ELA AP 20
March 29, 2018
The Role of Doctor Rank in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House
Henrik Ibsen’s Victorian era play, A Doll’s House, was written in 1879 and depicted a typical Victorian marriage. Ibsen presents Torvald and Nora Helmer, a married couple with three children. On the surface this arrangement seems almost perfect, yet their lives are clouded by lies and deception. The primary secret that Nora is hiding from Torvald is that she has acquired a loan from Nils Krogstad, a known loan shark, to fund a trip that saved Torvald’s life. To expose the falsehood of the Victorian marriage, Ibsen uses characters that contrast Nora, Torvald, and their relationship. One of these people is Doctor Rank, a close family friend and a secret admirer of Nora. Throughout the play, the Doctor’s role within the play evolves, going from simply a friend of Nora and Torvald, to much more, including genuine love and respect. Doctor Rank is used as a foil to both Nora and Torvald and is also used in many ways in order to expose the flaws of the Victorian ideology of marriage.
At the beginning of the play, Rank is a family friend of the Helmers and Torvald’s “Most intimate friend” (Ibsen 31). He is constantly at the house, talking with both Nora and Torvald, although his relationships with the two are very different. First, his bond with Torvald is very mutual between the two of them and one of the main instances the nature of their friendship is exhibited is how Doctor Rank wishes to handle the matter of his death. Having now discovered that he is almost certainly reaching his final days, he explains to Nora that he “won’t have him [Torvald] in my [Rank’s] sick-room” (37). Rank cares very much for Torvald, and knowing that his “Refined nature” (37) would be disrupted by his own dissolution, he wishes not to have Torvald worrying about him. Essentially, the relationship between Torvald and Rank is a very well structured one and one that fills their mutual needs of friendship.
Contrary to the previously mentioned relationship between Torvald and the Doctor, the one between Rank and Nora has many more levels. When Rank is presented in the play, he has a conversation with Nora and Linde. When Christine introduces herself he states, “I have often heard [your] name mentioned here” (15). This shows that the friendship between Nora and Dr. Rank is much more open than that of Nora and Helmer based on Torvald’s reaction after having been introduced to Linde. He has this response “Christine? ~ I’m sorry but I don’t know[you]” (17). This is one way that Ibsen is showing that in Victorian marriage not everything was shared between husband and wife, although it should be. One should not have needed “people one loves best, and others whom one would almost always rather have as companions” (41). What Ibsen was trying to get the audience to realize, is that in a “Real marriage” (71), one should not need to have someone that they love and a...