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Act 2, Part 1

The Same Scene, Christmas Day

Nora is alone in the living room, pacing about uneasily and talking to herself. She tries to convince herself that Krogstad will not come today, that "he can't be in earnest." The Nurse enters. She says the children are asking for their mamma. Nora, who has been avoiding them since Helmer's comments about the evil a deceitful mother can do, says, "Yes¾ but, Nurse, I shall not be able to be so much with them as I was before." Nurse replies that children can get accustomed to anything, and Nora mysteriously asks, "Do you think so? Do you think they would forget their mother if she went away altogether?"

After Nurse leaves, Nora begins to unpack a box containing her costume for the ball. She is very high strung. She resumes talking nervously to herself, tries to banish disagreeable thoughts, then screams.

Mrs. Linde comes in. Nora had asked her to come to help her mend her costume. Helmer wants Nora to go to the ball dressed as a Neapolitan fishergirl and to dance the tarantella. Mrs. Linde begins to mend the dress and she and Nora talk. We learn from their conversation that Dr. Rank was depressed at Christmas dinner last night, and that he is quite ill. Nora intimates that Dr. Rank's father "was a horrible man who committed all sorts of excesses, and that is why his son was sickly from childhood." Mrs. Linde asks a few pointed questions about Nora's relationship with Dr. Rank, then advises that she end the friendship. She mistakenly thinks that he is the one who lent Nora the money. Nora disabuses her of this, and almost tells her the whole truth, but then Helmer comes home and they part.

A revealing conversation ensues between Nora and her husband. Helmer praises himself for his good idea about Nora's costume. Nora praises him also, but then asks, "Wasn't it nice of me, too, to do as you wish?" Helmer replies, "Nice?¾because you do as your husband wishes? Well, well, you little rogue, I am sure you did not mean it in that way." Next, adopting the role Helmer has defined for her, Nora begins to wheedle him for a favor: "If your little squirrel were to ask you for something very, very prettily ...Would you do it? ... Your squirrel would run about and do all her tricks if you would be nice and do what she wants ... Your skylark would chirp, chirp about in every room... I would play the fairy and dance for you in the moonlight, Torvald." He guesses that the favor is for him to let Krogstad keep his position at the bank. That Nora has renewed her plea angers him. He says that her very interference makes it impossible for him to keep Krogstad, because everyone knows that he means to dismiss him and he will not have it said that he changed his mind at his wife's bidding. Furthermore, he says, the fact that he and Krogstad were once childhood friends makes Krogstad think he has the right to "adopt a familiar tone" with Helmer, now his superior. This annoys Helmer, who wants to be shown the proper deference, especially in the presence of others. Nora calls this attitude "narrow-minded," which angers Helmer more, so that he immediately calls a maid to take Krogstad his letter of dismissal then and there. Nora panics. Helmer takes her in his arms, says he "forgives" her for her silly fancy, and tells her to go practice her dance. When he leaves, Nora stands bewildered, whispering to herself, "Oh, for some help, some way out of it!"

Doctor Rank enters, and he and Nora talk alone. The doctor reveals that he is dying. He says that it will be an ugly, revolting death, and no one should see it, especially not Helmer, whose "refined nature gives him an unconquerable disgust at everything that is ugly." Therefore, says the doctor, when the time comes he will lock his doors and send Nora and Helmer a card with a black cross on it. Nora tries to lighten the tone of the conversation. She tells Doctor Rank to sit beside her while she mends her stockings. She begins flirting with him, then asks him to do her a favor. He says he would do anything for her, and then he confesses that he has always been in love with her. She is startled by this statement. What startles her is not that he loves her (at some level she suspected as much, which is why she flirted with him before asking for a favor) but that he has openly said so, which means that now she cannot ask the favor without putting herself in a bad position. The favor, obviously, would have been that he advance her the money to pay off Krogstad.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Act 1, Part 1
Act 1, Part 2
Act 2, Part 1
Act 2, Part 2
Act 3, Part 1
Act 3, Part 2
Act 3, Part 3


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