A Doll's House traces the awakening of Nora Helmer from her unexamined life of domestic comfort. Ruled her whole life by either her father or her husband, Nora must question the foundation of everything she believes in when her marriage is put to the test. Having borrowed money from a man of ill-repute named Krogstad by forging her father's signature, she was able to pay for a trip to Italy to save her sick husband's life (he was unaware of his condition and the loan, believing that the money came from Nora's father). Since then, she has had to contrive ways to pay back her loan, growing particularly concerned with money. When the play opens, it is Christmas Ever and we find out that Torvald has just been promoted to manager of the bank, where he will receive a big raise. Nora is thrilled because she thinks that she will finally be able to pay off the loan and be rid of it.
Her happiness, however, is marred when an angry Krogstad approaches her. He has just learned that his position at the bank has been promised to Mrs. Linde, an old school friend of Nora's who has recently arrived in town in search of work, and tells Nora that he will reveal her secret if she does not persuade her husband to let him keep his position. Nora tries to convince Torvald, using all of her feminine tricks that he encourages, but is unsuccessful. Torvald tells her that Krogstad's morally corrupt nature is too repulsive to him, and impossible to work with. Nora becomes very worried.
The next day, Nora is nervously moving about the house, afraid that Krogstad will appear at any minute. Luckily for her sake, she has the preparations for a big costume ball that will take place the next night, to preoccupy her. She converses with a concerned Mrs. Linde while Mrs. Linde repairs her dress. When Torvald returns from the bank, where he has been taking care of business, she again takes up her pleas on behalf of Krogstad.
This time, Torvald not only refuses, but also sends off the notice of termination that he has already prepared for Krogstad, reassuring a scared Nora that he will take upon himself any bad things that befall them as a result. Nora is extremely moved by this comment and begins to consider the possibility of this episode transforming their marriage for the better as well as the possibility of suicide. Meanwhile, she converses and flirts with a very willing Dr. Rank. Learning that he is rapidly dying, she takes up an intimate conversation that culminates in him professing his love just before she is able to ask him for a favor (to help her with her problem). His words stop her and she steers the conversation back to safer grounds.
Their talk is interrupted by the announcement of Krogstad. Nora asks Dr. Rank to leave and has Krogstad brought in. Her loaner asks tells her that he has had a change of heart and that, though he will keep the bond, he will not reveal her to the public. Instead, he wants to give Torvald a note explaining the matter so that Torvald will be pressed to help Krogstad rehabilitate himself. Nora protests Torvald's involvement, but Krogstad drops the letter in Torvald's letterbox anyway, much to Nora's horror.
Nora exclaims aloud that she and Torvald are lost. However, she still tries to use her charms to prevent Torvald from reading the letter, luring him away from business by begging him to help her with her tarantella for the next night's ball. He agrees to put off business until after the tarantella is over. The next night, before Torvald and Nora return from the ball, Mrs. Linde and Krogstad, old lovers, reunite in the Helmer's living room.
Mrs. Linde asks to take care of Krogstad and his children and to help him become the better man that he knows he is capable of becoming. The Helmer return from the ball as Mrs. Linde is leaving (Krogstad has already left), Torvald nearly dragging Nora into the room. Alone, Torvald tells Nora how much he desires her but is interrupted by Dr.
Rank. The Doctor, unbeknownst to Torvald, has come by to say his final farewells, as he covertly explains to Nora. After he leaves, Nora is able to deter Torvald from pursuing her anymore by reminding him of the ugliness of death that has just come between them (Nora having revealed Dr. Rank's secret) and, seeing that Torvald has collected his letters, resigns herself to committing suicide. As she is leaving, though, Torvald stops her.
He has just read Krogstad's letter and is enraged by its contents, accusing Nora of ruining his life. He pretty much tells her that he plans on forsaking her, contrary to his earlier claim that he would take on everything himself. During his tirade, he is interrupted by the maid bearing another note from Krogstad (addressed to Nora). Torvald reads it and becomes overjoyed. Krogstad has had a change of heart and has sent back the bond. Torvald quickly tells Nora that it is all over, that he has forgiven her, and that her pathetic attempt to help him has only made her more endearing than ever.
Nora, seeing Torvald's true character for the first time, sits her husband down to tell him that she is leaving him. After protestations from Torvald, she explains that he does not love her and, after tonight, she does not love him. She tells him that, given the suffocating life she has led until now, she owes it to herself to become fully independent and to explore her own character and the world for herself. As she leaves, she reveals to Torvald that she was hoping that they would be able to unite in real wedlock, but that she has lost all hope. The play ends with the door slamming on her way out. Nora accomplishes the amount of growing up, in the course of a day or so, to which most persons devote years and years.
She has developed the intuition and motivation to leave behind everything she has lived for during she and Helmer's eight years of marriage in exchange for an independent life and the much-sought virtue of independent thought. Nora suddenly wishes to be alone in the world, responsible for only her own well-being and success or failure. She is breaking free of her crutches (Helmer, her deceased father, the ill-obtained finances from Krogstad) and is now appetent to walk tall and proud. The story starts on Christmas eve. Nora makes preparation for Christmas. While she eats macaroons, Dr.
Rank and Mrs. Linde enters. Rank goes to speak with Torvald while Linde speaks with Nora. Linde explains that her husband has died and that she needs to find a job. Nora agrees to ask her husband to give Linde a job at the bank. Nora tells her about borrowing money to pay for the trip to Italy for her and her husband.
She explains that Torvald doesn't know that she paid for it. Rank leaves the study and begins to speak with Nora and Linde. He complains about the moral corruption in society. Krogstad arrives and goes to the study to talk to Torvald about keeping his job. A few minutes later, he leaves and Rank comments that Krogstad is one of the most morally corrupt people in the world. Rank and Linde leaves and Krogstad reenters.
He tells Nora to ask her husband to keep Krogstad, or else he will reveal Nora's crime of forgery. Krogstad leaves and when Torvald reenters, Nora asks him not to fire Krogstad. Torvald says that he must fire him because of his dishonesty and because he gave Krogstad's job to Linde. Torvald returns to his study. The Nurse, Anne-Marie, enters and gives Nora her ball gown. Anne-Marie explains that she had to leave her children to take the job taking care of Nora.
Anne-Marie leaves. Linde returns and begins to help Nora with stitching up her dress. They talk for a while about Dr. Rank. Torvald enters and Linde leaves to the nursery. Nora asks Torvald again not to fire Krogstad and Torvald refuses.
He gives Krogstad's pink slip to the maid to be mailed to Krogstad. Torvald leaves to his study. Rank enters and tells Nora about his worsening illness. They talk and flirt for a while.
Rank tells Nora that he loves her. Nora said that she never loved Rank and only had fun with him. Rank leaves to the study and Krogstad enters. He is angry about his dismissal and leaves a letter to Torvald explaining Nora's entire crime in the letter box.
Nora is frightened. Nora tells Linde about the matter and Linde assures her that she will talk to Krogstad and set things straight. Linde leaves after Krogstad and Rank and Torvald enter from the study. They help Nora practice the tarantella. After practice, Rank and Torvald exists. Linde enters and tells Nora that Krogstad left town, but she left a note for him.
Nora tells her that she's waiting for a miracle to happen. That night, during the dance, Linde talks to Krogstad in Helmer's apartment. She explains to him that she left him for money, but that she still loves him. They get back together and Krogstad decides to forget about the whole matter of Nora's borrowing money. However, Linde asks Krogstad not to ask for his letter back since she thinks Torvald needs to know of it. Both leave and Torvald and Nora enter from the dance.
Torvald checks his letter box and finds some letters and two Business cards from Dr. Rank with black crosses on them. Nora explains that they mean that Rank is announcing his death. After the bad news, Torvald enters his study and Nora prepares to leave. However, before she can get out the door, she is stopped by Torvald who read Krogstad's letter. He is angry and disavows his love for Nora.
The maid comes with a letter. Torvald read the letter which is from Krogstad. It says that he forgives Nora of her crime and will not reveal it. Torvald burns the letter along with the IOU that came with it. He is happy and tells Nora that everything will return to normal.
Nora changes and returns to talk with Helmer. She tells him that they don't understand each other and she leaves him. The play raises questions about female self-sacrifice in a male-dominated world. Nora is a "wife and child" to Torvald Helmer, and nothing more. She is his doll, a plaything on display to the world, of little intellectual value and even less utility in his life.
Thus it is logical for Helmer to act so shockingly upon his discovery that Nora has managed financial affairs (typically a family responsibility reserved for the patriarch) without so much as his consent or knowledge. Through the marital madness of Helmer and Nora, Ibsen is questioning the roles of both husband and wife, and what happens when one person dominates such a relationship in a manner that is demeaning to the other, regardless of whether such degradation is carried out in a conscious, intended frame of mind. When Nora closes behind her the door of her doll's house, she opens wide the gate of life for woman, and proclaims the revolutionary message that only perfect freedom and communion make a true bond between man and woman, meeting in the open, without lies, without shame, free from the bondage of duty. Ibsen is truly a master playwright, and his play A Doll's House is truly a masterpiece.