What would you do if you were the one responsible for the ruin of not only your life but the lives of your children? Would you stand back and let the constant ridicule and mockery extend to your family? Or would you fight to protect what is left of a future your children could have? These same questions constantly and distinctly circulate through a particular character’s mind in the mist of being outcasted by the society he once prospered in. Evidently, Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, explores the character Nil Krogstad as a man forged by good intentions but is unfortunately subjected to the continuing effects of harsh Victorian society.
Krogstad, a man of high regard to a forgotten outcast. A “villain menacing the home to the wronged victim”(Johnston 326). These drastic changes in status is rather an indication of the flaws present in society than the man himself. Furthermore, the assessment of Krogstad’s motivations and intentions is crucial in understanding society’s detrimental effects.
Nora neglects having any influence on Torvald to which Krogstad exclaims, “I shall fight for my little job in the Bank as if I were fighting for my life. It’s not for the money, that’s the last thing I care about” (Ibsen 25). This sense of passion and rage from Krogstad illustrates something much bigger than words. It is ironic to see how this “little” job in actuality is symbolic of the type of simple and acceptable life that Krogstad desires for himself. Hence, Krogstad’s motivation is not in seeking violence in any means. However, he yearns to receive that respect and sense of acceptance again for the betterment of his family as he says, “for their sake I must try and win back what respectability I can” (Ibsen 26). He truly attempts to work his way back up through that “first step on the ladder” the right and honest way. But when his position is at risk, he can’t afford to fail his children once more. Therefore, he uses Nora’s commitment of forgery as leverage for his job. All in all, Krogstad’s intent is not for the money nor revenge for the cards he has been dealt with. His single minded mentality is only in concernment for his family and their future. For it is strangely society who chooses to force him down this unjust path.
From abandonment to further feelings of alienation, Krogstad is surely a victim of societal faults that Ibsen intends to exploit. From Act I, the audience is immediately ingrained with a negative impression of Krogstad. Dr. Rank, who has never met him before, calls him “rotten to the core” (Ibsen 18). And later when Krogstad politely comes to the door, Nora must reassure her children that “the strange man won’t do anything to Mummy” (Ibsen 23). It seems as if this wicked shadow constantly follows him to the point where even children who are new to societal flaws can even recognize. Realistically, Ibsen uses these examples as a method in illustrating how easily deceived us humans could possibly be.
Dr. Rank and the children were most likely influenced by those close to them in thinking that Krogstad is corrupted and ill-mannered. What Ibsen is attempting to showcase is that our society suffers from exactly this. We all get so caught up with what people tell us that we always assume that it is true the first time around. This bias nature that each person carries is so destructive to our overall relationships with each other since we never consider seeking the answers ourselves. The worst part is that this ongoing conflict is of even greater significance with the presence of social media. For whenever we look at our phones or the T.V. or even the newspaper, we always decide to believe what they are telling us can only be the truth and nothing but the truth. And this strongly correlates to the reason as to how an entire society so easily neglects one man. This is the true “shadow” that we all carry and it is hurting our view on people of true character like Krogstad.
Society not only suffers from a type of bias mentality, but also on the fixation of appearance. We always hear questions regarding who has the nicest car? Who can afford this and that? Who is the most popular? But very rarely do we ever stop and put our egos aside and help those less fortunate. And this flaw of ours is clearly depicted when Torvald, even as childhood friends, attempts to dismiss Krogstad by distancing himself. Instead of confronting Krogstad and helping him during these tough times, Torvald instead chooses to act on his “masculine pride” and retreat in selfishness (Tufts 149). This is an act that we so commonly choose to commit. Are we actually so overindulged in our image? If not, why are we not able to break that barrier and accept those who may have lost their way? In some way, we can cope with Krogstad’s cynical thoughts on life as well as his actions. This is certainly not the future that Krogstad depicts for himself, but societal norms is the factor behind his decisions and eventually sends him down this inevitable path.
How ironic is it that Krogstad turns to criminality and decievement to proclaim his respectability. Truthfully, it seems so radical when we read about it, but this is even more apparent in our own reality. Society’s constant ridicule, torment, seclusion is responsible for these acts. Take for example a man who has just been led out of prison. He attempts to live a life of honesty for the first few months, but he struggles to find a job and earn back that trust from the people around him. So what does he do? He goes back to what he feels comfortable with. Crime. This same exact cycle is the underlying theme in Krogstad’s circumstance. He truly does not want to commit these acts, but he simply has no choice by expressing, “it’s him who is forcing me off the straight and narrow again, your own husband” (Ibsen 54). The more he seeks to restore his life, society creates a deeper and deeper hole. That is the sole reason why Krogstad turns to blackmailing. His circumstance is in part his responsibility, but it is society who pressures and forces him back into the mold that they have crafted. Just like other characters in the play, he is another victim to the same strict societal expectations that are present to this day.
Just like you and I, we all fail to dig deeper. We fail to be able to let down our shield and remorse with others. We fail to seek our own answers and instead let others do our work. We so constantly succumb to the daily expectations of our society to the point where we view each other as competitors rather than family. Ibsen’s A Doll’s House is a depiction of what we need to change as a society to progress onwards. For no one should undergo Krogstad’s feelings of neglect and isolation. At the end of the day, we are all humans with the same thoughts and emotions. Rather than letting our egos and biases get the best of us, we need to learn to use one another as aid in times of crisis.