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A Doll’s House: Summary Of Drama, Setting Of Play, Irony, Main Characters, Historical Context And Symbolism In The Play

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A Doll’s House is a play by Henrik Ibsen that revolves around issues of marriage and family. It talks about a middle-classed woman named Nora Helmer who is married to Torvalds. She took a bank loan illegally to save the life of her husband, Torvalds. Her husband is not aware of whether she has any pending bank loans to be paid. This paper will look at a summary of the drama, setting of the play, irony, main characters, historical context and symbolism in the play.

The play starts with Nora Helmer entering the house carrying packages for the family on Christmas Eve. Nora lives a lavish lifestyle and her husband is not happy because she overspends money on minor things. She gets a loan from Krogstad by faking his father’s signature. Her husband, Torvalds is not aware of the loan. She uses the loan to take his husband to Italy for medical purposes and she doesn’t tell him the source of his money (Yeasmin & Fahmeda p.335). Torvalds suspects that her wife took the money from her father, and Nora struggles with trying to repay the loan.

Later in the story, Torvalds is promoted to the position of a bank manager. His wife is happier because she hopes that her husband will help her in repaying the loan. Nora’s friend, whom she used to study with, visits them in town where she is looking for a job opportunity. Krogstad learns that he may be replaced in his job position by Miss Linde, Nora’s friend and so he approaches Nora to ask her to help him convince the husband not to replace him. If he fails to retain his position, Krogstad says that he will reveal Nora’s secret to her husband.

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Later on, Torvalds sends a termination letter to Krogstad despite several attempts from his wife to convince him not to fire Krogstad. Doctor rank confesses his love for Nora because he is about to die. Krogstad changes his mind and tells Nora that he will not expose her to the public because she has not completed paying the loan but rather, he would send a letter to her husband directly telling him about the loan. Krogstad and Miss Linde reunite since they were lovers in the past and she promises to take care of him and his children. Nora goes to all lengths necessary to ensure that her husband does not read the letters which had been sent to him (Yeasmin & Fahmeda p.335). Torvalds expresses his love for her wife and therefore Nora is happy again and withdraws her thoughts to commit suicide. Torvalds finally ends up reading the letter and he accuses his wife of playing part in ruining his life. He plans to forsake her but eventually comes in carrying another letter that comes from Krogstad and it is addressed to Nora. Torvalds reads the letter out loud and it said that Krogstad wanted the two families to be united once more.

Torvalds is happy with the decision and forgives his wife for all the mistakes she had committed. Nora is not happy though and she tells her husband that she wants to live freely and then confesses to him that she does not love him anymore. She wants to move out and enjoy her own life where she will not be restricted to do anything. As the play ends, she tells her husband that one-day a miracle will happen and they will reunite again in new wedlock. The play takes place inside Torvalds and Nora’s house. The writer wants to shows us the reality of Nora who is not conversant in what happens in the world outside her house. She projects an image of herself that is only concerned about her home and family. The laws which govern the world don’t bother her because the only important thing to her is family. The audience can follow the plot through the dialogue between Nora and the other characters as she is the main focus in the play (Askarzadeh p.101).

The setting for the play remains the same from the start of the play until the end. Symbolism is widely used in the writing of this play. It has hidden meanings that help us understand the story on a deeper level. Some of the scenarios where symbolism is evident include the following; a Christmas tree image in the doll’s house is used to symbolize that there is life in the house. It also shows that the family is happy, harmonious and they are enjoying life. The tree also symbolizes the spiritual life and strength of the characters. As the play progresses, the Christmas tree is destroyed and stripped symbolizing how Nora’s life has changed and the challenges she is undergoing. Symbolism is also witnessed through stoves, candles, and fire. They show the warmth and comfort in Nora’s house. Nora’s tarantella dance, which she performs in a passionate mood, is symbolic. It shows her love for life as well as her lack of fear of dying. She tells Helmer that she does it so that she can entertain him and build strong love with him. The dance was initially performed in Italy by a person who was bitten by a dangerous spider (Christian &Mary p.82). It is also symbolic that she is dancing to show the challenges she is undergoing e.g. repaying loans.

At the end of the play, Nora shuts the door as she goes out. It symbolizes the problems she had undergone as she lived with his husband and that she was starting a new chapter of her life as she goes out to face the real world. In the play, irony is also witnessed in several parts of the play. The play rotates around a happy and comfortable marriage life. In reality, we learn that the family was just hypocritical and full of problems that they don’t expose to the public. Everything that Helmers says about the family being stable and happy is ironic. Torvalds says that Krogstad is corrupt and that his family should not be associated with him. However, his family is not perfect either. Throughout the play, the audience is made aware that his wife, Nora forges signature so that she can be able to get access to loans and of the unhappiness she truly feels. At the beginning of the play, Nora is happy when her husband is promoted at his job, and therefore believes their future will be good and they will live a happy life. Really, it is an expression of her anxiety over the fact that they are broke and unable to pay their debts. It is ironic because even though it seems they are a successful, happy family on the outside, Nora is actually living beyond the family’s means and unhappy in her marriage. (Askarzadeh p.101). In conclusion, the play helps us to understand a lot of challenges and problems that many families undergo even when they hidden from the public eye. Though it is sad that families are not always as well off as they portray to other, the play gives the average person a story they can relate to. Through the use of irony, symbolism, and imagery, the audience can feel as though they know the characters and learn from them as they navigate through their own challenges within their family or marriage.

Work cited

  1. Askarzadeh Targhee, Rajabali. “Stylistic Analysis of Characters in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House: Masculinity and Supremacy vs. Femininity and Helplessness.” Research in Applied Linguistics 10.2 (2019): 91-105.
  2. Christian, Mary. “A Doll’s House Conquered Europe”: Ibsen, His English Parodists, and the Debate over World Drama.” Humanities 8.2 (2019): 82.
  3. Yeasmin, Fahmeda. “‘ A Doll’s House’ is the Backlash of Feminism.” International Journal of English Literature and Social Sciences 3.3 (2018): 334-338.

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A Doll’s House: Summary Of Drama, Setting Of Play, Irony, Main Characters, Historical Context And Symbolism In The Play. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 10, 2023, from
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