Short summary - A Doll's House - Henrik Johan Ibsen

Scandinavian literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - A Doll's House
Henrik Johan Ibsen

Ibsen's contemporary Norway. Cozy and inexpensively furnished apartment of the lawyer Thorvald Helmer and his wife Nora. Christmas Eve. Nora enters the house from the street, she brings with her a lot of boxes - these are gifts for the Christmas tree for children and Torvald. The husband lovingly fusses around his wife and jokingly accuses her - his squirrel, butterfly, bird, chrysalis, lark - of prodigality. But this Christmas, Nora objects to him, a little extravagance will not hurt them, because from the new year Helmer takes over as director of the bank and they will not need, as in previous years, to save literally on everything.

After courting his wife (even after the birth of three children she is a dazzling beauty), Helmer retires to the office, and Nora fru Linde's old friend enters the living room, she has just been off the ship. The women had not seen each other for a long time - almost eight years, during which time a friend managed to bury her husband, whose marriage turned out to be childless. And Nora? Is she still carelessly fluttering through life? If so. In the first year of their marriage, when Helmer left the ministry, in addition to his main job, he had to take business papers home and sit over them until late in the evening. As a result, he fell ill, and the doctors said that only the southern climate could save him. The whole family spent a whole year in Italy. Money for the trip, a rather large amount, Nora supposedly took from her father, but this is not true; a certain gentleman helped her... No, no, let Fru Linde think nothing of the sort!... The money was borrowed against receipt. And now Nora regularly pays interest on the loan, earning money secretly from her husband.

Will Fru Linde settle again here, in their city? What will she do? Helmer, probably, will be able to arrange it at his bank, right now he is compiling the staff list and talking in the office with attorney Krogstad, about to fire him - the place is vacant. How? Does Fru Linde know him a little? Yeah, I see, so they lived in the same city and sometimes met.

Thorvald Helmer really fires Krogstad. He does not like people with a tarnished reputation. At one time, Krogstad (Helmer studied with him) committed a forgery - forged a signature on a monetary document, but avoided the court, having managed to get out of a difficult situation. But that's even worse! Unpunished vice sows around the seeds of decay. A man like Krogstad should be forbidden to have children - with such an educator, only criminals will grow out of them.

But the forgery, as it turns out, was also committed by Nora. She forged on a loan letter to Krogstad (it was he who gave her money for Italy) the surety signature of her father, whom she could not turn to - at that time he was dying. Moreover, the document is dated on the day when the father could not sign it, because by that time he had already died. Driven out of work, Krogstad asks Nora to put in a good word for him, he has proven himself in the bank, but the appointment of a new director has confused all his cards. Helmer wants to fire him not only for his dark past, but even for the fact that, out of old memory, he called him “you” several times. Nora asks for Krogstad, but Helmer, who does not take her seriously, refuses. Then Krogstad threatens Hope with exposure: he will tell her husband where she got the money for a trip to Italy. In addition, Helmer learns about her forgery. Having achieved nothing from Nora this time, Krogstad frankly blackmails both spouses: he sends a letter to Helmer with a direct threat - if the story of Nora's forgery comes out, he will not be able to hold on to the post of bank director. Nora rushes about in search of a way out. She first flirts with family friend Dr. Rank. He is secretly in love with her, but doomed to death - he has hereditary syphilis. Rank is ready for anything for Nora and would give her money, but by this time it turns out that Krogstad needs something else. The story of Dr. Rank ends tragically - the Helmers' spouses receive a postcard from him with a black cross by mail - the cross means that the doctor has locked himself at home and does not accept anyone else: he will die there without scaring his friends with his appearance.

But what does Hope do anyway? Shame and exposure terrify her, it's better to commit suicide! But the relentless Krogstad warns: suicide is pointless, in which case her memory will be dishonored.

Help comes from an unexpected source - from a friend of Nora fru Linde. At the decisive moment, she explains to Krogstad: in the past they were connected by love, but Linde married another: she had an old mother and two younger brothers in her arms, while Krogstad's financial situation was precarious. Now Mrs. Linde is free: her mother and husband have died, the brothers have truly stood on their feet - she is ready to marry Krogstad, if he still needs it. Krogstad is delighted, his life is getting better, he finally finds both love and a faithful person, he refuses blackmail. But it's too late - his letter is in Helmer's mailbox, the key to which only he has. Well, let Nora find out what her Helmer is really worth with his sanctimonious morality and prejudices! Krogstad decides.

In fact, after reading the letter, Helmer is almost hysterical from the righteous anger that has seized him. How? His wife is his bird, his bird, his lark, his chrysalis a criminal? And it is because of her that the well-being of the family, achieved by such hard work, is now being sprayed! They will not get rid of the demands of Krogstad until the end of their days! Helmer won't let Hope spoil the kids! From now on, they will be given to the care of the nanny! To maintain appearances, Helmer will allow Hope to stay in the house, but now they will live separately!

At this moment, a messenger brings a letter from Krogstad. He renounces his demands and returns Nora's loan letter. Helmer's mood instantly changes. They are saved! Everything will be as before, even better! But here Nora, whom Helmer used to consider his obedient toy, suddenly rebels against him. She's leaving home! Gone forever! First, the father, and then Helmer, got used to treating her like a beautiful doll, which is pleasant to caress. She understood this before, but she loved Helmer and forgave him. Now the matter is different - she really hoped for a miracle - that Helmer, as a loving husband, would take her guilt upon himself. Now she no longer loves Helmer, as Helmer did not love her before - he just liked being in love with her. They are strangers. And to live still means to commit adultery, selling oneself for conveniences and money.

Nora's decision stuns Helmer. He is smart enough to understand that her words and feelings are serious. But is there really no hope that someday they will reunite? He will do everything so that they are no longer strangers! “It would be a miracle of miracles,” Nora replies, and miracles, as she has learned from experience, rarely happen. Her decision is final.