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Dec 21, 2012

Notes on Ibsen's Doll's House



Much of this discussion (especially the Act/Scene analysis) derives from Brian Johnston’s criticism, found on his website: ibsen-voyages.com

Ibsen is the first great master of modern drama. In his plays he depicts realistic social problems concerning marriage, gender inequality, the clash between middle class values, materialism, and individual freedom. He does this in a decidedly non-romantic, non-idealized manner.  Some of the main themes in the play include 

  • the clash between love and honor (reputation), 
  • the hypocrisy of middle class values, 
  • the moral and physical degeneracy underpinning middle class society
  • the “woman question” (should women be equals in marriage, should they have equal rights in general?), 
  • the meaning of marriage and its redefinition in modern times


Ibsen exposes these themes by generating dramatic tension and conflict among his characters. Some of the main oppositions can be found in the tensions between 
secrecy / openness
honesty / deceit
appearance / reality
the role playing, dependent self / free thinking, independent individual  

Middle class values. The play questions conventional middle class values. What values are at issue? 

Work hard, play by the rules
Be thrifty with your money
Maintain a respectable public image of honesty and integrity
Believe in the pursuit of wealth; money and things are worth striving for and are markers of social status
Those who follow their enlightened self interest and achieve are entitled to the spoils
Those who don’t succeed are morally degenerate.  
Men are natural born rulers of their households. 
Wives should obey their husbands and take care of the children. Husbands and children come first.

For Torvald Helmer, men are naturally superior to women. They are the rightful kings of their castles. Their wives are playthings. Objects of affection and entertainment. They are in a diminutive position in relation to the husband/master. 

Torvald is the standard bearer for these bourgeois values. He is a man who lives an upright life and feels like he deserves the finer things. He is a man who enjoys pleasures fairly earned and scorns hypocrisy, crime, dishonesty, and those without scruples.

Nora is also a champion of these values to the extent that she “plays along” with Torvald's games. She plays the role of Torvald's doll wife, the plaything, the little girl, the flirt, the songbird. She believes her husband is good and strong, even heroic. She has violated the law only to save his life, so she puts her love for her husband above social convention, but realizes that this violation must be kept secret, hidden at all costs. Appearances are far too important.

Middle class morality, when followed as strictly as Torvald follows it, devalues or represses much that is of potential importance: individuality, authenticity, the unorthodox, compassion, equality between the sexes, equal opportunity and social justice, and freedom. 

For three days, Nora fights hard to keep her violations of the social order well hidden so the doll house will stay intact, but by the end of the play, a dramatic change in her character will unfold, as the secret of her forgery is revealed and she is forced to confront the reality of her deception and Torvald's cowardly selfishness. 

Well before the climax, we see signs of Nora's rebelliousness and strong will. She has dared to forge her father's signature to secure a loan from Krogstad, a loan illegally obtained without her husband's permission. She does this out of devotion to her husband, in order to save his life, to finance a trip to Italy, because she knows Torvald would never accede to her wishes. She defies him, but she is too timid to confront him honestly. She hides it, just as she hides her macaroons. She is also resourceful in her means of playing upon Torvald, indulging his fancy, whether by flirtation, practicing the Tarantella, begging for money, begging Torvald to reinstate Krogstad, and playing upon Doctor Rank’s affections. 
By the end of the play, those middle class values will be overturned, even shattered. The play exposes a seething clash of values: on one side is the importance of social convention, keeping up the appearance of honesty and respectability, fearing public opinion – and the means for maintaining and stabilizing these appearances: infantilized relationships, a world of fakery and pretense, of money grubbing and ruthless social climbing. Pitted against these forces are an unorthodox morality (Nora’s justifiable “crimes”, Krogstad’s ad hoc ethics, a liberated individualism, the importance of honesty, passion, realism, dignity, and equality in human relationships.

The play also exposes the uncertainty of middle class bourgeois life, the constant economic pressures of paying bills, getting ahead, buying the right stuff.  Fortunes can change in a day. Reputations  can be tarnished. Torvald compromises his individuality and humanity for the sake of his position at the bank. Remember, he fires a man on Christmas eve, essentially so he can make himself look more authoritative and respectable. These are the lengths one goes to in modern life to preserve one’s status and self image. Nora, however, will change: she will arrive at a point where she must revolt against her assigned role and claim her individuality. It takes her three acts to get there, but get there she does. 

Materialism v. People. Another central theme of this play is the importance placed on materialism rather than people. This is particularly important for Torvald, whose sense of manhood depends on his independence. In fact, he was an unsuccessful barrister because he refused to take "unsavory cases". As a result, he switched to the bank, where he primarily deals with money. In other words, money and materialism can be seen as a way to avoid the muddiness of personal contact. He is disgusted by his former friend Krogstad. He is embarrassed to be around him, and he wants him out of his sight because Krogstad doesn’t pay him the proper respect. Torvald, to put it mildly, is very status conscious. He is so busy upholding his duty as middle class standard bearer and dominant husband that he’s forgotten that above all that, he’s a human being. 

Women, men, and gender inequality. The play focuses on the way that women are seen in bourgeois society, especially in the context of marriage and motherhood. Torvald, in particular, has a very narrow definition of a woman's role. He believes that it is the sacred duty of a woman to be a good wife and mother. Moreover, he tells Nora that women are responsible for the morality of their children. In essence, he sees women as both child-like, helpless creatures detached from reality and influential moral forces responsible for the purity of the world through their influence in the home.

Nora, as a symbol of woman, is called a number of names by Torvald throughout the play. These include "little songbird", "squirrel", "lark", "little featherhead", "little skylark", "little person", and "little woman". Torvald is extremely consistent about using the modifier "little" before the names he calls Nora. These are all usually followed by the possessive "my", signaling Torvald's belief that Nora is his. Torvald's chosen names for Nora reveal that he does not see her as an equal by any means; rather, Nora is at times predictable and silly doll and at times a captivating and exotic pet or animal, all created for Torvald.

The perception of manliness is also dramatized, though in a much more subtle way. Torvald's conception of manliness is based on the value of total independence. He abhors the idea of financial or moral dependence on anyone. His desire for independence leads to the question of whether he is out of touch with reality. He doesn't realize how dependent he really is on his wife, on the unscrupulous and inferior Krogstad, and society at large.  With Torvald, be on the look out for dramatic irony. He is very blind to what’s really going on in his household. Blind to the loan, blind to Dr. Rank’s affections, blind to Nora’s motivations. 

Nora believes in the lie that her husband is heroic, a defender of her honor, who will sacrifice his own reputation to cover her shame. This is a key motivation for her action. She really believes in the romantic love ideal. Torvald will be her Tristan. He will be her knight in shining armor. He will sacrifice his honor for love. But we know better than that. And she learns that harsh lesson in act III. Torvald will never be able to live outside his predestined social role. Honor means too much for him to sacrifice it for a mere woman. 

Dramatic Reversals. Comparing the husband and wife reveals significant differences. Where Torvald is conventional, Nora has an independent streak. Where Torvald seeks to save the surface appearance (the doll house fiction) at all costs (by saving face), Nora learns to face the reality that their life has been built on pretense, on a foundation of sand. 

Nora begins as a deceiver/concealer and ends as a revealer. She begins as a student child and ends as a the authority, the teacher of her husband. From plaything to serious adult. From cheerful trophy wife to clear thinking individual. She is assisted in this transformation by the actions of Krogstad and Linde, who act as foils to Torvald and Nora. 

Krogstad begins as villain and ends as hero (savior). Torvald moves from heroic savior to cowardly lion. 

Kristine and Krogstad progress from delinquent, desperate loneliness to practical companionship. 

As a couple, Nora and Torvald progress from fake to real, from doll fantasy to human reality. 

Unfortunately, this progression also results in the dissolution of their marriage, which  has no basis for continuing. 

I think Ibsen is implying here that they are better off being honest with themselves, living separate lives as individuals, than they are living in the fantasy world of deception and lies. There is some hope that they will learn to grow up, maybe. And yet, society IS stacked against Nora. Her road will not be easy from here. She will be reviled, seen as a pariah. As a woman in this society, she has no power, no means of support. 

Analysis of Acts 

Act One
Setting: The first Act takes place on Christmas Eve. However, though there is a great deal of talk about morality throughout the play, Christmas is never presented as a religious holiday, and religion as a concept is later questioned by Nora in the third Act. In fact, it is discussed primarily as a material experience. This emphasis is similar to the general theme of the centrality of material goods over personal connection. Christmas is also the time of death (beginning of winter) and rebirth (or the promise of rebirth).

Note how Nora's first line is “Hide the tree, well, Helene.” From the beginning she is deceiving, concealing. It is a pattern. She hides the tree, the gifts, her secrets.  

Act One explores the world of materialism and social reality in the play. We have the happy prospect of Torvald's promotion. Financial well being is within sight. “A wonderful thing” is about to happen. Nora will finally be able to pay off the loan, escape the shadow of Krogstad's secret. Happy days are here again.  Not that they ever weren’t happy, for the Helmers are one of those families that always seems to be doing just fine. 

Note how Nora plays upon her husband. She plays the part of the little squirrel, the baby doll, the charmer. She cajoles him into giving her money. This has become a bad habit. She has accepted a prefabricated social role as the spendthrift woman who uses her charms to wheedle her husband and get her way. Torvald thinks she is irresponsible, fragile, weak, flighty, playful, and beautiful. His role is that of the dominant male: protector, provider, lawgiver, patriarch, upholder of moral standards and clarity. 

Helmer is the standard bearer for middle class bourgeois values: never borrow, never get into debt, be frugal, but also climb the ladder, get the promotion, get ahead in life. The problem though is that by insisting on these values, he would have, had his wife not intervened to save his life ten years ago, be dead of illness because he was too stubborn to go to Italy. He’s also a hypocrite of sorts, not because of the loan, which he doesn’t know about anyway, but because of his behavior towards Krogstad. He has no pity, no empathy; he doesn’t see how much like Krogstad he is, or is capable of being. Instead, he just cares about himself. 

After a few pages of exposition which establishes the type of marriage relationship they have, we have the beginning of rising action. Until this point we the audience are unaware that Nora is concealing anything from anybody, but the secrecy theme is already there. Ibsen has carefully planted it.  

Note the triple repetition of “wonderful” which cues Mrs. Linde's entrance. Kristine comes in to beg for a job. And also to complicate the plot. 

Kristine is a dramatic foil to Nora. When they converse, they expose character traits that compare and contrast nicely. Kristine is a widow, Nora is married. Kristine didn’t love her husband, Nora (apparently) does. Kristine is childless, Nora has three kids. Kristine is financially need, Torvald's been promoted and the Helmers are poised to succeed. Kristine’s parents have died, so have Nora’s. Kristine’s been forced to work, Nora apparently doesn’t, though secretly she has been working quite hard to repay the loan. You could almost see it this way: Kristine in Nora, when viewed by outward appearances, are quite different. But remember that Nora’s identity has a fault line running through it. There is her private self that she conceals from Torvald. At this inner level, she has more in common, is more comparable to Kristine. 

Here is where situational irony enters the picture. Krogstad is getting fired, and Linde is going to replace him. Ironic. Doubly ironic is the revelation that Krogstad the forger has lent money to Nora, who forged a signature to get the money, and whose husband is the man firing him, which will destroy the public reputation he has been striving to reclaim. Krogstad's livelihood is at stake, so he puts the screws to Nora, insisting that she get his job back, or else he'll reveal the loan to Torvald. He has also figured out, being a forger himself, that Nora has forged her father's signature. Then there is the dramatic irony with Torvald's ignorance of the forgery. Once it is revealed to the audience, Torvald's blindness to the truth is heightened. 

The theme of poison, moral corruption and decay is introduced through Helmer and Rank. This house is diseased, the disease of conceit and deception. 

Act One is all about defining human identity in social terms --  how you look, your reputation is paramount. Torvald thinks he can protect his family from social disgrace, the kind of moral corruption Rank speaks of. They are above it, they think. Krogstad comes from the outside (as does Linde) to threaten Nora with social disgrace. This is a direct threat to her and Torvald's identity. But it is the identity of social appearances which is at stake. 

ACT II 
Setting: The Christmas tree has been stripped bare and the candles are burnt down. Symbolic? You bet. 
Act II is the rising action phase of the plot showing Nora’s desperate attempts to escape her predicament. Tensions mount. 

The play’s thematic accent shifts from the social façade of Act I to the psychological level. Characters begin to strip away their outer layers and reveal their interior motivations. But until we get to ACT III, we won’t get authentic revelations. In Act II, the psychological insight remains blind. Nora and Torvald have perpetuated myths about themselves, about their identities. They don’t truly understand who they are and what motivates them. Torvald professes his heroism, that he would do anything to defend his family and  wife. He sees himself as the gallant knight in shining armor. Nora considers the “wonderful thing” that Torvald would do for her (namely, take the fall for the forgery), and she sees herself in melodramatic terms, as someone who will have to resort to, namely suicide to save her husband the shame and infamy of stigmatization. It is a faux heroic gesture, because she is not capable of suicide. It is important to note that she is contemplating it, and by Act III is on the brink of it. She is thinking of how Torvald and the children would get on without her. 

Torvald and Nora continue living in the illusion world. They aren't just deceiving each other, they're deceiving themselves.  

In Act II we also learn more about Krogstad’s motivations and Dr. Rank’s terminal condition and his true feelings for Nora. 

She begs Torvald to rehire Krogstad. He refuses. As she grows more desperate you can begin to detect a stronger will in Nora, which is preparing the audience for her breakout scene in Act III. She begins standing up to Torvald. It does not have a good effect. In fact it worsens the situation. Torvald sends his letter of dismissal promptly, ironically accelerating the doom that is approaching both of them.  
Nora appeals for help to Dr. Rank. Rank is more than willing to do anything for her, but he makes the mistake of confessing his love for her, another psychological revelation. This one happens to be not a myth but reality. Why does Nora refuse to ask for the money from him or ask him to influence Torvald’s decision? It seems this would have solved many of her problems. She can't take money from him now, because it would be a betrayal, it would almost be like adultery. She is still concerned about keeping up appearances. She's still acting the role of the doll wife. Wouldn’t she seem to be prostituting herself for these favors? One can only guess. But maybe even more importantly, Dr. Rank has violated the social decorum, the pretend  game that everyone has been playing. He has good reason to violate it because he is running out of time. He must confess his  true feelings. But importantly, at this stage in the game, Nora can’t handle the truth. She cannot  deal with too much reality. She isn’t used to real feelings. So she evades Dr. Rank’s offer, shuns it, and turns to something she knows better: deceit  and pretense. She dances her tarantella with wild abandon, to show  Torvald how much instruction  she still needs. This is all fakery done to stall the action.  

Dr. Rank. The juxtaposition of their entrances at the beginning of the play (they enter together) suggests that there is something similar about the two. In fact, given both the theatrical standards of the time and the expectations of women, it is easy to see that they might be considered moral forces within the play. In fact, Dr. Rank represents the male moral figure that had been common to plays at the time that Ibsen was writing. Dr. Rank's character usually provided moral standards on which the other, more confused characters of the play could depend. However, Dr. Rank subverts this role. He is both physically and morally tainted. He is dying from a disease begotten from his father's early sexual indiscretions, the son’s body rotting, suffering for the sins of the father. Additionally, though he presents himself as a great friend to the Helmers, his motives are far from pure, for he is in love with Nora. He is playing games too. His views on moral decay  are bitter and probably self-reflective. 
Dr. Rank becomes a force for honesty in the play; his terminal disease is a reminder of the death looming for all. His  body is dying and in Act II he seizes one of his last opportunities to be honest with Nora about his love for her. His existential confrontation with death has made him realize that one has only so many opportunities in life to be true. It should be added, however, the Dr. Rank is not entirely free of social role playing. He is going to secretly hide himself away to die so no one has to deal with death. In a way he is keeping up appearances too. He certainly is not honest with Torvald. His presence is more subversive. He is not a wise older man dispensing sage advice. He is a “rank”, decaying, diseased individual who learns to accept his terminal fate.  

Mrs. Linde, similarly, represents the hollowness of the role of wife and mother. Left destitute and unhappy by an unloving marriage, she has derived her livelihood from being useful to others. However, when she is left alone, she only feels empty. Her life has been based upon appeasing material wants for herself and for others and has had little to do with personal growth. Now that she is alone, she is terribly unhappy and in despair. She needs a companion. She needs to adopt the role of wife and mother again. There  is something good and bad about this, I suppose. The good is that when she ultimately reunites with Krogstad, we get a sense that her life will improve. There will be more meaning to her life, more of a sense of purpose. The bad side is that she is so dependent on the  roles of wife and mother that there is no other way for her to be happy. One would  hope she could have the option of being an individual on her own. 

Both Dr. Rank and Mrs. Linde enter the play as influences on Nora and Torvald. Dr. Rank is a foil for Torvald's unyielding sense of morality. Rank is the underbelly of Torvald’s incessant moralizing. Mrs. Linde is a foil for Nora's belief in the importance of motherhood and marriage. Mrs. Linde’s circumstance also foreshadows where Nora may be headed. A life of lonely wandering, working for herself.  

The Tarantella. A tarantella is a folk dance from southern Italy that accelerates from its already quick tempo and alternates between major and minor keys. In its constant fluctuation, it is like Nora's character. In this Act, it serves as Nora's last chance to be Torvald's doll, to dance and amuse him. Also, the tarantella is commonly (and falsely) known as a dance that is supposed to rid the dancer of the bite of the tarantula. Applied to the play, its use suggests that Nora is trying to rid herself of the deadly poison of an outside force, however fruitlessly. Rather than alleviating the bite, though, the music and her life only continue to accelerate and spin out of control.

ACT III 
This is where the major revelations all come out. The climax of the play and the denouement. We turn from the sham public/social persona of Act One, and the false psychological myths of Act Two, to the realities of the existential self. No more time  for games. We’re down to business for real. 
For Linde and Krogstad, the existential news is good – faced with personal despair and  economic ruin, they turn to each other with honesty and love, and they “do the right thing.” They reveal their true feelings for one another. They see that being together might be the best way for them to realize their potential. It is the one positive outcome in the play. 

Mrs. Linde realizes that the truth needs to come out for the good of Nora and Torvald, and Krogstad realizes that he must send the IOU (the bond) back as a gesture of compassion and good will.  They “get it”.  So  what is being set up here? Torvald  will learn of Nora’s deception, her forgery, and the jeopardy to his status and reputation. But Krogstad’s good deed will be to remove the threat by returning the bond. Without that, there is no blackmail. 

The existential forecast is not so bright for Nora and Torvald. Reality crushes in on them. The tarantella dance ends. Nora’s desperate attempt to stave off reality is coming to an  end. The party’s over. Dr. Rank exits their lives to go and die. There is no more time for dancing, play acting, or sexual fantasy. The false pretenses occluding their lives keep getting interrupted, first by Kristine’s presence, then by Rank. 

In their moment of crisis, when Torvald finally reads the letter, both characters fail to be what they thought they were in Act II. Nora fails to sacrifice herself through suicide, and Torvald proves himself to be an insensitive, judgmental, cowardly fool. He doesn't do the wonderful thing Nora was expecting. He isn’t even close to wonderful.  

Faced with the real truth, Nora rebels against her pre-determined roles as wife and mother after rejecting another choice forced upon her – to commit suicide. Why does she want to commit suicide? To save Torvald from the shame of having to stand up for her and risk his reputation by defying Krogstad, which she is certain he will do. Only after she realizes that she is incapable of self-sacrifice (another fantasy) and only after she sees Torvald's failure to be heroic under pressure, his fear and his cowardice at the very moment when heroism was demanded, does she choose to abandon her husband and her children. 

Why does she confront Torvald then leave him? She needs to discover her own identity. “Who am I?” She needs to develop her own self consciousness, a mature sensibility, free of male oversight.
A major epiphany ensues. Nora puts on that dark dress. No more costumes. What does she know for the first time? That her husband is a stranger, that she is a stranger to him. That they don't have a serious marriage. That her father and husband have prevented her from discovering who she is as person. That she doesn't really know for herself the first thing about religion, morality, love, motherhood. She knows just  how ignorant she is. And she realizes that it is up to her to find these things out for herself. This is her primary duty, the duty to yourself. It is your duty, Ibsen in telling us, too. It's your duty as an individual in modern middle class society to figure out who you are. Don't just accept the values you're given. Test them against your own experience. Discover who you are, what you love. Learn about the world. This doesn’t mean you need to be a selfish egoist. It means that before you can be there for somebody, before you even know who you want to be with in a marriage, you need to discover and develop your own life. 

All that was familiar has been made strange. But what would be the “most wonderful thing” of all, the miracle discussed at the end of the play? What could save both Torvald and Nora?  Nothing less than Self-transformation and true marriage, which means a total redefinition of marriage.  First you have to transform yourself into an authentic human being, and then you can come together with another true human being as equals

This implies a radical reordering or reform of society, I think. Society must be dematerialized. Economic priorities need to be deemphasized in favor of humane values. Everybody deserves equal rights, equal opportunity, education, and complete liberty. You can imagine what a bombshell this was in society when Nora slammed that door shut at the end of the play. It reverberated throughout Europe.  

Conclusion
Ibsen has structured his play with intricate dramatic linkages, situational and dramatic ironies, dramatic foils, clearly drawn character motivations, and smart stagecraft welded to theme. Here we experience an art form that exposes the fraudulent face of social convention. 

It exposes the clash of individual against middle class society, freedom vs. convention, independence vs. conformity, honesty vs. deception, truth and lies, the private, authentic self buried by the public persona. 

The play strips the middle class of everything they thought they valued. It questions the traditional basis for marriage. It shows us the materialistic demands forced upon people and spotlights the desperate measures they will take to regain a reputation or save one. And even though women have come a long way (baby) since Nora slammed that door at the end of Act III, the play continues to unsettle audiences. 

Why? We're still preoccupied with middle class virtues, we still have plenty of stocks and securities held in the advantages of law and authority, in keeping up appearances and saving reputations, in getting ahead, in the ideal trophy wife at the side of the buff rich man with the bronze tan, in the righteousness of money, the productive grace of the protestant work ethic, in the defense of a man's honor and the right to be kings of the castle (or as Bernard Shaw called them, suburban Kings Arthur). 
Ibsen's social problem play feels all too realistic. The pressures points are still there. A bit of progress in women's rights doesn't keep it from cutting to the bone, for ultimately this is not a play about women only, but about all humanity. To reduce A Doll's House to feminist agit prop is to do it an injustice. The play champions the cause of women, and feminists are right to sing its praises. There is nothing trivial about that. But the play’s reach extends beyond women’s rights. Ibsen is defending the rights of individual self determination. You (man or woman) have the right, even the obligation, to figure out who you are, what's important to you, to exercise your freedom and independence, to educate yourself, learn from experience, and only then will you be prepared to accept someone else into your life, in what Nora calls a true marriage. That would be "the most wonderful thing" of Act Three.  

What makes the play socially dangerous is the realization that even the socially powerful, the Torvalds who are in charge, the rich and famous and respected, are no more self-realized than the powerless. Torvald by play's end, is a mess. Mr. Middle Class has been cut to size. He has been found wanting and is left in shambles. He is not the man he thought he was. He's been pretending, and he's been blinded by his own platitudes and attitudes. His middle class virtues haven't made him truly happy. As Nora puts it near the end of the play, she has never been happy in this marriage, only cheerful. There's a huge difference between cheerfulness and happiness. Middle class wealth might bring good cheer, champagne and Cuban cigars, but it won't get you any nearer to the truth of yourself. The middle class emperor has no clothes. 

I don't think audiences have really come to grips with the suggestiveness of this play's themes. For if bourgeois values are nothing more than false fronts, the moral equivalent of a Hollywood backlot, then a different kind of society is needed to foster true freedom for individuals. Ibsen doesn't hint at a clear answer to the question of what such a society would look like. He's too good an artist to proscribe a solution. It's not the job of an artist to proscribe solutions. I would suggest it'd have to be the kind of society where people were free from the necessity of money grubbing, where they weren't living in constant fear of financial ruin, where all had equal rights under the law and equal access to education, and where everyone who wanted to work, could. A society founded on basic human dignity, that valued common humanity above almighty profit and social status. 

A Doll's House is not an exhilarating nor a liberating play. It is a gut wrencher. It is, arguably a kind of tragedy, depending on how you interpret the ending. Nora abandons her family for a future that can't lead to much good, at least by middle class standards. Nora, however, IS free. And that for Ibsen is preferable and a necessary prerequisite. On the ruins of the Helmer's marriage, something better could be born. The seeds of that birth are in the play itself, in the relationship between Krogstad and Linde, and in the possibilities raised in Nora’s exit scene. Krogstad and Linde are imperfect creatures. They're not perfect. Far from it. But they are capable of self-redemption and forgiveness. They are shipwrecked sailors joining hands to save themselves. Theirs will be a marriage of equals, freely chosen, not for the sake of reputation or looks, but for love and the desire to live for someone else, although it must be added that there is certainly an element of economic dependence that comes to play here as well. Ibsen shows us through Krogstad and Linde  that he is not an enemy of marriage at all. Rather, he's struggling to redefine marriage on equal terms. As for Nora, her instructive discussion with Torvald at the end of the play diagnoses what is so wrong with so many marriages, even today. Her prescribed path for achieving a true marriage of individuals with equal rights is certainly a road less traveled.