Study Guide

A Doll's House Marriage

By Henrik Ibsen

Marriage

Act One
Nora Helmer

NORA: "But don't you think it is nice of me, too, to do as you wish?"
HELMER: "Nice?—because you do as your husband wishes? Well, well, you little rogue, I am sure you did not mean it in that way." (2.82-2.83)

Comments like this from Torvald demonstrate that the Helmers are in a lopsided marriage.

NORA: "Christine is […] is frightfully anxious to work under some clever man, so as to perfect herself—" (1.282)

Nora's relationship with her husband seems to be built on careful manipulation of his ego.

Torvald Helmer

HELMER: "Well, we will share it, Nora, as man and wife should. That is how it shall be."

Helmer seems to be aware of the concept that marriage is a shared experience, so why doesn't he ever act like it?

Act Two
Torvald Helmer

HELMER: "The child [Nora] shall have her way." (2.385)

Helmers' relationship seems to be more like a father and a daughter than a husband and wife.

Nora Helmer

NORA: "Surely you can understand that being with Torvald is a little like being with papa." (2.217)

Is Nora's marriage just a continuation of her childhood? Has she actually progressed into adulthood at all?

Act Three
Torvald Helmer

HELMER: "Nora—can I never be anything more than a stranger to you? […]"
NORA: "Both you and I would have to be so changed that […] our life together would be a real wedlock." (3.375-3.380)

What do you think Nora means by "real wedlock"?

HELMER: "Do you know, Nora, I have often wished that you might be threatened by some great danger, so that I might risk my life's blood, and everything, for your sake." (3.214)

This is the wonderful thing that Nora has been waiting for. Unfortunately, Torvald isn't true to his words, which causes the disintegration of the marriage.

Mrs. Christine Linde

MRS. LINDE: "Nils, a woman who has once sold herself for another's sake, doesn't do it a second time." (3.72)

Mrs. Linde is entering into her new marriage with her personal integrity intact.

MRS. LINDE: "We two need each other." (3.58)

By the end of the play it seems that Christine and Krogstad will have the marriage of shared responsibility that the Helmers aren't able to achieve.

Nora Helmer

NORA: "How painful and humiliating it would be for Torvald […] to know that he owed me anything! It would upset our mutual relations altogether." (1.197)

The Helmers' marriage is based on maintaining a veneer of male dominance.