A Dolls House. Synopsis Essay
The title of the play is most commonly translated as A Doll’s House, though some scholars use A Doll House. John Simon argues that the only significance in the alternative translation is the difference in the way the toy is named in Britain and the United States. Egil Tornqvist argues that the alternative “simply sounds more idiomatic to Americans. ” See Simon (1991, 55), Tornqvist (1995, 54), and Worthen (2004, 666-691). ————————————————- Synopsis  Act one  The play opens at Christmas time as Nora, Torvald’s wife, enters into her home, “thoroughly loving her life and surroundings (Ibsen, 1871, p. 90). ” An old-time friend of hers, Mrs. Linde, arrives to her home seeking employment. At the same time, Torvald “has just received news of his most recent job promotion (Ibsen, 1871, p 590). ” When Nora learns of her husband’s promotion she instantly and excitedly hires Mrs. Linde. In the meantime, Nora, who is playing the ordinary housewife, is unhappy with her husband and becomes very distraught with him. While conversing, “Mrs. Linde complains about her most difficult past, and Nora mentions that she has had a life in resemblance to Mrs.Linde’s (Ibsen, 1871, 590). ” Act two  Christine arrives to help Nora repair a dress for a costume party she and Torvald plan to attend the next day. Torvald returns from the bank, and Nora pleads with him to reinstate Krogstad in his position, claiming she is worried Krogstad will publish libelous articles about Torvald and ruin his career. Torvald dismisses her fears and explains that, although Krogstad is a good worker and seems to have turned his life around, he must be fired because he is not deferential enough to Torvald in front of other bank personnel.Torvald then retires to his study to work. Dr. Rank, a family friend, arrives. Nora asks him for a favor, to which Rank reveals that he has entered the terminal stage of tuberculosisof the spine (a contemporary euphemism for syphilis) and that he has always been secretly in love with her. Nora tries to deny the first revelation and make light of it but is more disturbed by his declaration of love. She tries clumsily to tell him that she is not in love with him but that she loves him dearly as a friend.Desperate after being fired by Torvald, Krogstad arrives at the house. Nora convinces Dr. Rank to go in to Torvald’s study so he will not see Krogstad. When Krogstad confronts Nora, he declares that he no longer cares about the remaining balance of Nora’s loan but that he will preserve the associated bond in order to blackmail Torvald into not only keeping him employed but promoting him as well. Nora explains that she has done her best to persuade her husband but that he refuses to change his mind.Krogstad informs Nora that he has written a letter detailing her crime (forging her father’s signature of surety on the bond) and puts it in Torvald’s mailbox, which is locked. Nora tells Christine of her predicament. Christine says that she and Krogstad were in love before she married and promises that she will try to convince him to relent. Torvald enters and tries to retrieve his mail but Nora distracts him by begging him to help her with the dance she has been rehearsing for the costume party, feigning anxiety about performing.She dances so badly and acts so childishly that Torvald agrees to spend the whole evening coaching her. When the others go in to dinner, Nora stays behind for a few minutes and contemplates suicide to save her husband from the shame of the revelation of her crime and (more importantly) to pre-empt any gallant gesture on his part to save her reputation. Act three  Christine tells Krogstad that she only married her husband because she had no other means to support her sick mother and young siblings and that she has returned to offer him her love again.She believes that he would not have stooped to unethical behavior if he had not been devastated by her abandonment and in dire financial straits. Krogstad is moved and offers to take back his letter to Torvald. However, Christine decides that Torvald should know the truth for the sake of his and Nora’s marriage. After literally dragging Nora home from the party, Torvald goes to check his mail but is interrupted by Dr. Rank, who has followed them. Dr. Rank chats for a while so as to convey obliquely to Nora that this is a final goodbye, as he has determined that his death is near.Dr. Rank leaves, and Torvald retrieves his letters. As he reads them, Nora steels herself to take her life. Torvald confronts her with Krogstad’s letter. Enraged, he declares that he is now completely in Krogstad’s power—he must yield to Krogstad’s demands and keep quiet about the whole affair. He berates Nora, calling her a dishonest and immoral woman and telling her she is unfit to raise their children. He says that from now on their marriage will be only a matter of appearances. A maid enters, delivering a letter to Nora.The letter is from Krogstad, yet Torvald demands to read the letter, taking it from Nora. Torvald exults that he is saved as Krogstad has returned the incriminating bond, which Torvald immediately burns along with Krogstad’s letters. He takes back his harsh words to his wife and tells her that he forgives her. Nora realizes that her husband is not the strong and gallant man she thought he was and that he truly loves himself more than he does her. Torvald explains that, when a man has forgiven his wife, it makes him love her all the more since it reminds him that she is totally dependent on him, like a child.He dismisses Nora’s agonized choice made against her conscience for the sake of his health and her years of secret efforts to free them from the ensuing obligations and danger of loss of reputation, while preserving his peace of mind, as a mere mistake that she made owing to her foolishness, one of her most endearing feminine traits. Nora tells Torvald that she is leaving him to live alone so she can find out who she is and what she believes and decide what to do with her life. She says she has been treated like a doll to play with, first by her father and then by him.Concerned for the family reputation, Torvald insists that she fulfill her duty as a wife and mother, but Nora says that her first duties are to herself and that she cannot be a good mother or wife without learning to be more than a plaything. She reveals that she had expected that he would want to sacrifice his reputation for hers and that she had planned to kill herself to prevent him from doing so. She now realizes that Torvald is not at all the kind of person she had believed him to be and that their marriage has been based on mutual fantasies and misunderstanding.Torvald is unable to comprehend Nora’s point of view, since it contradicts all that he had been taught about the female mind throughout his life. Furthermore, he is so narcissistic that it would be impossible for him to bear to understand how he appears to her, as selfish, hypocritical and more concerned with public reputation than with actual morality. Nora leaves her keys and wedding ring and, as Torvald breaks down and begins to cry, baffled by what has happened, Nora leaves the house, slamming the door behind herself.She never came back again. Alternative ending  It was felt by Ibsen’s German agent that the original ending would not play well in German theatres; therefore, for the play’s German debut, Ibsen was forced to write an alternative ending for it to be considered acceptable.  In this ending, Nora is led to her children after having argued with Torvald. Seeing them, she collapses, and the curtain is brought down. Ibsen later called the ending a disgrace to the original play and referred to it as a ‘barbaric outrage’.