Act 3, Part 3
A maid brings in a letter for Nora, just delivered. Helmer takes it himself. It is from Krogstad. Helmer frantically tears it open, reads, then gives a shout of joy: "Nora, I am saved!" Nora asks, "And I?" Absently, Helmer answers, "You too, of course." Then he explains that Krogstad, who has undergone some happy change, has repented, and he has returned the incriminating bond and freed them of all obligation and worry. Helmer burns the bond and the letters. He is ecstatic. To his mind, the whole ordeal is over now. But he wonders why Nora keeps looking at him with a "cold, set face." He promises that he has "forgiven" her, and says he knows she did it out of love for him. "That is true," she answers. He then begins another lecture, telling her that she has no head for these matters, so she must lean on him, let him guide and direct her. "I should not be a man if this womanly helplessness did not just give you a double attractiveness in my eyes." He swears again that he has forgiven her.
"Thank you for your forgiveness," she replies coldly, and goes to her room.
Helmer thinks she is dressing for bed. He paces outside her door, talking. He says he will protect her, shelter her. And he is glad he has forgiven her. For a man to forgive his wife makes her "doubly his own ... she has in a way become both wife and child to him. So you shall be for me after this, my little scared, helpless darling. ... only be open and frank with me, and I will serve as [your] will and conscience both."
Nora comes out, wearing not bedclothes but street clothes. She tells him to sit down, she has something to say. Helmer is alarmed. Nora tells him to listen and not interrupt her, that "this is a settling of accounts." She asks, is it not strange that though they have been married eight years, this is the first time they have sat down together to have a serious conversation? He doesn't understand. She begins her explanation.
She says she has been greatly wronged, first by her father, then by her husband. "I have existed merely to perform tricks for you ... 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." She says their home has been only a playroom and she has been Helmer's doll wife, just as she was her father's doll child and the children have been her dolls in turn. She says it is true that she is not fit to raise children, but not for the reasons Helmer gave. (He protests he didn't mean those things.) Before she can be fit to raise children, she says, she must undertake to educate herself. And that is why she is leaving him.
Helmer springs up; he is astonished, calls her a "blind, foolish woman." Doesn't she care what people will say? (Helmer always thinks of appearances first.) And how can she neglect her "most sacred duties"¾those to her husband and children? She replies, "I have other duties just as sacred. ... Duties to myself." Helmer argues that before all else she is a wife and mother. Nora counters, "I believe that before all else I am a reasonable human being just as you are¾or, at all events, that I must try to become one. ... I must think over things for myself and get to understand them."
Helmer asks if she has no religion. She says she does not know what religion is; that's one of the things she means to look into. He asks if she has no moral sense. She says, again, that she does not know: "The thing perplexes me altogether." Neither does she understand the law, which says that "a woman has no right to spare her old dying father or to save her husband's life." Helmer says that she is talking like a child, that she sounds ill, delirious, mad. Her reply: "I have never felt my mind so clear and certain as tonight."
There is only one explanation, then, says her husband: You do not love me anymore. She says that is true: She forfeited that love tonight, when "the wonderful thing did not happen." She explains that she had always assumed that in a great crisis, Helmer would sacrifice himself for her. She had thought that when he read Krogstad's letter, he was going to take the blame upon himself to protect her, and that was why she was going to kill herself, to protect him in turn. Helmer is perplexed: "I would gladly ... bear sorrow and want for your sake. But no man would sacrifice his honor for the one he loves." Her reply: "It is a thing hundreds of thousands of women have done."
Nora continues, explaining that as soon as the danger to himself was over, her husband was ready to act as if nothing had happened, except that now he would treat her even more like a fragile doll than before. It was then that she realized she had spent eight years with a stranger.
She prepares to go. Helmer pleads that he can change; Nora says he cannot begin to change until his doll is taken away from him. She announces that since she is leaving him, that frees him from all marital obligation to her. She returns her wedding ring to him, and takes his. They are finished as man and wife. And he must not try to find or contact her in any way, she warns. Helmer asks, "Can I never be anything more than a stranger to you?" She replies, "Ah, Torvald, the most wonderful thing of all would have to happen. Both you and I would have to be so changed that¾Oh, Torvald, I don't believe any longer in wonderful things happening." Helmer pleads, "But I will believe in it. Tell me. So changed that¾?" She finishes, "That our life together would be a real wedlock. Good-bye."
Nora leaves. Helmer sinks to a chair, calls to her, rises again: "Empty! She is gone!" Then "a hope flashes across his mind" and he says, "The most wonderful thing of all¾?"
The sound of a door shutting is heard.
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Points to Ponder
Did You Know
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