Character Analysis Torvald Helmer


Torvald is shallow enough to be a mere foil for the character of Nora. Unfortunately, he is depicted with enough detail to appear a very plausible type of man, typical of many contemporary heads-of-the-family. He is a well-constructed social product, a proud specimen of a middle-class husband. Because Nora has been so sheltered all her life, Torvald represents all the outside world she knows. Not only does he stand for the world of men and the world of business which has no place in her house-bound life, but he represents society at large, including all the community and legal ethics which do not concern her and religious ethics in which she has had no training. Ironically Ibsen sets up Torvald according to the same representation. For the author, Torvald stands for all the individual-denying social ills against which Ibsen has dedicated all his writing.

As a victim of his narrow view of society, Torvald inspires sympathy rather than reproach. When a man mistakes appearances for values, the basic blame must be attributed to his social environment. Ibsen, however, drives home the loathsome qualities of such a character by attributing to him a personal decadence. Implying that Torvald considers Nora merely an ornamented sex object, the author shows how he maintains amorous fantasies toward his wife: he dresses her as a Capri fisher girl and encourages her to dance in order to arouse his desires. As Torvald reinforces her girlish and immature ways, Ibsen implies an incest relationship, for Nora is made to observe that she was merely transferred from her father's tutelage to that of her husband without any change in her emotional life. It is with this final touch of perversion that Ibsen makes the character of Torvald thoroughly reprehensible to the audience.