The title of Henrik Ibsen’s play, A Doll’s House is quite telling and highlights Nora’s condition, as well as that of women in general in Ibsen’s society.

Nora is treated like a doll by her father and husband to the focus on the main character. In this version, she also proves to be a woman who gains new strength through the conflict, but she later returns to her husband and children, thus confirming the traditional. 

A doll's house can be generalized to mean a bourgeois home in which the distribution of roles between husband and wife is clearly defined. The wife does not have to work because her husband has a well-off position and earns plenty of money. She is largely relieved of the household chores and the upbringing of the children by maids, leads a carefree life, and is available to her husband as entertainment, diversion, and sexual object. The husband is supposed to protect her, feed his family, and determine the finances. He regards his wife as his property.

This idea is found in Ibsen's play A Doll's House, where Nora is portrayed as the dancing doll, a trophy, her husband's plaything, and an immature and naive wife: "You talk like a child. You don’t understand the conditions of the world in which you live." (Act 3, 92%).

The three-act structure and the classical structure

The play is divided into three major acts, which are not further divided into scenes. In terms of scope, the acts are not very different, with the first act being the most extensive and the acts becoming shorter towards the end. 

The division of the dramatic action into three acts represents the simplified form of the classical drama, which is divided into five acts. Basically, however, the structure is always the same: Due to the often extensive information that must be presented for the development of the plot, the middle section can be divided again into three individual parts so that it does not become too long. This creates a five-act structure. 

Since Ibsen presents a very compact plot that includes only a few characters and, moreover, does not feature any changes of place or large jumps in time, he can work with the three-act structure. This allows the plot to be tight and focused on the central conflict.

Act 1: Exposition

The first act provides the spectator or reader with the necessary information about the basic conditions that lead to conflict and, in the case of tragedy, eventually lead to catastrophe.

Basis of the conflict

The first act begins with the preparations for Christmas Eve and the depiction of the Helmers' family life. It becomes apparent that Nora is treated like a small child by her husband, yet their interactions seem peaceful and loving. The family expects good times because of Torvald’s promotion as manager, so they no longer have to worry about money. 

Nevertheless, there is a big difference between the two spouses regarding their attitude towards money. While Nora often lives wastefully and is not good with money, her husband, as a banker, is very careful not to run up debts and to watch his finances. This contrast will later become part of the conflict.

Nora's lie and signature forgery

When Christine, a childhood friend of Nora's whom she has seen for several years, appears and tells her that she is looking for a new position in town after the death of her husband, Nora confides in her and tells her that a few years ago she borrowed a lot of money without her husband's knowledge. With this, the family could afford to live in Italy for a year. This was necessary because Torvald's health was very ...

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