It is not a happy ending but a sad one, particularly for Torvald
He begins the act rather unsympathetically. His objectification of Nora extends so far as practically demanding to have sexual intercourse with her against her will. He belittles and berates her. He acts selfishly throughout. Yet, when left alone at the end with his children, plaintively begging that the gulf between him and his wife might be bridged, we recognize that he truly feels devastated. He believed the myth of their marriage with his whole heart. He, too, has been limited by the gender roles of husband and wife that his society tends to expect. This makes him hugely sympathetic despite his many serious failings and even despite his cruelty.
Ibsen manipulates the audience with several intimations of a happy ending: when Krogstad and Mrs. Linde’s love is revealed, when Krogstad promises that he will take back his letter, when he returns Helmer’s IOU, and when Nora and Torvald discuss the possibility of a “miracle of miracles.” But the outside door slams as the curtain comes down. There is only a remote possibility of the redemption of the Helmers’ marriage. As for Nora, it is an open ending. It is an opening out of possibilities for Nora, a new journey which, as much as possible, she will take alone.
They are interrupted by Dr. Rank. The three talk about the ball and all its finery. Unknown to Torvald, Dr. Rank reveals to Nora through his conversation that he will soon die. Dr. Rank eventually leaves, and Nora calls to him, “Sleep well.” Torvald begins to head out to empty the mailbox so that the newspapers can be delivered in the morning. Nora unsuccessfully tries to stop him. At the mailbox, Torvald is surprised to find that someone has tried to pick the lock with one of Nora’s hairpins. Nora tells him that it must have been one of the children.
The change of heart apparently rings hollow. Nora changes not into bed clothing but into everyday clothing. She explains that she will not sleep tonight, and she asks him to sit down with her in order to “face facts.” She tells him that he has never understood her and that, before tonight, she has never understood him. She points out that, over eight years of marriage, they have never before sat down to have a serious discussion. Torvald protests that such conversations would not have made sense, given Nora’s interests.
The relationship between Mrs. Linde and Krogstad makes for a good comparison with Nora’s and Torvald’s marriage. Mrs. Linde’s and Krogstad’s decision to be together after all this time is sincere, sweet, and reasonable, even if they are choosing somewhat traditional gender roles. Although Mrs. Linde and Krogstad both suffer from significant personal and moral problems, they might have a better chance of a happy and true marriage than Nora and Torvald had. Mrs. Linde advocates revealing all to Torvald because, as her union with Krogstad suggests, she believes that it is possible to build a relationship based upon mutual dependence so long as both parties are fully aware of each other’s ideas and motives. Mrs. Linde hopes that, through her own new installment loans AR union, both she and Krogstad can eventually become the better people they know that they can be. This is a pattern for the “miracle of miracles,” a mutual choice to change so that both parties are truly ready for a successful marriage. Given the history of Krogstad and Mrs. Linde, however, we cannot yet see this relationship working as well as they hope. Ibsen leaves the issue open. At least the quality of respect and communication between them is already far above the situation for Torvald and Nora. Linde a special anticipation for one another. This is the opposite of the effect of the years of sourness that Nora now sees when she examines her marriage.
In addition, all the years of thinking about each other have given Krogstad and Mrs
Nora realizes that, before she can be a wife, she must first discover herself in the world. She leaves as an awakened soul, determined to become a full person rather than the doll of the male figures in her life. Thus, it is important to note that Nora’s motives are not simply idealistic. She does not know yet whether she should adhere to religion or morality or virtue, but she knows that she must escape the oppressive situation in order to figure out what to do next.