A Doll's House By Henrik Ibsen Act I

NORA.
No, never. Papa died just at that time. I had meant to let him into the secret and beg him never to reveal it. But he was so ill then — alas, there never was any need to tell him.

MRS. LINDE.
And since then have you never told your secret to your husband?

NORA.
Good Heavens, no! How could you think so? A man who has such strong opinions about these things! And besides, how painful and humiliating it would be for Torvald, with his manly independence, to know that he owed me anything! It would upset our mutual relations altogether; our beautiful happy home would no longer be what it is now.

MRS. LINDE.
Do you mean never to tell him about it?

NORA.
(meditatively, and with a half smile.) Yes — some day, perhaps, after many years, when I am no longer as nice-looking as I am now. Don't laugh at me! I mean, of course, when Torvald is no longer as devoted to me as he is now; when my dancing and dressing-up and reciting have palled on him; then it may be a good thing to have something in reserve — (Breaking off,) What nonsense! That time will never come. Now, what do you think of my great secret, Christine? Do you still think I am of no use? I can tell you, too, that this affair has caused me a lot of worry. It has been by no means easy for me to meet my engagements punctually. I may tell you that there is something that is called, in business, quarterly interest, and another thing called payment in instalments, and it is always so dreadfully difficult to manage them. I have had to save a little here and there, where I could, you understand. I have not been able to put aside much from my housekeeping money, for Torvald must have a good table. I couldn't let my children be shabbily dressed; I have felt obliged to use up all he gave me for them, the sweet little darlings!

MRS. LINDE.
So it has all had to come out of your own necessaries of life, poor Nora?

NORA.
Of course. Besides, I was the one responsible for it. Whenever Torvald has given me money for new dresses and such things, I have never spent more than half of it; I have always bought the simplest and cheapest things. Thank Heaven, any clothes look well on me, and so Torvald has never noticed it. But it was often very hard on me, Christine — because it is delightful to be really well dressed, isn't it?

MRS. LINDE.
Quite so.

NORA.
Well, then I have found other ways of earning money. Last winter I was lucky enough to get a lot of copying to do; so I locked myself up and sat writing every evening until quite late at night. Many a time I was desperately tired; but all the same it was a tremendous pleasure to sit there working and earning money. It was like being a man.

MRS. LINDE.
How much have you been able to pay off in that way?

NORA.
I can't tell you exactly. You see, it is very difficult to keep an account of a business matter of that kind. I only know that I have paid every penny that I could scrape together. Many a time I was at my wits' end. (Smiles.) Then I used to sit here and imagine that a rich old gentleman had fallen in love with me —

MRS. LINDE.
What! Who was it?

NORA.
Be quiet! — that he had died; and that when his will was opened it contained, written in big letters, the instruction: "The lovely Mrs. Nora Helmer is to have all I possess paid over to her at once in cash."

MRS. LINDE.
But, my dear Nora — who could the man be?

NORA.
Good gracious, can't you understand? There was no old gentleman at all; it was only something that I used to sit here and imagine, when I couldn't think of any way of procuring money. But it's all the same now; the tiresome old person can stay where he is, as far as I am concerned; I don't care about him or his will either, for I am free from care now. (Jumps up.) My goodness, it's delightful to think of, Christine! Free from care! To be able to be free from care, quite free from care; to be able to play and romp with the children; to be able to keep the house beautifully and have everything just as Torvald likes it! And, think of it, soon the spring will come and the big blue sky! Perhaps we shall be able to take a little trip — perhaps I shall see the sea again! Oh, it's a wonderful thing to be alive and be happy. (A bell is heard in the hall.)

MRS. LINDE.
(rising). There is the bell; perhaps I had better go.

NORA.
No, don't go; no one will come in here; it is sure to be for Torvald.

SERVANT.
(at the hall door). Excuse me, ma'am — there is a gentleman to see the master, and as the doctor is with him —

NORA.
Who is it?

KROGSTAD.
(at the door). It is I, Mrs. Helmer. (Mrs. LINDE starts, trembles, and turns to the window.)

NORA.
(takes a step towards him, and speaks in a strained low voice). You? What is it? What do you want to see my husband about?

KROGSTAD.
Bank business — in a way. I have a small post in the Bank, and I hear your husband is to be our chief now —

NORA.
Then it is —

KROGSTAD.
Nothing but dry business matters, Mrs. Helmers; absolutely nothing else.

NORA.
Be so good as to go into the study then. (She bows indifferently to him and shuts the door into the hall; then comes back and makes up the fire in the stove.)

MRS. LINDE.
Nora — who was that man?

NORA.
A lawyer, of the name of Krogstad.

MRS. LINDE.
Then it really was he.

NORA.
Do you know the man?

MRS. LINDE.
I used to — many years ago. At one time he was a solicitor's clerk in our town.

NORA.
Yes, he was.

MRS. LINDE.
He is greatly altered.

NORA.
He made a very unhappy marriage.

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