Of the determined women and the schemers in 'A Doll's House'

There are plenty of back-stabbers and dishonest characters in the book "A Doll's House". PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Characters in any piece of writing are very important because the writer uses them to address his or her issues.
  • Their words and actions play an important role in highlighting crucial matters in the text.

There are plenty of back-stabbers and dishonest characters in the book, just as there are female characters who mean well, writes Lucy Kamau.

Characters in any piece of writing are very important because the writer uses them to address his or her issues. Their words and actions play an important role in highlighting crucial matters in the text. In A Doll’s House, the main characters are Helmer, Nora, Linde and Krogstad.


Torvald Helmer

He is Nora’s husband and the head of the family who has currently been promoted to a managerial position in a bank.

At the beginning of the play, he is portrayed as a loving and caring husband, but as the play progresses, his true character is unmasked and he turns out to be a totally different person from what the audience was made to believe initially.

He is patronising and overbearing. He treats his wife like a child who is incapable of making any sound decisions even in the simplest matters. He exercises his power over her and she cannot do anything in the house without his permission.

At the beginning of the play, Nora is coming from shopping and she is hiding a packet of macaroons in her pocket from where she cautiously removes and eats one or two and quickly wipes his mouth when Helmer walks out of his study.

She cannot enjoy the macaroons because her husband forbids them and says they are not good for her health. He also refers to her as the little featherhead who is incapable of making important financial decisions and has to be taught about being careful with money. He also advises her on how to make a beautiful home that is free from debts.

Helmer is selfish and cowardly and only cares about his reputation and happiness. When he learns about Nora’s secret, he scolds and insults her for ruining his future and destroying his happiness.

He does not appreciate the sacrifice she has made for him and the pain she experienced by trying to pay the loan that saved his life. Instead, he cares so much about what people will say about him if they find out that he was saved by his wife. He is not courageous enough to face the reality and stand up for his wife without fearing the society.

His self-righteousness is highlighted when he criticises and judges other people from the mistakes they have made in their lives. He refuses to retain Krogstad in the bank, claiming that he is morally diseased. He says he feels physically ill in the company of such people. He also accuses Nora’s father of lacking morality, religion or a sense of duty and Nora of having inherited the same traits from her father.

The seemingly loving and caring husband, who is ready to sacrifice his life’s blood for his wife, suddenly confesses that no man can sacrifice his honour for the one he loves. This is after he finds out that Nora has committed a forgery, which, in his view, is a serious crime. He even forbids her from taking care of the children to avoid infecting them with lies and dishonesty. This only goes to show how hypocritical and pretentious he is.

His role is to highlight the themes of hypocrisy and deception at the same time representing the male chauvinists who believe that they are more superior to their female counterparts.



She is Helmer’s wife and the mother of their three children. Just like Helmer, the character she exhibits at the beginning of the play is a façade, which makes her seem like a childish, naive and helpless woman who cannot do anything without the help of her husband. This, however, changes as the play progresses.

She is responsible and caring. When she discovers that her husband is seriously ill and needs a change of climate to improve his health, she takes the responsibility and takes a loan for them to go for a holiday in the south. This works and her husband’s health improves. She also cares for her ailing father, and that’s why she doesn’t tell him about her scheme.

Her secretive nature is brought out when she borrows a loan behind her husband ‘s back and works secretly to pay it off. She keeps the secret for many years until her friend Christine Linde visits her and she confides in her.

It is her scheming nature that enables her to get a loan to save her husband. When she realises that her husband will not fall for her tricks, she resorts to forging her father’s signature to acquire a loan. She then tells her husband that she got the money from her father and they took the holiday. During the tarantella dance practice, she pretends that she has forgotten the dance completely and insists that Helmer must stay with her the whole evening to help her practice. This is just a scheme to distract Helmer and delay the opening of the letter box, which contains the letter from Krogstad that details her secret.

Nora is daring and bold. Despite the knowledge that women are not allowed to take loans without their husband’s consent, she goes ahead and does it. To make matters worse, she commits a forgery in the process. Such a moves called for a lot of courage on her part and, according to her, it gives her tremendous pleasure to do what men do: working and earning money.

She is tenacious and determined. when she realises that her marriage is founded on deceit, she decides to call it quits and no amount of persuasion from her husband can make her change her mind. She is convinced she needs to be on her own so she can discover and understand herself and even the love for her children does not deter her from walking out on her marriage.


Christine Linde

She is an old friend of Nora’s and a widow who has come to town to look for a job after the death of her husband.

She is caring and responsible. She takes care of her sick mother and two younger brothers. When she realises that her husband does not have money, she leaves him and gets married to a rich businessman so that she can take care of her sick mother and two brothers. She sacrifices the love she has for her husband for her family, showing her caring nature. After the death of her husband, she goes back to town to look for a job, and this is where she meets Krogstad, her former lover and reassures him that she is ready to take care of him once again.

Her self-sacrificing nature is seen when she gives up her love and marriage for the sake of her family. She also sacrifices her comfort and overworks herself to ensure that her family is taken care of. She is also ready to sacrifice her comfort and take care of both Krogstad and his children.

Mrs. Linde is hardworking and independent. She has spent the better part of her life working for her family. She says that her life feels empty without work and that is why she has come to town to look for work. Being an independent woman, she manages to survive after her husband’s death by trying different businesses.

Linde represents the self-sacrificing and independent women who are ready to take risks and make independent decisions and are not at the mercy of their male counterparts. She also plays the role of developing other characters like Nora and Krogstad, whose true personalities are revealed after interacting with her.


Nils Krogstad

He is the antagonist in the play and it is he who sets off the conflict and plays the very important role of developing the plot. It is through his blackmails and threats that the true colours of both Nora and Helmer are revealed.

He is dishonest and corrupt. Helmer says that he committed forgery and instead of owning up and accepting the punishment, he used crooked ways to clear his name, and this is why Helmer cannot stand him. He also colludes with Nora and gives her a loan, which she has to pay in secret.

He is also scheming. He and Nora come up with a plot to help her get a loan behind her husband’s back and they keep it a secret until his position in the bank is threatened.


The writer teaches at Alliance Girls High School