'A Doll's House' Characters: Descriptions and Analysis

In Henrik Ibsen's A Doll’s House, characters use false surfaces and middle class comforts to conceal their struggles and neuroses. As the play unfolds, the characters face the consequences of these suppressed feelings, with each individual handling the consequences differently.

Nora Helmer

Nora Helmer is the protagonist of the play. When she is introduced at the beginning of Act I, she seems to revel in the comforts that her middle-class life allows her. She is happy to have lots of money and not have to worry about anything. Her demeanor, initially, is childish and coquettish, and her husband routinely refers to her as “lark” or “little squirrel”—in fact, Torvald does treat her like a pretty doll, getting a rush of erotic excitement when she dons a “Neapolitan-style” costume and dances the tarantella, like a puppet.

However, Nora has a more resourceful side. Before the events of the play, Torvald was ill and needed to travel to Italy to heal. The couple did not have enough money, so Nora took out a loan by forging her dead father’s signature, effectively committing fraud to save her husband's health. This side of Nora fully emerges during the denouement of the play, when she finally understands that her marriage was based on societal conventions and that she is more than a simple doll for men to enjoy at their leisure. 

Torvald Helmer

Torvald Helmer is Nora's husband and the newly promoted manager of the local joint stock bank. He routinely spoils Nora and claims to be in love with her, but he talks to down to her and treats her like a doll. He calls her names like “lark" and little squirrel," implying that he considers Nora endearing but not an equal. He was never told exactly how Nora came up with the money for his medical trip to Italy. If he knew, his pride would suffer.

Torvald values appearances and formality in society. The reason he fires Krogstad has less to do with the fact that Krogstad committed forgery and more to do with the fact that Krogstad did not address him with the appropriate respect and formality. After Torvald reads Krogstad’s letter detailing Nora’s crime, he becomes enraged at his wife for committing an act that could damage his own reputation (despite the fact that her goal was to save his life). Nora eventually leaves him, he emphasizes how inappropriate it is for a woman to abandon her husband and children. Overall, he has a superficial view of the world and seems unable to deal with the unpleasantness of life.

Dr. Rank

Dr. Rank is a rich family friend, who, unlike Torvald, treats Nora as an intelligent human being. He is quick to point out that Krogstad is “morally ill.” During the timeframe in which the play takes place, he is ailing from the final stages of tuberculosis of the spine, which, based on what he told Nora, he inherited from his philandering father, who had a venereal disease. At the end of the play, he tells only Nora that his time has come, as he thinks this information would be too “ugly” for Torvald. He has been in love with Nora for a long time, but she only loves him platonically, as a friend. He acts as a foil to Torvald in the way he talks to Nora, to whom he reveals his seriously deteriorating health. Nora, in turn, acts more like a sentient being and less like a doll around him.

Kristine Linde

Kristine Linde is an old friend of Nora’s. She is in town looking for a job because her late husband died bankrupt and she has to support herself. She used to be romantically involved with Krogstad, but she married someone else for financial security and in order to provide support to her brothers (now grown) and to her invalid mother (now deceased). With nobody left to care for, she feels empty. She asks Nora to intercede for her in asking Torvald for a job, which he is happy to give her, given that she has experience in the field. By the end of the play, Kristine Linde reunites with Krogstad. Her life trajectory makes her a foil to childlike Nora, and she is the one who persuades Krogstad to recuse the accusations towards Nora. However, because she sees the deception at the heart of Nora's marriage, she won't allow Krogstad to destroy the original letter that details Nora’s crime, as she believes that the Helmers’ marriage could benefit from some truth.

Nils Krogstad

Nils Krogstad is an employee at Torvald’s bank. He is the person who lent Nora money so that she could take Torvald to Italy to recover from his illness. After Torvald fires him, Krogstad asks Nora to plead with her husband to reconsider his decision. When Nora refuses to do so, he threatens to expose the illegal loan she got from him. As the play progresses, Krogstad's demands escalate, to the point that he also demands a promotion. At the end of the play, Krogstad reunites with Kristine Linde (to whom he was once engaged) and recants his threats to the Helmers. 

Anne Marie 

Anne Marie is Nora’s former nanny, the only mother-like figure Nora ever knew. She is now helping the Helmers with child-rearing. In her youth, Anne Marie had a child out of wedlock, but she had to give up the child in order to start working as Nora’s nurse. Much like Nora and Kristine Linde, Anne Marie had to make a sacrifice for the sake of financial security. Nora knows that if she leaves her family, Anne Marie will take care of her children, which makes the decision less unbearable to Nora.

Ivar, Bobby, and Emmy

The Helmers’ children are named Ivar, Bobby and Emmy. When Nora plays with them, she appears to be a doting and playful mother, perhaps as a nod to her childlike demeanor.