Bollocks Essay, Research Paper
Act II is largely a continuation of themes and character development
that were introduced in the first act: Helmer’s preoccupation with beauty in
the household continues to be prevalent in Act II. Nora says “Yes, Torvald
knows how to make it nice and pretty around here.” Nora seems to have
been raised in a setting that valued appearance and beauty as well. Mrs.
Linde comments that Nora also knows how to make things “nice and
pretty” undoubtedly, because she is “her father’s daughter.” As for Helmer,
Nora says that “Torvald can’t stand having sewing around.” This is probably
because he likes the idea and the appearance of a carefree wife who does
not have to work, but is mostly a showpiece.
Nora herself uses Helmer’s pet names for herself when she is trying
to get something out of him, because she knows he likes it. Her own speech
shows how part of her wifely duties seems to be putting on a cute show:
“Squirrel would run around and do all sorts of fun tricks if you’d be nice and
agreeable . . . Lark would chirp and twitter in all the rooms, up and down .
. . I’ll be your elfmaid and dance for you in the moonlight, Torvald.”
The idea of moral corruption being transferred to the children of the
morally decrepit is carried on in Act II as well. While in Act I, Helmer tells
of the phenomenon of young criminals being the result of a household full of
lies, in Act II Nora explains Rank’s poor health by saying that his father was
Nora continues to demonstrate her perception of gender roles in
Act II. Referring to the money-borrowing business, she says “A man
manages these things so much better than a woman.” Helmer adds to the
idea of a subservient wife when he teases Nora by ridiculing the idea that a
woman has a right to choose whether or not to obey her husband. Helmer’s
delight in Nora’s dependence on him is also shown when he uses “you
helpless little thing” and “the child” almost as terms of endearment.
The theme of a woman’s influence over her husband is also
continued in Act II. Helmer is worried about what people will think of him if
they believe that his wife influenced his business decisions. He says that this
would make him look ridiculous before his entire staff.
In Act II, “the wonderful” is introduced. Nora uses this term to
describe what will happen when Helmer finds out what she has done. The
meaning of this is explained in Act III.
Act III begins with Krogstad and Mrs. Linde in the Helmers’ house.
The audience learns that Mrs. Linde broke off romantic relations with
Krogstad in order to marry her husband, who was better off financially.
Mrs. Linde says that she felt she had to do this for the sake of her brothers
and mother. She now sees now that she was wrong to ignore her heart,
which told her to stay with Krogstad. She says that she wants to get back
together with him and to take care of him and his children. She indicates
that this is why she came to town in the first place. She admits that her
original reason for talking with Krogstad that night was to help Nora, but
she says that she realizes that “you may sell yourself once for somebody
else’s sake, but you don’t do it twice.” Krogstad says he will wait for Mrs.
Linde downstairs and walk her home.
Nora and Helmer come in the door, Nora resisting and saying that
she wants to go back to the party. Mrs. Linde secretly tells Nora that after
talking to Krogstad she realizes that Nora must tell Helmer everything. Mrs.
Linde leaves and Helmer makes a rude comment about her after she leaves.
Helmer begins to make sexual advances towards Nora and she tries to stop
him. Rank knocks on the door. Nora and Rank have a private conversation
which Helmer does not participate in, about the experiment that Rank was
to do on himself. He says that the result is “certainty.” Rank leaves. Helmer
goes to get the mail and notices that someone has been tampering with the
lock using one of Nora’s hairpins. Nora blames it on the children. In the
mail, Helmer finds that Rank has left two calling cards with black crosses
on them. Nora explains to Helmer that this means he has gone away to die.
Then she encourages Helmer to read his letters.
He goes into the other room and Nora paces for a while. She puts
on Helmer’s cloak and her shawl on her head. She is saying her goodbyes
when Helmer comes out of the study in a rage. So begins the climax of the
play. She tries to get out but he will not let her. She confesses to loving him
more than anything and he accuses her of making silly excuses. Helmer
bemoans the ugliness of the business of borrowing from Krogstad and the
forgery, and is extremely upset that his wife is a hypocrite and criminal. He
cannot fathom how she could do such a thing to him. He says that they will
have to pretend to go on as normal, but Nora should no longer be able to
see the children. By this point, Nora’s facial expression has become frozen
with comprehension. She is beginning to realize the true state of her
marriage. The maid then comes in with a letter for Nora. Helmer takes it
and reads it. It is from Krogstad. He has decided to stop blackmailing
Nora and has returned the promissory note. Helmer is extremely relieved.
He reassures Nora that he has forgiven her. He seems to think that
everything can go back to normal.
Helmer sees that Nora has changed into everyday clothes. Nora
says that Helmer has never understood her and that she has never
understood him–until that night. She says that neither Helmer, nor her
father ever loved her, but rather treated her as a beautiful, cute plaything–a
doll. She realizes that she was never happy in Helmer’s doll house, but was
just having fun. Nora says that she is leaving Helmer. He tries to forbid her,
but he no longer has power over Nora. He then tries to persuade Nora to
stay in order to fulfill her “sacred duties” to her husband and her children.
She says that she has an equally important duty to herself.
She says that she has realized that she is childlike and that she
knows nothing about the world. Helmer says this is why she should stay
with him–so he can take care of her. She says she must go out into the
world and learn. Finally, Nora says that she does not love Helmer. She
explains what “the wonderful” is to Helmer. That would have been if he had
tried to take the blame for her, showing his willingness to sacrifice for love.
Helmer replies that on does not do this. Nora responds that many women
have done so. She adds that she was sure that Helmer would try to cover
for her, so she had been planning to take her own life in order to prevent
that. Helmer’s only response to this is that he would work long hours for his
wife, but that “nobody sacrifices his honor for love.” Nora returns his
wedding ring and takes the ring he wears back from him. She says that they
can have no contact anymore and frees him of all responsibility for her.
Finally, Nora says that the “most wonderful” would be a “true marriage” but
that she no longer believes in that. This is what would be required for her to
As Helmer is trying to decipher this, the slamming of a heavy door
downstairs is shut. This emphatically resolves the play. Nora has decided to
leave her doll’s house, in which she is a plaything, behind in favor of learning
about the real world with the hope of becoming a real human being.
Act III is Nora’s awakening. Nora’s dependence on Helmer makes
Helmer think that he has the right to whatever he wants from Nora. When
she does not respond to his advances after the party, he is incredulous,
saying “I’m your husband, aren’t I?” He will not accept anything that Nora
has done on her own without consulting him. He revels in the evening of the
costume party because he chose Nora’s costume and coached her in
Nora’s dependence on Helmer breeds an extreme inequality in the
relationship which is a reflection of the societal tendencies at the time.
Helmer feels that he has absolute say over what Nora does because he
regards her as a possession. He calls her, in fact “my most precious
possession.” When Nora acquiesces and says “Everything you do is right,”
Helmer happily responds that finally “my little lark is talking like a human
being.” As shown by both Nora’s and Mrs. Linde’s experiences, it is
accepted and even expected for a woman to sacrifice herself for those she
loves. In Mrs. Linde’s case, she felt that she did not have the right to marry
the man she loved because it would not be lucrative enough to support the
rest of her family. She felt that she did not have the right to choose her own
happiness, so she sacrificed for others. Nora committed a serious crime in
order to save her husband’s life. She then expects that Helmer’s reaction to
her predicament will be trying to save her, especially after he tells her of his
fantasies in which he risks life and limb for her. However, when it comes
right down to it, he has no intention of sacrificing anything for her. He thinks
only of himself, even though, in Act II, when faced with the possibility of
libel authored by Krogstad, he says “Whatever happens, you’ll see that
when things get really rough I have both strength and courage. You’ll find
out that I am man enough to shoulder the whole burden.”
In Act III, when he realizes that his dear wife has actually committed
a crime, he panics, threatens and blames her, and then begins to think of
ways to cover up the shame. When Krogstad’s second letter comes,
Helmer’s response is “I’m saved!” He says nothing about Nora. It seems to
go without saying to him that what happens to Helmer happens to Nora as
well. Helmer accuses Nora of “betraying your most sacred duties” by
leaving, but he seems to see no value in the crime she committed to save his
life. She saw this as a duty that could not be shirked.
In Act III, the reader comes to understand what “the wonderful” is.
This is the idealized exchange of sacrifice that should mark a loving
relationship. Nora, in Act II, is sure that when Helmer finds out her
predicament he will try to protect her–that he will sacrifice for her. She
hinted earlier, in her discussion with Mrs. Linde in Act II, that she was
worried that Helmer would take the blame. This is why she was planning to
take her own life to prevent this. In actuality, Helmer thinks only of himself
and “the wonderful” never happens. Helmer’s explanation for this is that
“nobody sacrifices his honor for his love.” Nora then points out to him that
“A hundred thousand women have done so.”
Helmer is so self-absorbed that when he notices a frozen expression
on Nora’s face, he assumes that it is because she cannot believe that he has
forgiven her. In actuality, it is because she realizes that her marriage is no
longer livable. She has realized that her husband does not see her as a
person, but rather as a possession. Also, Helmer has not really forgiven her.
He is only willing to forget the incident now that it has no detrimental
consequences since the promissory note has been torn up and burned.
After the danger to his reputation has passed, Helmer becomes gracious
and protective of Nora. He says “Here I’ll keep you safe like a hunted dove
I have rescued from the hawk’s talons.” In actuality, Helmer has done
nothing to save Nora, while she sacrificed much to save his very life. He
further shows his egotism when he says that forgiving her has made her “his
very own all over again.” In other words, his gracious forgiveness has once
again made her a perfect object in his eyes instead of a real person who
might happen to have faults.
Helmer does eventually realize that what Nora did, she did for love
of him. He does not see her actions as extraordinary, however, but rather
an indication that, as he says “you have loved me the way a wife ought to
love her husband.” He further insults her by saying her real problem is that
she did not know how to properly act on her own; that she should have
relied completely on him. He says “I wouldn’t be a man if I didn’t find you
twice as attractive because of your womanly helplessness.”
Helmer’s only concern is still with appearances. Helmer’s and
Nora’s exit from the party was completely based on what would look best.
Helmer did not want to “weaken the effect” by actually letting Nora be
herself and speak afterwards. He ushered her out right away. Later, Helmer
tells Mrs. Linde that she should take up embroidery instead of knitting,
simply because it is better looking. When he finds out the truth about what
Nora has done, he gives no thought to her motives and her sacrifices for
him. He easily dismisses their entire marriage and happiness as effectively
over, but insists on trying to preserve appearances.
When Nora realizes where his real interests lie, she perfectly sums
up their situation by saying that both Helmer and her father never loved her,
but rather “You only thought it was fun to be in love with me.” She further
goes on to say that “I have earned my keep by doing tricks for you.” She
realizes that since she was treated as a child, she still is very childlike and
she needs to grow up before she can raise any children or take on any
other responsibilities. Nora’s taking a stand is the first indication of growing
up. When Helmer tries to forbid Nora from leaving, she realizes that she no
longer has to yield to his power. She has her own power. The height of her
awakening comes when she tells Helmer that she her duty to herself is
equally as sacred as those to her husband and children. She says that she
has to think of herself first. She realizes that she is indeed a human being
before she is a wife and a mother.
It is interesting to note that Mrs. Linde has made a similar discovery
the same night. She begins to speak to Krogstad with the intention of
getting him to take his letter back, but she ends up deciding that she would
be happy with Krogstad and that she should have been with him all along
instead of trying to obey her duty to her family.
The most important realization that affects Helmer and Nora’s
disagreement over how they should proceed is as follows: Torvald
dismisses Nora by saying that she does not understand anything about
society. He takes this as a sign that she has to be sheltered, protected and
guided by him. Nora, however, agrees that she has very little knowledge in
the ways of the world, but this tells her that she should go out into the world
and experience things for herself and learn. Later, Nora speaks of “the most
wonderful,” which would be “a true marriage.” However, Nora no longer
believes that this is possible in society as she knows it.