Study Guide

A Doll's House Men and Masculinity

By Henrik Ibsen

Men and Masculinity

Act One
Nora Helmer

NORA: "How painful and humiliating it would be for Torvald, with his manly independence, to know that he owed me anything!" (1.197)

By rescuing her husband, Nora has emasculated him, at least by the standards of the society they live in.

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

Nora cleverly manipulates Torvald by taking advantage of his stereotypical views of man/woman relations.

NORA: "Many a time I was at my wits' end […] I used to sit here and imagine that a rich old gentleman had fallen in love with me […] that he had died; and that when his will was opened it contained […] the instruction: "The lovely Mrs. Nora Helmer is to have all I possess paid over to her at once in cash." (1.205-1.207)

Even in Nora's dreams, it's a man who saves her.

Torvald Helmer

Stage Directions: The NURSE comes in with the children. […]
HELMER: "Come along, Mrs. Linde; the place will only be bearable for a mother now! (1.303-1.305)

Torvald seems to think a father doesn't have any business hanging out with his kids at all.

HELMER: "Almost everyone who has gone to the bad early in life has had a deceitful mother. […] It seems most commonly to be the mother's influence." (1.471-1.473)

We think this wins the award for most offensively chauvinistic statement from Torvald.

Act Two
Torvald Helmer

HELMER: "It is already known at the Bank that I mean to dismiss Krogstad. Is it to get about now that the new manager has changed his mind at his wife's bidding." (2.111)

This threat to his power is unacceptable to Torvald.

Act Three
Torvald Helmer

HELMER: "I would gladly work night and day for you […] But no man would sacrifice his honour for the one he loves." (3.345)

Do you think most men would generally agree with Torvald? Which is more valuable to you: honor or love?

HELMER: "You're joking, my little Nora! You won't—you won't? Am I not your husband—?" (3.143)

Torvald says this after Nora resists having sex with him. He feels that all husbands have a right to their wives' bodies.

HELMER: "I should not be a man if this womanly helplessness did not just give you a double attractiveness in my eyes." (3.253)

What's the difference between Torvald's desire to help Nora and Christine's desire to help Krogstad?

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