Act 3 Notes from A Doll's House

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A Doll's House Act 3

Mrs. Linde waits for Krogstad in the Helmers' living room, worried that he will arrive before they return from the party upstairs. When he enters, he is curious as to her letter and inquiry. They discuss their relationship of the past, Krogstad's heartbreak, and Kristina's reasons for breaking off their relationship so that she could marry rich and support her sick mother and two younger brothers. He tells her of his deep pain after losing her: "When I lost you, it was just as if the very ground had given way under my feet. Look at me now - a shipwrecked man clinging to a spar" Act 3, pg. 208. Kristina tells him to right the wrong he has done.

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She also informs him that she must continue to any way possible. She didn't know that it was his place at the bank she was to take when she came to the Helmers. Kristina proposes a new option: that the two leave together to work as a team. Kristina explains to Krogstad that she must work, she must have people to take care of, a home, children, and a business. If she can take care of Krogstad and his children, she will feel worthy. As she begins to discuss the idea with him, she becomes excited at the prospect of having a new family and a new purpose in life. Krogstad is weary of her emotions and knows that if she sold herself once for someone else, she may be doing it again for the sake of her friend, Nora. Kristina replies, "Nils, when you've sold yourself once for the sake of others, you don't do it a second time" Act 3, pg. 210.

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The music of the tarantella is heard from the room and Kristina worries that Torvald and Nora will return shortly. Just as Krogstad plans to request his letter be returned from the mailbox, Kristina stops him. She realizes - after seeing everything that has occurred in the Helmer household over the past day - that they must know everything. Although she hopes the situation is resolved with Krogstad, she knows that Torvald must know the truth.

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"But now a whole day's gone by and I've witnessed things in this house that I could hardly believe. Helmer must know the whole story. This wretched secret must be brought into the open so that there's complete understanding between them. That's be impossible while there's so much concealment and subterfuge." Act 3, pg. 211

Krogstad leaves after declaring his joy. He believes this to be the best thing to ever happen to him. Kristina is also very excited at the prospect of joining her once-love in home and office.

Torvald and Nora return from the dance upstairs. Nora is in full Italian costume and Torvald is pushing her back into the living room, much to her dismay. She wants to stay longer at the party, against her husband's wishes and their agreement. Torvald is surprised to see Kristina still in their home. She claims that she wanted to see Nora in her beautiful dress. She has been knitting. Torvald tells her how knitting is so ugly and that sewing is much more elegant. Kristina warns Nora that everything will be fine with Krogstad, but that she must tell her husband the truth about everything. She refuses to do so, and Kristina leaves.

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Upon her exit, Torvald exclaims his contentment, for he believes Mrs. Linde to be quite a bore. Then, he tells Nora how alive he feels and how tired she looks. She attempts to change his mind about doing work, but fails. Then, he looks at her lovingly, and explains his actions from the party.

"'Mayn't I look at my dearest treasure? At all the beauty that belongs to no one but me - that's all my very own?'...
'I'll tell you something: when I'm out with you at a party, do you know why I hardly talk to you - don't come near you - only steal a glance at you every now and you know why? It's because I pretend that we're secretly in love - engaged in secret - and that no one dreams that there's anything between us.'"
Act 3, pg. 215

Torvald continues to speak to his wife with tenderness and distant love, as if she were the most expensive item in his house. He wants to hold her and touch her, and she pushes him away. The doorbell rings. It is Dr. Rank stopping by for a cigar. He overheard the Helmers at home and wanted to come inside to say hello. Torvald is frustrated, while Nora is thrilled to see him. They talk of going to future fancy-dress parties and of the costumes worn there. Dr. Rank says that Nora should go as a mascot the next time; she can wear what she wears everyday. Meanwhile, Dr. Rank hopes to be invisible in a large black hat. He is happy with his scientific test of the day, lights a cigar, and leaves. Nora and Torvald believe him to be drunk.

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Torvald goes to his letterbox to retrieve the envelopes from the day. He is concerned when he sees one of Nora's hairpins stuck in the lock, as if someone were trying to pry it open. When he opens the box, he sees two small letters from Dr. Rank with a large black cross on top. Nora knows that they are his death notice. They will never see him again, for he plans to crawl away from the public eye and die. Nora is deeply saddened and Torvald is shocked to hear of such news. He wants to be alone with Nora - intimately - but she cannot conceive of such actions during such a time of impending mourning. He tells her that he almost hopes something bad would happen to her so that he could save her at any cost. "Nora, now that you and I have no one but each other. Oh, my darling, I feel as if I can't hold you close enough. You know, Nora, I've often wished that you could be threatened by some imminent danger so that I could risk everything I had - even my own life itself - to save you" Act 3, pg. 219. After Torvald tells Nora such information, she tells him she is going to bed and that he should read his letters. To herself, Nora says goodbye to her husband and her life as she knows it.

As Nora packs and puts a shawl over shoulders to keep warm, Torvald storms into her room, aghast at what he has just read in the letter from Krogstad. She says nothing throughout his entire tirade putting her down and blaming himself for everything. He should have seen through her and known that when he condoned her father's actions, he accepted her as having loose morals. He tells her she will continue to live in his house to save face, but will have no privileges and will not be able to raise the children. He is excited and angered and hurt and takes all his bitterness out on Nora, who accepts every word willingly.

"What a terrible awakening! For these last eight years you've been my joy and my pride - and now I find that you're a liar, a hypocrite - even worse - a criminal! Oh, the unspeakable ugliness of it all! Ugh! I might have known that something of this sort would happen - I should have forseen it. All your father's shiftless character - Be quiet! - All your father's shiftless character has come out in you. No religion, no morality, no sense of duty...So this is what I get for condoning his fault! I did it for your sake, and this is how you repay me!" Act 3, pg. 220-221

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The maid comes to the door with yet another letter. Torvald tells Nora to quickly hide so that nobody sees her. As he reads it, Torvald lets out an enormous cry of joy. He is absolved! Krogstad has returned the bond and tells him that everything is fine now, nobody will find out anything. Torvald comes to his beloved wife, crying with joy, explaining how everything will now be okay and they can go back to their previous life. He hopes to treat the past few hours as if they were a nightmare and a dream and hugs Nora, feeling sorry for all the pain she must have been through in the past few days.

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"How you must have suffered - seeing no way out except...No, we'll put all those hateful things out of our minds. Now we can shout for joy, again and again: 'It's all over - it's all over! Listen, Nora - you don't seem to realize - it's all over. What's the matter? Such a grim face? Poor little Nora, I see what it is: you simply can't believe that I've forgiven you. But, I have, Nora, I swear it - I've forgiven you everything. I know now that what you did was all for love of me." Act 3, pg. 223

Nora is cold and despondent while Torvald begs for an apology. When they explain both of their situations to one another, Nora tells her husband that she had hoped that he would take all the blame for her - because he is her husband and loves her. He explains that he loves her as he always had, but that no man would give up his honor for anyone else. Nora states that women do so all the time.

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Nora continues to pack and changes her clothes. She claims that she no longer loves her husband and has just now awakened into her own life. She has played in a doll's house her entire life - from that of her father and then to her husband - and she, herself, has also been treated as a doll by both of these influential men. She never thought for herself. She only took on the opinions of her husband and father. For the first time, she has her own opinion and realizes that she must live and learn on her own. She tells Torvald that she is leaving him and he is not to write her or communicate with her. All his husbandly duties to her are absolved when she leaves. Torvald begs her to stay, apologizing for his harsh words and tells her how much he loves her and that her children need her. Nora realizes and explains that she is unfit to raise her own children and that the servants can run the house and raise the children better than she, herself, could do.

"But you don't talk or think like the man I could bind myself to. When your first panic was over - not about what threatened me, but about what might happen to you - and when there was no more danger, then, as far as you were concerned, it was just as if nothing had happened at all. I was simply your little songbird, your doll, and from now on you would handle it more gently than ever because it was so delicate and fragile. [Rising] At that moment, Torvald, I realized that for eight years I'd been living her with a strange man and that I'd borne him three children. Oh, I can't bear to think of it - I could tear myself to little pieces!" Act 3, pg. 230

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She walks out, ending her life in the doll's house, her life of ignorance, bliss, and dependence, to educate herself and find her own life. That night she will stay with Mrs. Linde until she returns home and finds a job of her own. When Torvald asks if they can ever be a family again, Nora responds that it would take a miracle. They both know that although both Nora and Torvald would have to change, sometimes miracles do come true.

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