A Doll's House

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Reading Guide: A Doll's House, Ibsen (1879)

Keep these questions in mind as you read the play; you might note places in the text, by Act.Line/page number, that can help you answer them.

Basic Content

  1. During what time of year is Ibsen's A Doll's House set? Why?
  2. What does Nora want for Christmas?
  3. What does Torvald do for a living? What did he previously do for a living?
  4. How did Nora “[save] Torvald's life” (I.279)? Why must her act be kept secret?
  5. What is the relationship between Mrs. Linde and Krogstad?
  6. What does Nora do at the end of the play? Why?
  7. In Act II, how does Nora plan to solve her problems?
  8. Who replaces Krogstad at the bank?
  9. What did Krogstad do that made him lose his respectability?
  10. What two important things does Torvald find in the mailbox?
  11. What does Dr. Rank's card mean?

Law, Order, Purity, Health?

  1. “It all comes down to the signature” (I.871-2). What does this mean, in the context of the play? What is a signature? Which two characters forged signatures? Why do you think Ibsen made these two characters so similar?
  2. When Torvald states, “Laws don't inquire into motives,” Nora responds: “Then they must be very poor laws” (I.902-3). How do these two characters understand the law?
  3. How does Torvald understand “moral health” and “contagion”?
  4. Why can Nora not “go on believing what the majority says, or what's written in books” (III.670-3)? That the “law is fair” (III.691)? Why is she no longer sure “what religion is” (676)?

Gender Roles

  1. How are gender roles defined by Torvald? By Nora? As you think about this question, consider what, stereotypically, women are "suupposed" to do, and what men are "supposed" to do. Make a list of these stereotypes, and consider how Ibsen addresses them.
  2. What images does Torvald use to refer to his wife? What does his use of these images tell us about how he views Nora? About how we're to view him?
  3. What does Nora dress as for the masquerade? What does she do there? Why - what does her costume and act tell us about her desires? How does Torvald respond to her during this scene?
  4. “I've lived by doing tricks for you, Torvald. But that's the way you wanted it” (III.605-7). What does Nora mean?
  5. What is the significance of the title of the play?

Broader Questions

  1. This is a play in part about revelation, discovery, the acquisition of knowledge and new perspective. What new information is revealed about each character throughout Act I? How do we as readers feel about Nora, Krogstad at the beginning of the act and at the end of the act?
  2. This is also a play in part about the relationship between past, present, and future. What do we learn about "the past" in the play?
  3. How does Nora change throughout the play? What about Krogstad? Rank? Other characters? Can you make any general statements about how characters change (or don't) in the play? What about us as readers/viewers?
  4. Does the play have a happy ending? A sad ending? Something else? How do you know?
  5. How would you cast Nora—what kind of actress would you cast, and why? How do you see Nora? What about casting Torvald?
  6. What do you think is the most important theme of this play, and how would you emphasize that theme in a staging?

Motifs

Follow these images and motifs throughout the play, marking each time you find them. Keep in mind that each of these images has synonyms and antonyms, as well as other images and ideas associated with them. Note them in your text, or in the space below, using the Act.Line citation formula for drama.

  • secrets
  • certainty
  • dolls, toys, treats
  • freedom, escape
  • art, dance, beauty
  • newspapers, print
  • money lending, borrowing, banking
  • health, sickness, corruption
  • law, lawyers
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