A Doll's House Plot Summary
The play begins as Nora Helmer enters her home after an exhaustive day of shopping for the holidays. She is thrilled that her husband, Torvald, has recently been promoted to the position of Bank Manager at the Savings Bank, for now she can continue her carefree lifestyle of spending and shopping. Torvald calms her down, calling her a song-bird and skylark, and reminds her that they must not spend too much money, for he does not yet have his position and all the money.
Their friends, Dr. Rank and Kristina Linde, arrive at the same time for a daily visit. Dr. Rank is the Helmers' mutual friend who helped Torvald regain his health years earlier and Mrs. Linde is an old school friend of Nora's who has come to town to ask Torvald for a job. Her husband passed away three years earlier, leaving her penniless and childless, despite her initial marriage to him solely for money. While they are inside, Nils Krogstad, a barrister from Torvald's bank, comes to speak with him. Dr. Rank enters the study to speak with Torvald as soon as Krogstad exits. While the two men speak, the two women catch up on years of absence. After Kristina lectures Nora on the frivolousness of her life, Nora reveals a deep secret to her friend. The year in which they lived in Italy was not funded by her father, but rather through Nora's own business negotiations. She borrowed a large sum of money from a creditor, Nils Krogstad, and constantly must worry about repaying him at the same time as carrying on her typical life of shopping and caring for the house and children. Kristina does pity her. When the men come out of the study, Nora asks Torvald to find a job for Kristina, and the two men leave with Kristina.
Nora is left alone in the house and begins to play with her three children. In the midst of a loud game, Krogstad enters the living room. He threatens to tell Torvald everything, about the loan, and even worse - about the forged bond Nora signed - if he loses his job to Mrs. Linde. Krogstad and Mrs. Linde used to be a couple before she married her late husband. He leaves her frightened for her husband and family's reputation. When Torvald returns, he catches Nora in a lie. She tells him that nobody stopped by. Torvald, however, saw Krogstad leave the house and lectures her on the importance of telling the truth.
Nora waits for Kristina on the couch with her sewing materials and torn dress. Kristina arrives to help fix the dress for the Tarantella, which Nora is to dance at the party later that evening. Initially Kristina believes Dr. Rank to be the man from whom Nora borrowed the money, for he seems especially caring towards her. Nora explains that he is absolutely not the creditor. He is simply a very close friend with whom she discusses everything. She does not speak with her husband about other people - man or woman - because Torvald is jealous of anyone who speaks with her. As Nora begins to divulge the conversation she had with Krogstad, Torvald enters. Nora sends Kristina away, for Torvald does not like to see women sewing. She pleads with him to keep Krogstad at the bank, but he does not pay her any attention intellectually. He just comforts her as one would a pet.
Dr. Rank enters to see Torvald who is awaiting him in his study. Dr. Rank sits with Nora, who appears to be extremely worried. He tries to calm her, by telling her that he would do anything for her and he also has deep feeling for her. He is on the verge of death and wanted to tell her how he felt before he left. He wants to be able to give her something that they could remember him by. Nora is about to ask him for the money when he divulges his feelings for her. She is shocked and angry by his candid honesty.
He goes into Torvald's study, when Krogstad returns, warning Nora that unless he is promoted to her husband's position, he will reveal all of her past actions. When he leaves, he drops a letter in the mailbox explaining everything that has occurred. Kristina enters and listens to Nora's tearful story. She promises to help Nora by convincing Krogstad to request his letter be returned unopened. Nora must stall Torvald in the meantime by dancing her tarantella with fury.
While Nora and Torvald are upstairs rehearsing the tarantella, Krogstad comes to see Kristina. They discuss the problems with the bond and their past relationship. She tries to explain to him why she left him brokenhearted, yet also urges him to right the wrong he is about to make. In the course of their discussion, Kristina proposes that they both leave the bank and start a new business together - as a new family. She can take care of him, his children, and his home, and therefore feel worthy as a person. Krogstad is weary of her trust. However, she pleads with him that she would not sell herself twice in the same lifetime. Krogstad leaves Kristina alone in the Helmer living room, excited about the future.
When Nora and Torvald return from the party upstairs, Kristina tells him that all will be well, so long as Torvald reads the letter and understands the truth. She cannot bear to let such deception continue in a family. Kristina leaves, Dr. Rank arrives, drops two letters in the mailbox, and leaves again. He has just notified his friends of his impending death.
Although Nora urges Torvald to put off reading his letters, he continues to do so. Upon reading Krogstad's notice, Torvald explodes at Nora, calling her a liar, hypocrite, and hereditary disaster. He blames her for destroying their life, his reputation, and doing something so stupid behind his back. Nora accepts each one of his insults with strength and foresight. In the middle of his tirade, Krogstad delivers another letter - including the returned bond - that absolves them from all financial and legal obligations. Torvald rejoices at the prospect of saving face and returning to his doll's house with Nora and the children. However, it is too late, for Nora has just witnessed his cruel temper and willingness to lose her over his own pride. Although he pleads with her to stay, Nora exclaims that she cannot stay married to such a man - a stranger - and must leave to find her own life, her own independence. Only a miracle would allow them to stay a happy married couple. She leaves their home, releasing him of all husbandly duties, and informing him that all the servants will do a better job of taking care of the house and children than she ever could.