Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, considers a very delicate situation experienced by a Scandinavian family in 1879. Nora Helmer, the main character and adored wife of Torvald faces a life-altering dilemma. She has to decide whether to remain with her obsessive husband in his sheltered home, playing the part of a doll, or take the initiative to leave and seek out her own individuality. There are three minor characters that have a significant impact on the final decision that Nora attains. Each one, representing some particular social aspect, is essential to the development of Nora’s character. Krogstad, Dr. Rank and Mrs.
Linde have all had a long-standing relationship with the Helmer family, but neither character can provide Nora with a completely reassuring path to follow. She must discover this for herself, as they can only help to point her in another direction other than the one that Torvald has. Nils Krogstad is in fear of losing his job at the bank. He will stop at nothing in order to retain his position, as he has struggled relentlessly to get to where he is now. Krogstad was guilty of committing the same crime as that of Nora and although their motives were different, the law still regards their actions as fraudulent.
In all of his ruthlessness and selfishness, Krogstad represents the desperation that Nora experience’s throughout the play as she tries to figure a way out of her desperate situation. She had gone to him in her time of need and now he has approached her in his time of despair. However, she is unable to assist him because it would mean that she would have to involve Torvald and that is the last thing she wants to happen. Thus, Krogstad retaliates by explaining to her that if he goes down, she will go with him. ‘But I tell you this: if I’m pitched out a second time, you are going to keep me company’;(Ibsen 29).
He shows no sympathy, as he does not hesitate to destroy the reputations of both Nora and Helmer for his own benefit and to further his own standing in society. The character of Krogstad demonstrates that although one can overcome their fault and eventually move on with life, that person will ultimately revert to other similar acts of ruthlessness later in life. Dr. Rank is also a long-time acquaintance of the Helmer’s and makes frequent visits to their household. Nora enjoys secretly flirting with him until he admits that he has had a profound affection towards her for quite some time. This causes her to become upset towards Dr.
Rank because his confession means that they can no longer continue their secretive game together. The connotation of the name ‘Rank’ has a symbolic meaning in Ibsen’s play. The word rank denotes a stink or rot and may very well represent the depression experienced in Nora’s life. The significance of his life helps to exemplify the loneliness and misery experienced by someone living in solitude. Evidence of his desolation occurs when he says, ‘I’m slowly sinking. There’s nothing to be done about it’; (Ibsen 45), and furthermore when he explains how he does not wish to see Torvald once the dying process begins.
On no account must he. I won’t have it. I’ll lock the door on him. –As soon as I’m absolutely certain of the worst, I’ll send you my visiting card with a black cross on it. You’ll know when the final horrible disintegration has begun (Ibsen 45). The very existence and fate of Dr. Rank manifests a sense of sorrow and despair and this forces Nora to take into consideration the particular lifestyle of his when making her decision to leave her family and home. Mrs. Kristine Linde is a longtime confidante of Nora, and until the beginning of the play, has not seen her for nine or ten years.
Since then, her husband has died and she was left with nothing, having to open a shop and run a school in order to get by. Now, she has returned to the Helmer’s in search of more work. Mrs. Linde represents the social conformity that women can accomplish in that era. An example occurs when Nora asks her how it is possible that she was left with nothing and still able to move on. Mrs. Linde casually replies, ‘Oh, it sometimes happens, Nora’; (Ibsen 8). Although she was able to overcome the death of her husband, it does not mean that she has necessarily been happy all this time, as she states,
These last three years have been one long relentless drudge…Just utterly empty. Nobody to live for any more. That’s why I couldn’t stand it any longer being cut off up there. Surely it must be a bit easier here to find something to occupy your mind’; (Ibsen 11). The character of Mrs. Linde allows Nora to understand that by leaving, she will undergo many hardships however, she provides Nora with assurance, a sense of hope that women can make a living on their own, without a husband at their side.
In the end, all three minor characters have undergone a radical change, having arrived at some other position in life. Krogstad and Mrs. Linde have become a couple, and Dr. Rank is soon to pass away. This is significant, as Nora has chosen to abandon her family to pursue her own independence and individuality. She will no longer play the part of a doll and depend on Torvald to support her and resolve all of her problems and thus, takes a giant step forward towards the development of women as their own individuals.
Ibsen’s A Doll’s House explores the role of women in the late 1800’s and stresses the importance of their realization of this believed inferiority. Living in our present day society sometimes causes us to underestimate the transition that women have undergone throughout these last hundred years. However, Nora’s progression at the end of the play arouses an awareness to an awakening society recognizing the changing view of the status of women at that time.