The play opens in a comfortable middle-class living room in late 1800s Norway. It’s Christmastime, and the young mother of the family, Nora, comes home with a tree and presents, ready to prepare festivities for her children. She’s also bought herself some macaroons on the sly—a treat her husband Torvald usually forbids her.
Torvald greets her and affectionately (if condescendingly) teases her over the money she spent for Christmas. But he becomes sterner when she asks for her own Christmas present: “You could always give me money, Torvald. Only what you think you could spare. And then I could buy myself something with it later on” (4). Torvald scolds that Nora just fritters away the money he gives her and withdraws to his study to meet with his friend, Dr. Rank.
A visitor arrives. Nora doesn’t recognize her at first but soon realizes she’s an old school friend, a widow named Kristine Linde. Kristine looks thin and pale, and has obviously fallen on hard times, but Nora can’t quite summon any sympathy for her. She’s too excited to tell Kristine about Torvald’s new job. He’s been promoted to bank manager, and their family will be comfortably well-to-do.