If you’re looking for A Doll’s House summary, you’re in the right place. This page prepared by our experts contains a short play’s synopsis, an illustrated timeline, as well as detailed summaries of A Doll’s House act 1, act 2, and act 3.
Let’s dive right in!
✂️ A Doll’s House Synopsis
Nora seems to be an innocent and clueless wife who can only take care of her kids. Her husband, Torvald, thinks she is careless. However, no one knows that Nora borrowed a lot of money to save Torvald from illness. Thanks to a series of events involving blackmailing, Torvald finds out about it, but before he rejects her, Nora leaves him.
📉 A Doll’s House Plot Timeline
Find all the key events of the play collected on one picture.
☝ A Doll’s House Act 1 Summary
The summary of A Doll’s House Act 1 begins with a nicely decorated house. Nora comes in with some shopping bags and gives a tip to the delivery man who has just brought a Christmas tree. However, children must not see it yet, so she asks the maid to hide it. Then, Nora goes and checks if her husband, Torvald, is in his office. He says that she shouldn’t spend too much yet as his first big paycheck after the promotion only comes in three months. Moreover, he rejects her suggestion to borrow money as it is a dangerous path.
There can be no freedom or beauty about a home life that depends on borrowing and debt.A Doll’s House, act 1
Nora agrees and seems happy like a child after getting her allowance. She goes on to show the presents she bought for everyone. But she never got anything for herself, claiming that she wants to save for future shopping. That’s when Torvald tells her off for being irresponsible with money. Even though Nora was eating some macaroons earlier, she tries to convince her husband that she would never disobey and go to a candy store.
Dr. Rank comes into Torvald’s office uninvited, and the lady who is with him waits on Nora. It appears that the unknown lady is Mrs. Linde. Women have not seen each other for eight years and exchange some remarks about each other.
Now you look like your old self again; it was only the first moment—You are a little paler, Christine, and perhaps a little thinner.A Doll’s House, act 1
Mrs. Linde’s husband died three years ago but didn’t leave any money for her. She also points out that their marriage was loveless. However, before she can say anything else about her life, Nora decides to brag about Torlvald’s promotion. The woman even highlights how amazing it is to finally have so much money to have a better life.
However, Mrs. Linde notices that her friend has always been overspending. But Nora defends herself, saying that they have been through hard times when they didn’t have money at all, especially when Torvald got severely ill. They had to go to Italy as recommended by the doctors. However, it was pure luck that they had enough budget to afford it. Nora was pregnant at the time, so she couldn’t take care of her dying father and Torvald at the same time. When her father died, she explains, he left them enough money to cover the costs of treatment in Italy. The couple could come back only when Torland was completely healthy.
It was a wonderfully beautiful journey, and it saved Torvald’s life. But it cost a tremendous lot of money, Christine.A Doll’s House, act 1
Their conversation shifted back to Mrs. Linde’s life. Nora wonders how come that there was no love in her marriage. Mrs. Linde explains that it was a strategic move since her mother was sick and they needed money. However, after her husband’s death, the business collapsed. Hence, there was nothing left for her. Despite Nora’s expectations, Mrs. Linde doesn’t feel relieved now. It’s hard to get around with no financial support, so she asks if Torvald could offer her some job.
As Nora promises to influence it somehow, her friend laments about how hard it is for her again and adds that Nora is lucky not to face such troubles. However, Nora feels assaulted and tries to convince Mrs. Linde that she got through a lot of challenges in her life and even one “big thing.”
Then, it is time to reveal a big secret. Nora decides to tell Mrs. Linde that they didn’t get the money for Italy from her father. She was the one who saved Torvald by raising the huge sum. It seems impossible to Mrs. Linde, so Nora hints that the money was borrowed. However, the woman disapproves of such a move saying that it wasn’t right for Nora to act behind her husband’s back.
Everything gets even tenser when Nora confesses that Torvald didn’t know about the money and wasn’t even supposed to know about the severeness of his illness. She is not planning on telling him about it ever since he would be very disappointed. Moreover, the woman adds that now she is experiencing some difficulties with meeting the deadlines for paying off the debt. Nora must spend money on housekeeping and kid’s clothes, so the only expenses she can cut are her allowance. She is only spending half of what Torvald gives her, and it’s hard. She has also found a way to earn some money by copying texts in the evenings.
Many a time I was desperately tired; but all the same it was a tremendous pleasure to sit there working and earning money. It was like being a man.A Doll’s House, act 1
The ladies keep talking when they hear the doorbell. It is Nils Krogstad who wants to see Torvald regarding some bank business. Nora hesitates but lets him in. Mrs. Linde admits that she knows the man and asks if it’s true about his side business. Nora changes the subject.
When Dr. Rank comes in, the conversation gets uncomfortable, and Nora tries to smooth it out. She asks why Krogstad is here, and Dr. Rank replies that it’s about some bank stuff. He explains that it’s better to keep an eye on morally corrupt people, so they get hired. Nora starts laughing even though the discussion seems serious. Then she offers a cookie to Dr. Rank, who knows sweets are forbidden in the house. To the surprise of both him and Mrs. Linde, Nora cheers up and confesses that she’s eager to say some curses.
Then, Torvald appears, and Nora goes ahead to ask him to give Mrs. Linde a job. He says that since she is a widow with some business experience, he can help out. After all the guests and Torvald leave, Nora greets her kids and happily plays hide and seek with them. Krogstad comes in, scaring her a little bit. It appears that he is not there to talk to her husband but to her. The man is interested in whether Torvald is giving Mrs. Linde a job at the bank. After some hesitation, Nora says that it is true. Krogstad wants Nora to persuade her husband not to fire him. The woman doesn’t seem to understand, but apparently, Mrs. Linde is about to take Krogstad’s position. He wants to use Nora to prevent it.
Meanwhile, Nora tries to explain that she can’t influence Torvald’s decisions, and the whole dirty business with Krogstad will be over next year. However, Krogstad insists that he needs this job to keep his respectability since he needs to recover from legal troubles from the past. It turns out that it was Krogstad who lent the money to Nora. Moreover, when Nora borrowed money from him, she forged her father’s signature. Krogstad threatens to tell Torvald the truth, which would ruin everything.
The discrepancy consists, Mrs Helmer, in the fact that your father signed this bond three days after his death.A Doll’s House, act 1
That visit gets Nora obsessed so that even distractions don’t help. Then, Torvald comes back and finds out that Krogstad was there asking about the job. Nora agrees, but her husband is not going to change his mind whatsoever. They have a long conversation about why Krogstad is a rotten person who ruined his kids’ lives. After that, Nora is left crying alone about how horrible of a mother she is.
✌️ A Doll’s House Act 2 Summary
A Doll’s House Act 2 opens up with the same setting and Nora pacing around the room. She talks to herself, wondering if anyone is coming and if “things like that” can happen. The maid brings in a box with costumes, but Nora doesn’t seem excited. They start talking about motherhood, and the choices mothers have to make sometimes.
When the maid leaves, Nora starts unpacking the box, but her paranoid mood doesn’t go away. She keeps wondering whether “they are coming.” Then, Mrs. Linde arrives and helps Nora with her festive outfit. It appears that the dress is torn, but there is nothing that can’t be fixed. Mrs. Linde also thanks for a pleasant evening, even though Nora replies that it was just a normal one.
The ladies begin discussing Dr. Rank, and Mrs. Linde points out how warm he was dressed last night. Nora says that it is because of his illness. She goes on to say that it was because of his irresponsible father that Dr. Rank has been having such health issues since childhood.
He has consumption of the spine, poor creature. His father was a horrible man who committed all sorts of excesses; and that is why his son was sickly from childhood, do you understand?A Doll’s House, act 2
At first, Nora doesn’t want to reveal the source of this information, but then she confesses that Dr. Rank has been a good friend of hers for a while. In addition, she thinks that Torvald is so jealous and in love with her that he can’t stand hearing anything about her old friends.
Torvald is so absurdly fond of me that he wants me absolutely to himself, as he says… But I often talk about such things with Doctor Rank, because he likes hearing about them.A Doll’s House, act 2
Mrs. Linde wonders if Dr. Rank was the one who lent Nora that money. But Nora denies it and tries to explain herself. They talk about how appropriate it is to do such business behind Torvald’s back. Then, Nora breaks down, and it becomes obvious to Mrs. Linde that there is more to this secret. Nora is about to tell her everything, but Torvald’s arrival interrupts her. Mrs. Linde agrees to stay with the children but says she won’t leave until the whole truth is revealed.
Nora goes to meet Torvald and agrees that his idea about that costume was good. As he is about to go to his office, she stops him and asks him for a favor. Nora starts using all the tricks of an innocent little lady she knows, saying that she would be extremely happy if her husband could do it. Torvald only hopes that it is not about Krogstad, but Nora confirms it. Torvald gets mad again and says that there is no way he will do such a favor to Krogstad, even if Nora asks. But the woman seems upset and explains that she doesn’t want Krogstad to ruin their happiness as he is capable of anything. However, Torvald has many reasons not to keep that man in the bank.
Nothing can persuade Torvald, and he sends out Krogstad’s notice with the maid. Nora looks so terrified that her husband asks if she is okay. He promises that everything is under his control and tells her to go practice dancing. Then he leaves for his office. Dr. Rank arrives, but Nora suggests keeping him company since Torvald is busy. He gladly agrees but says that it won’t be for much longer. Dr. Rank explains that his health is getting worse, and he only has a month or so.
As soon as I am quite certain that the worst has come, I shall send you my card with a black cross on it, and then you will know that the loathsome end has begun.A Doll’s House, act 2
Nora doesn’t want to accept this fact, but he continues to talk about his death. Dr. Rank also recalls his father’s unhealthy habits that led to such a situation. Then, Nora cheers him up and brings some clothes to show off. She promises to dance for him the next day and shows the stockings. A few moments later, she asks if he could do her a favor. Just that moment, Dr. Rank opens up about his feelings towards her since he is dying and wanted her to know.
It doesn’t seem like Nora is happy about that confession, but she says that there is no need for his help anymore. Dr. Rank agrees to leave if she insists, but the woman wants him to keep visiting their family.
No, indeed, you shall not. Of course you must come here just as before. You know very well Torvald can’t do without you.A Doll’s House, act 2
As they try to figure out their relationship, the maid comes in with a note. Nora exclaims and asks Dr. Rank to go distract Torvald. She explains that it’s about a new costume she doesn’t want her husband to know about.
Krogstad enters and tells Nora about his notice. She replies that she tried to persuade Torvald but unsuccessfully. The man finds out that her husband still doesn’t know about her secret. Nora begs him for mercy for the sake of children, and Krogstad agrees not to make any moves for now. However, unless she has the rest of the money she owes, Torvald will find out. Moreover, he warns her not to do anything stupid as he will still keep her IOU.
Then, Krogstad says that Torvald must give him a new better job at the bank. Otherwise, he will give Nora’s husband a letter that explains the whole situation. The man doesn’t want any money; he needs a secure position in life. Moreover, he notices that even if Nora decides to commit suicide, Krogstad will still be in charge of her reputation to manipulate Torvald.
After dropping the letter in the mailbox, Krogstad leaves. Nora cries out, and when Mrs. Linde comes in, she realizes what happened. Nora asks Mrs. Linde to be a witness and testify that it is only Nora responsible for everything in case something happens. Then, Mrs. Linde offers to go and talk to Krogstad since he favored her in the past. Torvald interrupts them, calling for Nora from behind the locked door. Nora needs to distract him now while Mrs. Linde leaves to try and make Krogstad change his mind.
As soon as Torvald comes out, he goes to check the mailbox. Nora gets a scare and desperately tries to distract him. She calls for his help with the dance as she can’t manage it alone and starts playing the piano. He agrees to watch and instruct her. Nora goes wild while dancing, not listening to anything her husband says.
My dear darling Nora, you are dancing as if your life depended on it.A Doll’s House, act 2
Mrs. Linde is back, and Torvald tries to calm down his wife and check the letters. He already feels that there is one from Krogstad. Finally, Nora persuades him to wait until the ball is finished because there shouldn’t be anything distracting them. Only then can Torvald check the letter. Mrs. Linde and Dr. Rank leave to have dinner. It appears that Krogstad left the town, but Mrs. Linde left him a message. Now, Nora is waiting for a miracle but says that there are hours for her to live.
Five o’clock. Seven hours until midnight; and then four-and-twenty hours until the next midnight. Then the Tarantella will be over. Twenty-four and seven? Thirty-one hours to live.A Doll’s House, act 2
🕒 A Doll’s House Act 3 Summary
A Doll’s House Act 3 summary begins in the same room again. Mrs. Linde is trying to distract herself with a book, but it is obvious that she is impatient. There is loud music coming from upstairs. Finally, Krogstad appears, asking about the meaning of her note. Mrs. Linde replies that she needed to talk to him but couldn’t do it at her house. As the Helmers are at the ball, Mrs. Linde and Krogstad are talking about their past relationship.
Krogstad doesn’t want to bring it up again, blaming Mrs. Linde for leaving him. Meanwhile, the woman tries to convince him that she didn’t have a choice. She had to marry a wealthier man to be able to provide for her mother and brothers. Krogstad is not impressed by such an excuse and says that she had no right to dump him like that for money.
Was there anything else to understand except what was obvious to all the world—a heartless woman jilts a man when a more lucrative chance turns up?A Doll’s House, act 3
Then, the man wants her to give up her new position in the bank. However, Mrs. Linde can’t do it as she loves working and she also loves taking care of someone. Now, her life seems pointless, though. She has “nobody to care about, and nobody to care for.” It sounds like an offer to get back together, but Krogstad reminds her about his reputation and business on the side. Mrs. Linde doesn’t seem to be bothered by it as they need each other.
However, she also reminds him about the letter. Krogstad is suspicious that her proposal is only a means to save Nora. Mrs. Linde, in her turn, says that they need to stop all the lies in that family.
Helmer must know all about it. This unhappy secret must be disclosed; they must have a complete understanding between them, which is impossible with all this concealment and falsehood going on.A Doll’s House, act 3
Krogstad leaves happy and promises to wait for her.
As tarantella ends, Torvald and Nora enter the room where Mrs. Linde is waiting. They are surprised to see her there so late, but she replies that she wants to see Nora before leaving. Torvald keeps recalling some moments from the ball, complementing Nora but pointing out her stubbornness. His wife didn’t want to leave the ball, but he insisted as it made an excellent impression to exit like that.
Mrs. Linde has a chance to tell Nora everything in private and urges her friend to reveal the secret to her husband. However, Nora is not going to do it, but she admits that it what must happen. When left alone, Torvald starts describing his fantasies to Nora, saying how attractive she is and suggesting that they would get close together.
When I watched the seductive figures of the Tarantella, my blood was on fire; I could endure it no longer, and that was why I brought you down so early—A Doll’s House, act 3
His wife is not in the mood and refuses. At the moment, Dr. Rank enters, looking quite drunk but happy.
They all have a little chat, and Dr. Rank says that next time around at the ball, he will be “invisible.” Then, Torvald goes to check the letters and sees Dr. Rank’s cards with cross markings. Nora reveals that it’s his way of announcing his death so that they don’t meet. Torvald seems distant and can’t imagine life without his friend. Putting away the other letters, he wants to be with his wife that night. However, Nora tears up and notices that it might not be a good idea after such news. They decide to sleep separately.
Torvald picks the mail and goes to his office. As Nora is trying to leave the house, he comes back and confronts her about Krogstad’s letter. She admits everything that is written there is true and that she did it out of love. But Torvald wants a more detailed explanation and doesn’t let her leave. He goes really mad at her calling her a liar and a criminal.
Now you have destroyed all my happiness. You have ruined all my future.A Doll’s House, act 3
Now, Torvald will have to do whatever Krogstad asks him to, and even Nora’s death won’t change anything. Moreover, he blames it on her father for being immoral.
Then, Torvald plans their future. He wants to keep it a secret, but Nora won’t be raising their kids.
You will still remain in my house, that is a matter of course. But I shall not allow you to bring up the children; I dare not trust them to you.A Doll’s House, act 3
The speech is interrupted by the note brought by their maid. The letter appears to be from Krogstad, who sends back IOU and apologizes for his behavior. Both Nora and Torvald are saved. The latter tears the note apart and says that no one should know. He proceeds to forgive her and says that everything can be normal now. Torvald confesses that he finds it pleasant to take care of such a helpless and naïve woman. It is his duty as a husband, and now he makes all the decisions for Nora.
How warm and cosy our home is, Nora. Here is shelter for you; here I will protect you like a hunted dove that I have saved from a hawk’s claws; I will bring peace to your poor beating heart.A Doll’s House, act 3
However, Nora is restless and wants to have a serious conversation with her husband, which appears to be the first one throughout their marriage. She explains to Torvald that he never understood her. Instead of making something of herself, she has spent all those years just being a pretty doll to both her father and her husband. Even though Nora seemed to be happy in marriage, she really wasn’t.
I have existed merely to perform tricks for you, Torvald. 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.A Doll’s House, act 3
Nora says it is time for her to educate herself. Moreover, she is planning on leaving him right that second and go back to her old home. The woman wants to gain experience. Though, Torvald says it is nonsense, and everyone knows that a woman should be a good wife and mother before anything else. Nora doesn’t believe in it anymore and has no interest in what others think about her.
Meanwhile, Torvald is trying to talk her out of it by saying that there are religions and morals to follow. However, it doesn’t work for her since she doesn’t understand the ways of either of them. Nora confesses that she does not love Torvald, even though he has been so kind to her. She only realized it when the miracle didn’t happen. The woman was hoping that when the secret was revealed, her husband would make a sacrifice and take all the blame on himself.
Torvald—it was then it dawned upon me that for eight years I had been living here with a strange man, and had borne him three children—. Oh, I can’t bear to think of it! I could tear myself into little bits!A Doll’s House, act 3
Nora packs her things, claiming that she can’t stay with a stranger since Torvald seems like one to her. All the years through their marriage, she had been his weak “doll” who needed protection but must change now. Torvald still hopes that the situation can be changed. However, Nora gives her wedding band back as it is the only way to feel free. Besides, she forbids him to contact her whatsoever. The only way to work it out is to change themselves, which she calls a “miracle of miracles.” However, she doesn’t believe in those anymore and leaves the scene.
Thank you for reading this article! You might also want to take a look at A Doll’s House essay topics collection. And if you need to summarize any text, try our summary-making tool. Any questions left? Check the QA section!