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A Doll's House

Lesson 5


Analyze and explain how Ibsen develops the central conflict in the opening scene of Act 2.

Readings and Materials

  • Play: A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen  — pp. 29-42

Target Task


Multiple Choice

Helmer’s decision to send the letter on p. 36 primarily serves to

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Dr. Rank’s statement on p. 38, “To have to pay…inexorable retribution is being exacted,” makes use of all of the following EXCEPT

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Writing Prompt

The appearance of Krogstad in Act 1 has set in motion a set of events that will ultimately lead to the climax of the play. How does Ibsen show the impact of Krogstad’s threat on the character of Nora in the opening scene of Act 2? Explain using relevant and specific evidence from throughout the scene.

Key Questions


  • Describe the tree at the beginning of Act 2. What is the significance of this change in the tree? Track how else Ibsen indicates Nora’s changing mental state in Act 2.
  • “I see; you are going to keep up the character.” (p. 31) What does Christine literally mean here? What deeper meaning could her words also carry?
  • How does Christine react to Nora’s relationship with Dr. Rank? Why? (p. 31)
  • Track Ibsen’s development of Dr. Rank’s character and the relationship between Nora and Dr. Rank. How does her relationship with Dr. Rank help to further characterize Nora and her relationship with Helmer? (p. 31 on)
  • Describe the interaction between Nora and Helmer on pp. 33–36. Which words or phrases most help to further explain their characters? Their relationship? Why?
  • Who does Helmer refer to as a “starving quill driver” on p. 36?
  • What is the significance of Helmer’s words on p. 36, “Come what will, you may be sure I shall have both courage and strength if need be”? How does Ibsen use dramatic irony to heighten the impact here? (p. 36)
  • Why does Nora seem relieved when she realizes Dr. Rank is talking about himself? (p. 37)
  • What does the phrase “internal economy” mean on p. 37?
  • Track the development of the motif of disease, particularly inherited disease and sexually transmitted disease in this scene. Why is it important?
  • What is the tone of the dialogue between Dr. Rank and Nora? (The teacher could introduce the term “double entendre” here.) Given what you know about Victorian values, how might this have been perceived by Victorian audiences? Why might Ibsen have decided to include this dialogue?
  • What does Dr. Rank reveal to Nora? What motivates him to do so and how does she respond? (pp. 40–41)
  • How does Dr. Rank’s revelation help to develop Nora’s character? The themes of the play?
  • To whom is Helmer compared at the end of this scene? What is the implication? (p. 42)



  • The tree helps to set both the mood of the scene and the change in Nora’s character. As her naiveté gives way to a more complex view of the world, her former life of keeping up appearances begins to give way.
  • In addition, the stage directions reveal Nora’s emotions, and her frequent discussions with herself show a Nora who is much less content and becoming increasingly crazed by her circumstances.