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Eric Bentley’s Criticism of Krogstad’s Character in a Doll’s House

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When Eric Bentley wrote in “Ibsen, Pro and Con” that Krogstad was "a mere pawn of the plot. " adding that "When convenient to Ibsen, he is a blackmailer. When inconvenient, he is converted," I believe he had entirely missed the point of his character in A Doll House. Krogstad’s characterization is a flagship example of the way Henrik Ibsen wrote all the characters in the play: representations of man’s true multi­faceted nature.

On the surface the reader makes quick judgement about the content of the roles’ characters; Nora, ditzy; Torvald, loving; Linde, reliable; and Krogstad, evil. It is not merely a convenience to the plot when Krogstad’s true nature is revealed, but the first obvious example of Ibsen’s desire to show the reader that not everyone is simply a one­layered individual, and not everyone is just as they seem. When the reader realizes that the source of Krogstad’s misdeeds lies in result of his troubled past and love for Mrs. Linde in Act 3 when he says, "When I lost you, it was as if all the solid ground kage," readers no longer view him as the villain they saw before.

By the end of the novel Nora “believe[s] that first and foremost [she is] an individual, just as [Torvald is]” and “stands alone” rather than beneath Torvald’s thumb. Torvald, himself, is no longer the perfect husband and morally upright, but more like Nora’s original characterization with a desperation for a perfect doll house. Mrs. Linde who seemed independent and well­off living for herself at the beginning of play reveals her want to be a mother and care for others again by the end. went from under my feet. Look at me now—I am a shipwrecked man clinging to a bit of wreck. Ibsen’s Krogstad is no more a flip­flop of characterization than any other character in the play, but this flop is not just a simple plot device. The revelation of the changes in all the roles are not actually changes at all, they are simply the reveal of the multiple layers to each of them.

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A Doll`s House

Considered to be a classical play, Henrick Ibsen wrote A Doll’s House in the year 1879 while he was still at Rome and Amalfi. It was at that time when European revolution period was born.

Ibsen’s being successful as a classical writer was very significant for the Norweigans and their language. After four centuries of being released from Danish captivity in the year 1814, the Norweigans were still on the point of slowly getting up from the long years of captivation. The story of A Doll’s House revolves around this historical scenario.

To really give importance to the realistic theme of the play, Ibsen intentionally chose to have a language style that is commonly conversational where he automatically became Norway’s most well-known dramatic inspiration. But it was not actually through only that. Actually, it was more of Ibsen’s universality in all of his writings and the play itself that really made it a classical one.

Following the very first realistic play written by Ibsen in 1877, The Pillars of Society, A Doll’s House was secondary of his works. Ibsen further emphasized in his letters a change in his writing style. From being a writer of historical epics and saga plays who used his very own life experiences as basis of his stories, he turned to using women in general including some psychological studies about them.

One literary trait that differentiated A Doll’s House from most of the well-made plays is the way it is presented. Usually most plays have the exposition part in the first act, then the situation part in the second act, and lastly, the unraveling part in the third act. But in the play A Doll’s House, the third act (which is supposed to be the unraveling) was being replaced by the discussion part.

There were, of course, who stated their opinions regarding the play especially when reaching the last portion until the discussion portion that happened between Nora and Torvald. From then on, the critics have changed their views about the play from being an ordinary moral story to a whole new different tradition where it immediately made it a worldwide sensation.

Another distinctive trait of this play is through Ibsen’s presentation of characters. It was really a big challenge for the actors to portray the real nature of the characters. The most observable and yet appears very significant in the play A Doll’s House is the message of feminism that really shook all corners of Europe when the play was first showed.

There was this scenario where Nora had rejections regarding marriage and becoming a mother, which is very typical to all women all over the world. This became quite a scandal to all the audiences of this play (Johnston 1).

From a general point of view, Ibsen found the reshaping of the whole European continent through a series of revolutions to be disturbing. The modernistic spirit, that suddenly emerged, influenced his concept of putting an intriguing unusual housewife hero as a form of a literary attack to the values of the middle-class.

This classical play has really pulled off that trigger of empowering a discussion as it has vastly been echoed all over Europe. Many interpretations have been made about this book in every coming generation, from a feministic approach to a Hegelian allegory. The story is absolutely will always make you taste a whole new difference in modern conformity.

A Doll’s House story revolved around the character of Nora Helmer. It focuses on how she needed to be awakened from the hurtful reality of being a mere domestic housewife upon the authoritative treatment received from either her father or her husband. She came to the point of questioning everything that has been occurring to her life and in all the things that she believed in.

The central theme of this play is about one’s absolute choice of deviating from the societal conformity. It is about preferring to fulfill the needs of one’s spiritual beliefs rather than embracing the acceptance of many. Nora is indeed the only character of the play who has portrayed this belief.

Nora Helmer is the heroine in this classical playwright. It was through her portrayal of her character did the whole story evolved around a very challenging central mystery. Whatever attacks are being made by the society to her true character, she still believes with dignity in everything she does. (1)Her motivations can be rooted from the reality that she always wanted to satisfy her husband.

This can be quoted from  line 511 of Act 1 – “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.” To his eyes, she wants to be the ideal wife, the one that every husband would want to have for the rest of his life.

She never wants to bring him so much disappointment and maybe that is why she never told him about the loans she was getting. She was totally dependent of him. This behavior is clearly a reflection of all the things she has undergone from her father, always being controlled. Towards the end of the story, her motivations changed into a more positive view upon realizing the nature of her role as a doll-daughter and as a doll-wife. With being so motivated to find her real self, she finally decided to leave home.

Another quote proves this - “A candle here-and flowers here— The horrible man! It's all nonsense—there's nothing wrong. The tree shall be splendid! I will do everything I can think of to please you, Torvald!—I will sing for you, dance for you  (Act 1, line 962). (2) Lying was a very effective strategy that Nora used in the first part of the story.

She continuously lied to her husband about so many things in order to please him. Simple questions are being answered by simple lies. And that is how grave her lying desperation is. She unconsciously used this strategy because she did not know much about herself, what she was capable of becoming and that she can have that absolute control over herself. As perfectly as she wanted to appear to her husband, lying is only the best thing she could do.

This can be quoted from Act 1, line 458 – “Yes—someday, 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. …” (3) Nora had her unforeseen circumstances in the story.

All through out the play that she was trying to please her husband, she was lying about almost anything. Getting a loan secretly and not informing her husband, Nora thought that she was doing a good job but later when Torvald found out about this, he got mad and extremely outrageous. This can be observed from the anger portrayed by Torvald on line 452 of Act 3 – “What a horrible awakening!

All these eight years—she who was my joy and pride—a hypocrite, a liar—worse, worse—a criminal! The unutterable ugliness of it455 all!—For shame! For shame! (NORA is silent and looks steadily at him. He stops in front of her.) I ought to have suspected that something of the sort would happen. I ought to have foreseen it. All your father's want of principle—be silent!—all your father's want of principle has come out in you. No religion, no morality,460 no sense of duty.

How I am punished for having winked at what he did! I did it for your sake, and this is how you repay me?”.Nora initially thought that she was doing her husband a big favor but the worst scenario came. (4)All through out the childhood of Nora, she has always lived with her father, totally dependent and never left him. This was also seen when she got married with Torvald Helmer. It was just the same scenario.

Later on, as she maturely realized her need to be independent, she abandoned her false and maskful responsibilities as a daughter and as a wife. It is proved in Act 1, line 615 – “I mean that I was simply transferred from papa's hands into yours. You arranged everything according to your own taste, and so I got the same tastes as your else I pretended to, I am really not quite sure which—I think sometimes the one and sometimes the other.

When I look back on it, it seems to me as if I had been living here like a poor woman—just from hand to mouth. I have existed merely to perform tricks for you, Torvald. But you would have it so. You and papa have committed a great sin against me. It is your fault that I have made nothing of my life.”  (5) Upon facing a crisis in her life, Nora had lots of flashbacks.

This can be quoted from Act 3, page 320 – “At that moment, Torvald, I realized that for eight years I'd been living her with a strange man and that I'd borne him three children. Oh, I can't bear to think of it -- I could tear myself to little pieces!” All through out her life, she was asked to wear a mask that will make her lie to her own self her real purpose to the people around her. She was being called with different names by her husband Torvald such as “little Miss obstinate” and “skylark”.

When she submitted at last from all of these lies, her concern was her future treatment to her children that she might do the same thing but then she knew what to do best, to leave home behind. This can be proved in line 786 of Act 3 – “Goodbye, Torvald. I won't see the little ones. I know they are in better hands than mine. As I am now, I can be of no use to them.” (6) Revelations came in slowly as a result of all of her misdeeds which initially just all were assumed to be a minor circumstance.

“No, only merry. And you have always been so kind to me. But our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was papa's doll-child; and here the children have been my dolls. I thought it great fun when you played with me, just as they thought it great fun when I played with them. That is what our marriage has been, Torvald.”(Act 3, line 627)

It was a big turning point on her part when she realized that from her childhood up to her marriage, she was just like a doll house that will always follow the directions of her father and husband. From the moment the abandonment of her family happened, she was being looked by everyone not just a feminist but also selfish individualist who only thinks of her own newly formed real self.

(7) Conflicts between Nora and the rest of the characters existed when their views are different from one another unlike the childhood relationship with her father where she should always be of the same opinion with him. It was proved on Act 3, line 604 – “It is perfectly true, Torvald.

When I was at home with papa, he told me his opinion about everything, and so I605 had the same opinions; and if I differed from him I concealed the fact, because he would not have liked it. He called me his doll-child, and he played with me just as I used to play with my dolls. And when I came to live with you.” (8) Nora’s husband, Torvald, has that total control over her. She acts accordingly to his words and expectations. Nora dances like a doll and acts like a doll.

This is what pleases her husband so much which in turn is just nothing to Nora. She lives by his rules. From Act 3 of page 230, it was quoted – “You don't talk or think like the man I could bind myself to. When your first panic was over -- not about what threatened me, but about what might happen to you -- and when there was no more danger, then, as far as you were concerned, it was just as if nothing had happened at all. I was simply your little songbird, your doll, and from now on you would handle it more gently than ever because it was so delicate and fragile.”

(9) Upon her final decision of flying away and leaving her marriage and motherhood for good, critic people coming from the society largely disagrees with her actions of doing so. They see her as a selfish individual who deviates from their standards of the society but this not for them to be finally judged. This can be seen in Act 3, line 680 – “I don't believe that any longer. I believe that before all680 else I am a reasonable human being, just as you are—or, at all events, that I must try and become one.

I know quite well, Torvald, that most people would think you right, and that views of that kind are to be found in books; but I can no longer content myself with what most people say, or with685 what is found in books. I must think over things for myself and get to understand them.”.Nora may be right in some context and she too may also be wrong in another context. Basically, I believe that she just have to do such thing for the well-being of herself, her husband, her children and even the other people that they may see her actions in a more optimistic manner rather than pessimistic.

In the 20th century times, there are still revolutions in some parts of the world but this does not change anymore the true dignity and honor of every person in every situation they are living in. There are still these women who chose to play the role of a doll, the one that is being controlled, because they have no other choice or they have nowhere else to go to.  And there will always be these women who will pursue their living for the truth in their hearts, one that is not deceiving to others and most especially to themselves. Above all, we should always remember that the truth will always and forever set us free from all things.


"Free Essays on A Doll's House - Use of Imagery." 29 Apr 2008 <>.

“A Doll’s House – A Study Guide.” 29 Apr 2008 <>

Johnston, Ian. “On Ibsen’s A Doll House.” 2000. Malaspina University-College. 29 April 2008 <>

Comparison of Women Characters in A Dollhouse and The Necklace

Both Nora of A doll’s House and Mathilda of The Necklace, has been portrayed as dramatic characters that possess the “freedom pf incongruity”.  This inappropriateness in their characters enables them to become extra-ordinary characters.

Their incongruity lies in the fact that both aspire an upward mobility i.e. a move into the higher societies.

They are prey to their circumstances as Mathilda "suffered ceaselessly, feeling herself born for all the delicacies and all the luxuries. She suffered from the poverty of her dwelling, from the wretched look of the walls, from the worn-out chairs, from the ugliness of the curtains".

(Maupassant) Mathilda only lets herself experience suffering only due to the fact that she thinks she deserves more in life than what she has. Nora too wants the luxuries of life.

Both are victims of Victorian socio-cultural milieu and morality. Mathilda had to suffer from the burden of gratitude that she owes to her friend. Maupassant depicts the values of Victorian moral consciousness as Mathilda had ruined her life to replace the necklace.

Ibsen has depicted a typical Victorian wife who is servile. She submits to her husbands harsh and normally acquiesces his will on mundane decision-making. She has no objection on her servility as Victorian has socialized her so but her domestic unrest agonizes her.

Both Maupassant and Ibsen have depicted the characters that have an air of immaturity about them as they are running behind illusions. Nora is depicted as a childish wife whereas Mathilda’s over-ambitiousness has blindfolded her to indulge in silly acts. This immaturity brings their ruination.

Parallels Between Nora in A Doll's House and Blanche in Streetcar Named Desire

Within the classic works of literature, there often exist parallels between characters, settings, themes, and the like.  An especially interesting example of parallels among characters exists between Nora in Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” and Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire”.

In this paper, the parallels between these characters will be presented, not only in the outward appearance and circumstances of both, but also in terms of common themes, symbolism, and more in order to provide a well rounded piece of research and evaluation of these complex protagonists.

Nora and Blanche Superficially Compared

To begin, Nora and Blanche will be compared in terms of their outward characteristics and environments so that a basis of comparison can be established on the most basic level, before more in-depth comparison can take place.

Nora, in “A Doll’s House”, is presented by Ibsen on the surface as a vulnerable woman, dependent upon the assistance and approval of others, especially men.  Having led a sheltered life, Nora grows up in the care of her father, and immediately moves to the care of her husband upon her marriage, giving the reader the distinct impression that she is totally reliant upon the help of others, or more precisely, the help of male figures of authority (Drake).

As a result of this fragility on her part, Nora becomes impulsive and materialistic as the work unfolds in the initial portions of it; however, the tantalizing suggestion exists that Nora uses a practiced vulnerability in order to ultimately manipulate the men in her life.  As the story reaches its climax, Nora emerges from her circumstances as a fully independent woman who rejects the idea that marriage and motherhood is necessary to validate her as a person (Ibsen).

Blanche, as portrayed in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” is also presented as somewhat vulnerable and reliant on others, but in different ways.  Early in her life, Blanche leans on a man whom she believes will be her husband and take care of her, but ultimately, through a series of complicated situations including his confrontation of his own homosexuality, he takes his own life, leaving Blanche to her own devices (Bloom).

In an effort to validate herself, Blanche becomes the caretaker for the elderly members of her family, watching each of them pass away one by one, and along with them, a piece of her dies as well.  Ultimately, Blanche finds herself seeking shelter and support from others when, as she loses her home and financial resources, she is forced to move into an apartment with another woman and man.

Like Nora, Blanche initially seeks validation and protection from men, but in her case, the men are a series of strangers with whom she indulges in intimacy in a fruitless search for attention, protection and a sense of herself (Combs).  Ultimately, Blanche is forced to face the reality of her inner self, and like Nora, come to some hard decisions about who she has been, who she will become, and how all of this will interrelate.

In comparing Nora and Blanche simply on the surface, we see two women who are seeking to find their way in the world so to speak, but more importantly, each is also trying to find out who they really are and also trying to find a sense of independence and validity despite trying circumstances.

This being understood, there are several key themes that these women have in common; themes that are more abstract but important nonetheless.  They are identified and discussed as follows:

Fantasy Versus Reality

Both Nora and Blanche find themselves in a struggle between fantasy and reality; initially, both women are lulled into the false fantasy world where men make them complete, validate their existence, and will help them to live happily ever after, as the classic fairy tale goes.

However, as reality sets in, both women find that they ultimately need to define themselves on their own, and the actual reality is that we all find ourselves alone and should not rely on someone else to complete or validate our existence.  For Nora, reality comes in the form of her independence from marriage and motherhood, which allows her the luxury of full expression of her inner self.  For Blanche, reality comes in the form of the gravity of her promiscuity and the effect that it has had on others, as well as herself.


For the entire action taking place around them, it is fair and accurate to assert that both Nora and Blanche are lonely in one sense or another.  While it is not the type of loneliness that comes from being totally alone, it is the type of loneliness that comes from not truly knowing anyone, including themselves.

Nora realizes eventually that she is a stranger even to herself, and this leaves her feeling quite alone.  For Blanche, faced with the seemingly constant loss of loved ones through illness and death, she is eventually alone in the literal sense, being the sole survivor of her family.  Loneliness permeates both of these characters, and shapes them forever, for better or worse.


The presence of romantic, emotional, and material desire is a common element to be found in both Nora and Blanche.  Desire is something that can be a positive motivator or a destructive force, and it manifests itself in both ways in the case of these characters, respectively.  In Nora’s case, desire first exists in terms of her desire to feel safe and protected by the men in her life, first her father and then her husband.

At the conclusion of “A Doll’s House”, Nora has a desire to be independent and define herself, which she pursues.  Blanche, in “A Streetcar Named Desire”, has desire of the amorous nature, which burns so hotly that it almost consumes her in its intensity.  At the conclusion of Blanche’s saga, her desire for the love of a man is what brings her full circle in her life experiences.

Constant Change

There is an old irony that says that the only constant in the world is change; in the case of these characters and works, this is definitely the case.  Change, for better or for worse, charts the course of Nora and Blanche throughout their respective stories.

Nora goes through a wide variety of changes, as her domestic situation changes through marriage, and changes once again as she comes to the realization that she is actually her own woman and does not need approval from others to thrive.

Blanche goes through the end of the “Old South” as her role models all fade into eternity and she must change all that she has known as her everyday life.  Both women change constantly and move forward with the action of their stories.

The Male and Female Dynamic

The dynamic between women and men is as old as time itself, and is a unifying theme in both “A Doll’s House” and “Streetcar Named Desire”.  Nora struggles with the issue of being subservient to a man and allowing him to shape her world, while Blanche seems to want to submit to a man in order to shape her world.

  These differences are along the same line of thinking- that men and women, for better or worse, do define each other to a certain extent, but total submission is a different situation altogether.  Both women interact with men, and it influences their lives for better or worse.

Closing Thoughts

On a higher level than the literal, Nora and Blanche represent some of the most intricate nuances of womanhood.  In their comparison, an understanding of the human soul as well, has been achieved.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold, ed. Tennessee Williams''s a Streetcar Named Desire. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.

Combs, Robert. "Philip C. Kolin, Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire." American Studies International 41.3 (2003): 104+.

Drake, David B. "Ibsen's a Doll House." Explicator 53.1 (1994): 32-34.

Ibsen, Henrik.  “A Doll’s House”.  Girard, Kansas: Halden Julius, 1923.


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