compiles the basic information conveyed in the three acts in a clear and structured manner. We offer you information about the location of the action, the time, and the characters involved in the plot. Following this basic information, the plot is summarized succinctly and precisely to give the reader a quick overview of the sequence of events. 

Table of contents

Act 1

Characters: Nora, town messenger, Helene the maid, Torvald, Christine Linde, Doctor Rank, nurse Anne, Nils Krogstad.

Scene: Helmer family living room

Time: December 24

The plot begins on Christmas Eve at noon, when Nora Helmer, returns home with the Christmas shopping and the Christmas tree. Her husband, Torvald Helmer, at first accuses her of spending too much money on the holidays, but later gives her more money to make it a nice celebration. 

The family can afford more this year, as Torvald will take up a steady and secure job with a good income as a bank manager after the New Year. While Nora is explaining her purchases to Torvald, Christine Linde, an old friend of Nora's, comes to visit unannounced. Likewise, Doctor Rank, a family friend, comes to see Torvald.

Christine tells Nora that her husband died three years ago and until then she had to care for her ill mother and look after her two younger brothers. After her mother died and her brothers grew up, Christine has decided to return to the city to look for a good job. This is why she turns to Torvald, who quickly hires her as a secretary.

In private conversation, Nora reveals to Christine that due to Torvald's very poor health, she borrowed a large sum shortly after their marriage to finance a convalescent trip to Italy for him. She borrowed the money from the lawyer Krogstad. Krogstad is a fellow former student of her husband's who was tried a few years ago for fraud based on forged signatures and subsequently socially shunned. He is now employed at the joint stock bank.

Since then, Nora has paid off the loan without her husband's knowledge, telling him instead that she had the money available from her late father's inheritance. She limits her own needs and takes on various jobs. She is therefore unable to confide her secret to her husband, who categorically rejects debt. Christine is very surprised by this revelation.

After Christine has left the house together with Doctor Rank and Torvald, the nurse returns from playing in the snow with the three children of the Helmer family. They play with their mother until they are interrupted by the appearance of Krogstad, who has gained entry through a door that had been left open.

The lawyer has observed from a restaurant across the street from the apartment how Christine, whom he knows from earlier times, has left the house together with Torvald. Now he wants to know if Torvald has promised her a new job at the bank, because that would mean his resignation. This would damage his own professional career and his regained social position.

Nora answers him truthfully Krogstad decides to blackmail her. He demands that she use her with her husband so Krogstad can keep his position at the bank. Otherwise, Krogstad wants to tell her husband about the loan.

When Nora points out to Krogstad that this only highlights his moral depravity, Krogstad confronts her with irrefutable facts. He has discovered that Nora forged her dead ...

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