'A Doll's House' Questions for Study and Discussion

Henrik Ibsen's Famous Feminist Play

A Doll's House

Dover Publications

A Doll's House is an 1879 play by Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen, which tells the story of a discontented wife and mother. It was highly controversial at the time of its release, as it raised questions and criticism about the societal expectations of marriage, especially the subservient role women were expected to play. Nora Helmer is desperate to keep her husband Torvald from discovering that she forged loan documents, and thinks if she is revealed, he will sacrifice his honor for hers. She even contemplates killing herself to spare him this indignity.

Nora's being threatened by Nils Krogstad, who knows her secret and wants to reveal it if Nora doesn't help him. He's about to be fired by Torvald, and wants Nora to intervene. Her attempts are unsuccessful, however. She asks Kristine, a long-lost love of Krogstad's, to help her, but Kristine decides Torvald should know the truth, for the good of the Helmers' marriage.

When the truth comes out, Torvald disappoints Nora with his self-centered reaction. It's at this point Nora realizes she has never truly discovered who she is but has lived her life as a plaything for the use of first her father, and now her husband. At the end of the play, Nora Helmer leaves her husband and children in order to be herself, which she is unable to do as part of the family unit.

The play is based on a true story, of Laura Kieler, a friend of Ibsen's who went through many of the same things Nora did. Kieler's story had a less happy ending; Her husband divorced her and had her committed to an asylum.

Discussion Topics

  • What is important about the title? Who is the "doll" Ibsen refers to?
  • Who is the more significant female character in terms of plot development, Nora or Kristine? Explain your answer.
  • Do you think Kristine's decision not to prevent Krogstad from revealing the truth to Torvald is a betrayal of Nora? Does this act ultimately hurt or benefit Nora?
  • How does Henrik Ibsen reveal character in A Doll's House? Is Nora a sympathetic character? Did your opinion of Nora change from the beginning of the play to its conclusion?
  • Does the play end the way you expected? Do you think this was a happy ending?
  • A Doll's House is generally considered a feminist work. Do you agree with this characterization? Why or why not?
  • How essential is the setting, both in terms of time period and location? Could the play have taken place anywhere else? Would the final outcome have had the same impact if A Doll's House had been set in the present day? Why or why not?
  • Knowing that the plot is based on a series of events that happened to a female friend of Ibsen's, did it bother you that he used Laura Kieler's story without it benefiting her?
  • Which actress would you cast as Nora if you were to stage a production of A Doll's House? Who would play Torvald? Why is the choice of actor important to the role? Explain your choices.
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Your Citation
Lombardi, Esther. "'A Doll's House' Questions for Study and Discussion." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/a-dolls-house-questions-study-discussion-739517. Lombardi, Esther. (2020, August 26). 'A Doll's House' Questions for Study and Discussion. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/a-dolls-house-questions-study-discussion-739517 Lombardi, Esther. "'A Doll's House' Questions for Study and Discussion." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/a-dolls-house-questions-study-discussion-739517 (accessed March 24, 2023).