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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From ‘A Doll’s House’
By Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906)
 
        
Translation of William Archer
  
  Scene: Sitting-room in Torvald Helmer’s house (a flat) in Christiania.  Time: The Present Day.  Nora Helmer enters, crossing to table in every-day dress.

HELMER—Why, what’s this? Not gone to bed? You have changed your dress.  1
  Nora—Yes, Torvald; now I have changed my dress.  2
  Helmer—But why now, so late?  3
  Nora—I shall not sleep to-night.  4
  Helmer—But, Nora dear—  5
  Nora  [looking at her watch]—It’s not so late yet. Sit down, Torvald: you and I have much to say to each other.  [She sits at one side of the table.]  6
  Helmer—Nora, what does this mean? Your cold, set face—  7
  Nora—Sit down. It will take some time: I have much to talk over with you.  8
  Helmer  [sitting down at the other side of the table]—You alarm me; I don’t understand you.  9
  Nora—No, that’s just it. You don’t understand me; and I have never understood you—till to-night. No, don’t interrupt. Only listen to what I say. We must come to a final settlement, Torvald!  10
  Helmer—How do you mean?  11
  Nora  [after a short silence]—Does not one thing strike you as we sit here?  12
  Helmer—What should strike me?  13
  Nora—We have been married eight years. Does it not strike you that this is the first time we two—you and I, man and wife—have talked together seriously?  14
  Helmer—Seriously! Well, what do you call seriously?  15
  Nora—During eight whole years and more—ever since the day we first met—we have never exchanged one serious word about serious things.  16
  Helmer—Was I always to trouble you with the cares you could not help me to bear?  17
  Nora—I am not talking of cares. I say that we have never yet set ourselves seriously to get to the bottom of anything.  18
  Helmer—Why, my dear Nora, what have you to do with serious things?  19
  Nora—There we have it! You have never understood me. I have had great injustice done me, Torvald: first by my father, and then by you.  20
  Helmer—What! by your father and me?—by us who have loved you more than all the world?  21
  Nora  [shaking her head]—You have never loved me. You only thought it amusing to be in love with me.  22
  Helmer—Why, Nora, what a thing to say!  23
  Nora—Yes, it is so, Torvald. While I was at home with father he used to tell me all his opinions, and I held the same opinions. If I had others I concealed them, because he would not have liked it. He used to call me his doll child, and play with me as I played with my dolls. Then I came to live in your house—  24
  Helmer—What an expression to use about our marriage!  25
  Nora  [undisturbed]—I mean I passed from father’s hands into yours. You settled everything according to your taste; and I got the same tastes as you; or I pretended to—I don’t know which—both ways, perhaps. When I look back on it now, I seem to have been living here like a beggar, from hand to mouth. I lived by performing tricks for you, Torvald. But you would have it so. You and father have done me a great wrong. It’s your fault that my life has been wasted.  26
  Helmer—Why, Nora, how unreasonable and ungrateful you are! Haven’t you been happy here?  27
  Nora—No, never: I thought I was, but I never was.  28
  Helmer—Not—not happy?  29
  Nora—No, only merry. And you have always been so kind to me. But our house has been nothing but a play-room. Here I have been your doll wife, just as at home I used to be papa’s doll child. And the children in their turn have been my dolls. I thought it was fun when you played with me, just as the children did when I played with them. That has been our marriage, Torvald.  30
  Helmer—There is some truth in what you say, exaggerated and overstrained though it be. But henceforth it shall be different. Play-time is over; now comes the time for education.  31
  Nora—Whose education? Mine, or the children’s?  32
  Helmer—Both, my dear Nora.  33
  Nora—O Torvald, you can’t teach me to be a fit wife for you.  34
  Helmer—And you say that?  35
  Nora—And I—am I fit to educate the children?  36
  Helmer—Nora!  37
  Nora—Did you not say yourself a few minutes ago you dared not trust them to me?  38
  Helmer—In the excitement of the moment: why should you dwell upon that?  39
  Nora—No—you are perfectly right. That problem is beyond me. There’s another to be solved first—I must try to educate myself. You are not the man to help me in that. I must set about it alone. And that is why I am now leaving you.  40
  Helmer  [jumping up]—What—do you mean to say—  41
  Nora—I must stand quite alone to know myself and my surroundings; so I cannot stay with you.  42
  Helmer—Nora! Nora!  43
  Nora—I am going at once. Christina will take me in for to-night—  44
  Helmer—You are mad. I shall not allow it. I forbid it.  45
  Nora—It’s no use your forbidding me anything now. I shall take with me what belongs to me. From you I will accept nothing, either now or afterward.  46
  Helmer—What madness!  47
  Nora—To-morrow I shall go home.  48
  Helmer—Home!  49
  Nora—I mean to what was my home. It will be easier for me to find some opening there.  50
  Helmer—Oh, in your blind inexperience—  51
  Nora—I must try to gain experience, Torvald.  52
  Helmer—To forsake your home, your husband, and your children! You don’t consider what the world will say.  53
  Nora—I can pay no heed to that! I only know that I must do it.  54
  Helmer—It’s exasperating! Can you forsake your holiest duties in this way?  55
  Nora—What do you call my holiest duties?  56
  Helmer—Do you ask me that? Your duties to your husband and your children.  57
  Nora—I have other duties equally sacred.  58
  Helmer—Impossible! What duties do you mean?  59
  Nora—My duties toward myself.  60
  Helmer—Before all else you are a wife and a mother.  61
  Nora—That I no longer believe. I think that before all else I am a human being, just as much as you are—or at least I will try to become one. I know that most people agree with you, Torvald, and that they say so in books. But henceforth I can’t be satisfied with what most people say, and what is in books. I must think things out for myself, and try to get clear about them.  62
  Helmer—Are you not clear about your place in your own home? Have you not an infallible guide in questions like these? Have you not religion?  63
  Nora—O Torvald, I don’t know properly what religion is.  64
  Helmer—What do you mean?  65
  Nora—I know nothing but what our clergyman told me when I was confirmed. He explained that religion was this and that. When I get away from here and stand alone, I will look into that matter too. I will see whether what he taught me is true, or at any rate whether it is true for me.  66
  Helmer—Oh, this is unheard of! But if religion cannot keep you right, let me appeal to your conscience—for I suppose you have some moral feeling? Or, answer me: perhaps you have none?  67
  Nora—Well, Torvald, it’s not easy to say. I really don’t know—I am all at sea about these things. I only know that I think quite differently from you about them. I hear too that the laws are different from what I thought; but I can’t believe that they are right. It appears that a woman has no right to spare her dying father, or to save her husband’s life. I don’t believe that.  68
  Helmer—You talk like a child. You don’t understand the society in which you live.  69
  Nora—No, I don’t. But I shall try to. I must make up my mind which is right—society or I.  70
  Helmer—Nora, you are ill, you are feverish. I almost think you are out of your senses.  71
  Nora—I have never felt so much clearness and certainty as to-night.  72
  Helmer—You are clear and certain enough to forsake husband and children?  73
  Nora—Yes, I am.  74
  Helmer—Then there is only one explanation possible.  75
  Nora—What is that?  76
  Helmer—You no longer love me.  77
  Nora—No, that is just it.  78
  Helmer—Nora! Can you say so?  79
  Nora—Oh, I’m so sorry, Torvald; for you’ve always been so kind to me. But I can’t help it. I do not love you any longer.  80
  Helmer  [keeping his composure with difficulty]—Are you clear and certain on this point too?  81
  Nora—Yes, quite. That is why I won’t stay here any longer.  82
  Helmer—And can you also make clear to me how I have forfeited your love?  83
  Nora—Yes, I can. It was this evening, when the miracle did not happen; for then I saw you were not the man I had taken you for.  84
  Helmer—Explain yourself more clearly: I don’t understand.  85
  Nora—I have waited so patiently all these eight years; for of course I saw clearly enough that miracles do not happen every day. When this crushing blow threatened me, I said to myself confidently, “Now comes the miracle!” When Krogstad’s letter lay in the box, it never occurred to me that you would think of submitting to that man’s conditions. I was convinced that you would say to him, “Make it known to all the world;” and that then—  86
  Helmer—Well? When I had given my own wife’s name up to disgrace and shame—?  87
  Nora—Then I firmly believed that you would come forward, take everything upon yourself, and say, “I am the guilty one.”  88
  Helmer—Nora!  89
  Nora—You mean I would never have accepted such a sacrifice? No, certainly not. But what would my assertions have been worth in opposition to yours? That was the miracle that I hoped for and dreaded. And it was to hinder that that I wanted to die.  90
  Helmer—I would gladly work for you day and night, Nora,—bear sorrow and want for your sake,—but no man sacrifices his honor, even for one he loves.  91
  Nora—Millions of women have done so.  92
  Helmer—Oh, you think and talk like a silly child.  93
  Nora—Very likely. But you neither think nor talk like the man I can share my life with. When your terror was over,—not for me, but for yourself,—when there was nothing more to fear, then it was to you as though nothing had happened. I was your lark again, your doll—whom you would take twice as much care of in the future, because she was so weak and fragile.  [Stands up.]  Torvald, in that moment it burst upon me that I had been living here these eight years with a strange man, and had borne him three children. Oh! I can’t bear to think of it—I could tear myself to pieces!  94
  Helmer  [sadly]—I see it, I see it; an abyss has opened between us. But, Nora, can it never be filled up?  95
  Nora—As I now am, I am no wife for you.  96
  Helmer—I have strength to become another man.  97
  Nora—Perhaps—when your doll is taken away from you.  98
  Helmer—To part—to part from you! No, Nora, no; I can’t grasp the thought.  99
  Nora  [going into room at the right]—The more reason for the thing to happen.  [She comes back with outdoor things and a small traveling-bag, which she puts on a chair.]  100
  Helmer—Nora, Nora, not now! Wait till to-morrow.  101
  Nora  [putting on cloak]—I can’t spend the night in a strange man’s house.  102
  Helmer—But can’t we live here as brother and sister?  103
  Nora  [fastening her hat]—You know very well that would not last long. Good-by, Torvald. No, I won’t go to the children. I know they are in better hands than mine. As I now am, I can be nothing to them.  104
  Helmer—But some time, Nora—some time—  105
  Nora—How can I tell? I have no idea what will become of me.  106
  Helmer—But you are my wife, now and always?  107
  Nora—Listen, Torvald: when a wife leaves her husband’s house, as I am doing, I have heard that in the eyes of the law he is free from all duties toward her. At any rate I release you from all duties. You must not feel yourself bound any more than I shall. There must be perfect freedom on both sides. There, there is your ring back. Give me mine.  108
  Helmer—That too?  109
  Nora—That too.  110
  Helmer—Here it is.  111
  Nora—Very well. Now it is all over. Here are the keys. The servants know about everything in the house better than I do. To-morrow when I have started, Christina will come to pack up my things. I will have them sent after me.  112
  Helmer—All over! All over! Nora, will you never think of me again?  113
  Nora—Oh, I shall often think of you, and the children—and this house.  114
  Helmer—May I write to you, Nora?  115
  Nora—No, never. You must not.  116
  Helmer—But I must send you—  117
  Nora—Nothing, nothing.  118
  Helmer—I must help you if you need it.  119
  Nora—No, I say. I take nothing from strangers.  120
  Helmer—Nora, can I never be more than a stranger to you?  121
  Nora  [taking her traveling-bag]—O Torvald, then the miracle of miracles would have to happen.  122
  Helmer—What is the miracle of miracles?  123
  Nora—Both of us would have to change so that— O Torvald, I no longer believe in miracles.  124
  Helmer—But I will believe. We must so change that—  125
  Nora—That communion between us shall be a marriage. Good-by.  [She goes out.]  126
  Helmer  [sinks in a chair by the door with his face in his hands]—Nora! Nora!  [He looks around and stands up.]  Empty. She’s gone!  [A hope inspires him.]  Ah! The miracle of miracles—?  [From below is heard the reverberation of a heavy door closing.]  127
 
 
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