Of all the characters in A Doll’s House, Mrs. Kristine Linde serves as the most functional in terms of plot development. It is as though Henrik Ibsen was writing Act One and wondering, “How will I let the audience know the inner thoughts of my protagonist? I know! I’ll introduce an old friend, and Nora Helmer can then reveal everything!”
At times, Mrs. Linde functions as a convenient device for exposition. She enters Act One as an almost forgotten friend, a lonely widow seeking a job from Nora’s husband. However, Nora does not spend much time listening to Mrs. Linde’s troubles. Rather selfishly, Nora discusses how excited she is about Torvald Helmer’s recent success.
Mrs. Linde says to Nora, “You haven’t known much trouble or hardship in your own life.” Nora tosses her head defiantly and struts to the other side of the room. Then, she launches into a dramatic explanation of all her secret activities (obtaining a loan, saving Torvald’s life, paying off her debt).
Yet, Mrs. Linde is more than a sounding board. She offers opinions about Nora’s questionable actions. She warns Nora of her flirtation with Dr. Rank. She also raises questions in between Nora’s lengthy speeches.
Thespian Warning: Any actress playing the role of Mrs. Linde will be doing a great deal of attentive listening.
Meddling with the Helmers:
In Act Three, Mrs. Linde becomes more pivotal. It turns out that she long ago had a romantic tryst with Nils Krogstad, the man attempting to blackmail Nora. She rekindles their relationship and inspires Krogstad to amend his wicked ways.
It could be argued that this happy coincidence is not terribly realistic. However, Ibsen’s third act is not about Nora’s conflict with Krogstad. It is about the dismantling of illusions between a husband and wife. Therefore, Mrs. Linde conveniently removes Krogstad from the role of villain.
Yet, she still decides to meddle. She insists that, “Helmer must know everything. This unhappy secret must come out!” Even though she has the power to change Krogstad’s mind, she uses her influence to make certain that Nora’s secret is discovered.
Ideas for Discussion:
Does this make her a good or bad friend? When teachers discuss Mrs. Linde in class, it is interesting to gauge the students’ reactions to Mrs. Linde. Many believe that she should mind her own business, while others feel that a true friend will intervene in the same way Mrs. Linde does.
Love Conquers All?
Despite some of the perfunctory qualities of Mrs. Linde, she does provide a striking thematic contrast. Many view Ibsen’s play as an assault on the traditional institution of marriage. Yet, in Act Three Mrs. Linde happily celebrates the return to domesticity:
Mrs. Linde: (Tidies the room a little and gets her hat and coat ready.) How things changes! How things change! Somebody to work for… to live for. A home to bring happiness into. Just let me get down to it.
Notice how, ever the caretaker, she cleans up while daydreaming about her new life as Krogstad’s wife. She is ecstatic about her newly revived love. In the end, perhaps Mrs. Kristine Linde balances Nora’s impetuous and ultimately independent nature.