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Torvald Helmer’s Character in Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”

One of the two main characters in the play is Torvald Helmer, a husband and a head of the family, whose “doll’s house” is torn apart at the end of the play. Torvald is a successful lawyer who is characterized by adherence to principles, pedantry, and purposefulness. He is far from ideal, but after reading the play, the reader is left with mixed feelings and an important question of whether Torvald is a deeply unlikable and irredeemable character or not.

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Throughout the play, many of Torvald’s obvious character flaws are revealed. First, he constantly talks down to his wife and in every expression of affection, the word “little” is always present. Torvald considers himself the emotional and intellectual head of the family. For him, Nora is a person who needs to be looked after, instructed, and educated. He never considers her an equal partner in their relationship. Moreover, one of the most unpleasant Torvald’s qualities is his blatant hypocrisy. He criticizes the morality of other characters many times throughout the play. He destroys the reputation of Krogstad, one of his subordinates, and also believes that if the mother of the family is dishonest, then the children will necessarily be just as immoral. Torvald also complains about Nora’s late father when he learns her wife has made a forgery.

It can be easily seen how from a loving husband who assures her wife that he will take care of her if only she is in danger, Torvald turns into a principled man. He becomes a cowardly and evil egoist, fearing for his reputation. The man is especially angry when he learns that Nora has lent money for his treatment and considers his wife’s act unworthy and disgusting. He believes that she has ruined his happiness and is unworthy to raise children. However, as soon as he receives a loan receipt, he becomes a caring husband again. Then her wife realizes that she is a kind of toy for him and refuses to live in the “doll’s house”. His attitude to Nora does not make Torvald a positive character, but it means that he is just a human being, with his emotions and attitudes.

In the end, Torvald seems to be a pitiful and defeated husband and it can be said that he has received his retribution. His humiliating personality and hypocritical actions justify Nora’s abrupt decision to leave. However, despite his many flaws, some readers may have sympathy for this character. When Nora wants to leave him, he asks for a chance to reconcile their differences and desperately asks if there is even the slightest hope that they can be together again. His desire to save their marriage seems sincere, which is why, despite his hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and humiliating attitude, one can feel sympathy for Torvald. Even though he seems deeply unlikable and irredeemable character at some points, he arouses pity in the end.

A Doll’s House in Ibsen’s meaning is not only the residence of the Helmer family, where the events of the play are described. This is the whole world where people play the roles that are invented and imposed on them. They are unhappy since they do not live their lives, cannot fully open up, be useful to society, their family, and themselves. That is why it is possible to conclude that Torvald, despite his unbearable character, is not completely irredeemable. First, he appears to be stern and domineering, but in the end, it is revealed that he is an insecure person. He is just a victim of circumstance, as well Nora and other characters.

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StudyCorgi. "Torvald Helmer’s Character in Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”." December 11, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/torvald-helmers-character-in-ibsens-a-dolls-house/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Torvald Helmer’s Character in Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”." December 11, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/torvald-helmers-character-in-ibsens-a-dolls-house/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Torvald Helmer’s Character in Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”'. 11 December.

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