Character Trace: Krogstad

Krogstad is a lawyer, working under Torvald at a bank; his respectable profession puts him among the middle class. In Act 1, Krogstad is introduced as an antagonist everyone despises, specifically Nora, who feels frightened and powerless. Krogstad continuously torments and harasses Nora with unwanted visits to the Helmer household and threatens to expose her forgery and borrowing money, that is, if Krogstad loses his job. Events like these characterize his character as this cruel, cold-hearted figure who seemingly, only cares about his career and wealth. His conflict with Nora puts their enemy-like relationship at high stakes with significant complications.

Despite playing the antagonist in A Doll’s House, Krogstad isn’t entirely painted as the villain. He begins to open up in Act 2, as he says, “a mere cashier, a quill-drive, a—well, a man like me—even he has a little of what is called feeling, you know” (41). Glimpses of Krogstad showing empathy towards Nora is seen on page 42, where he confides in Nora about also contemplating committing suicide but not having the courage to follow through. Furthermore, Ibsen utilizes exposition to reveal more about Krogstad; the information justifies his unacceptable behaviors by adding reason to his motives. Krogstad just wants to keep his job at the bank to provide for his children as a single father and protect them from the hardships that come with the privileged and spoiled. In response to Nora’s pleads for him to consider her own children before exposing her wrongdoings, Krogstad replies with: “have you and your husband thought of [my children]?” (41). Compared to Torvald, who appears to desire respect and social hierarchy for superficial reasons, Krogstad strives for it for his family’s well-being.

Similar to Nora, Krogstad’s character received unfair treatment from society. Both characters committed the same crime of forging contracts. However, this crime is relatively minor, and society forced upon the stigma of Krogstad being an immoral person, which prevented him from ever having a fresh start. In Act 3, ending on page 55, readers get more insight into his past and learn about his past romantic relationship with Mrs. Linde. Krogstad and Mrs. Linde have a history filled with turbulence and misunderstanding: “you have never properly understood me […] do you believe that I did it with a light heart?” (49), says Mrs. Linde. Mrs. Linde left him for another man who can provide for her financially and bring stability. One could argue that their feelings were reciprocated, but societal norms forced Mrs. Linde away from Krogstad, leading to him breaking the law and being so determined to keep his job at the bank. From being perceived as a despicable character to an empathetic and heartbroken character, Krogstad is a round character whose complexity was shaped by his hurtful past.

 

A closer look into Krogstad’s character:

Thoughts

  • He feels conflicted but mostly misunderstood. He thinks he needs to fit the societal expectation of men being this strong, emotionless figure, but breaks out of shell
    • “a mere cashier, a quill-drive, a—well, a man like me—even he has a little of what is called feeling, you know” (41)
  • A family-oriented person. He goes to great lengths of threatening and, to some degree, harassing Nora, for the sake of keeping his job to provide for his children
    • “have you and your husband thought of [my children]?” (41)

Feelings

  • Suicidal thoughts regarding money, or the lack of money; Nora’s anxiousness regarding her own predicament inspired Krogstad to confide in her about his own struggles.
    • “Most of us think of that at first. I did, too—but I hadn’t the courage” (42)
  • Heartbroken and bitter about his past romantic relationship with Mrs. Linde. Beginning of Act 3 reveals that Mrs. Linde broke it off with Krogstad, leaving him with many repercussions. To break it off due to Krogstad not being able to provide financial stability, will cause great damage to a man’s ego, especially in the Victorian age, where it’s all about male dominance.
    • “Can we two have anything to talk about?”
    • “Was there anything else to understand except what was obvious to all the world—a heartless women jilts a man when a more lucrative chance turns up?”
  • Can readers assume that Krogstad still has feelings for Mrs. Linde? Or that it can easily be revived?
  • A lawyer working under Torvald at a bank
    • A well-respected profession paints Krogstad as a put together, clean-looking, and intellectual man

Speech

  • “the law cares nothing about motive” (24)
    • This simple sentence reveals a lot: the strict laws of Victorian society, and Krogstad’s bitter perspective on the real world which foreshadows how he once broke the law with a good heart and motive.
    • Krogstad values motive and believes the structure of society is wrongful; he may wish it to be more humane and understanding—two things he lacks from others/others don’t give enough of
  • “Mrs. Helmer” (15) versus “A fine, spoilt lady like you” (43)
    • One can argue that Krogstad has a temper, but also someone who is very dedicated to, and motivated by, his family.
    • How Krogstad addresses Nora goes hand in hand with current situation. When situations are in his favor, he is polite. As Krogstad and Nora are on neutral terms, Krogstad addresses her politely with respect. However, Krogstad and Nora’s relationship grows intense; Krogstad threatens Nora as he’s angered by the possibility of losing his job because of her doings, and Krogstad addresses her with great incivility.
  • “I will tell you […] I was content to work my way up step by step. Now I am turned out, and I am not going to be satisfied with merely being taken into favor again […] I want to get on, I tell you” (43)
    • Repetition of declaratives captures an assertive, determined and confident tone. It paints Krogstad positively, and a character who has purpose and a goal in life. It is not a secret that he is motivated by his family, so he works his way up for a higher title and income.

Actions

  • To reiterate what has already been said about family being Krogstad’s primary motive, everything that he does is to do what’s best for his family. Actions includes:
    • Demanding to keep his job position at the bank (aforementioned in Speech)
    • Harassing Nora with his uninvited visits to the Helmer’s household to threaten the exposure of her forgery and borrowing Torvald’s money without permission
    • “[at the door.] It is I, Mrs. Helmer” (15) “Nora: You? What is it?”
    • Krogstad appears, he waits a little” “Nora: Ah! What do you want?”
    • Both times, Nora replies either with timidness or surprise/fear, both signifying that Krogstad’s visit were unwanted and unwelcomed. This highlights their high-stake relationship filled with secrecy and complications
  • Writing and mailing the letter to Torvald that exposes Nora’s secrets
  • “I have the letter for your husband in my pocket” (43)
  • Although not explicitly stated, Krogstad and Mrs. Linde reunited
  • “I can dare anything together with you” “Thanks, thanks, Christine! Now I shall find a way to clear myself in the eyes of the world”