In Henrik Ibsen's A Doll House, Ibsen expresses the theme that honor is not as important as love. Two of the characters that Ibsen uses to express this theme are Nils Krogstad and Torvald Helmer. Krogstad demonstrates his belief that love is the most important thing, and Helmer shows us what terrible things happen when we allow our honor to override our love.
Nils Krogstad is a man of less than reputable status. All he wants is to rebuild some of the honor which he has lost through his scandalous business dealings. Knowing that he has a hold on Nora Helmer, he comes to her to request that she influence her husband, Krogstad's boss, to allow him to retain his position at the Bank. Because of the scandal Nora herself has committed in forging a signature on a bond to borrow money from Krogstad, she attempts to grant his request. Helmer, however, will not have someone of such poor repute working for him, and dismisses him nonetheless.
Desperate to get what he wants, Krogstad reveals Nora's actions to Helmer in a selfish act of vengeance. He feels that by destroying Helmer's honor, he will have a way to control Helmer's actions.
Krogstad places a large emphasis on his personal honor; however, even a man as low as Krogstad has the ability to change, which he does. Once Krogstad's life takes a happy turn and he rekindles an old relationship, his honor no longer matters to him. With love in his life, his honor takes second place. He sends the forged bond to Helmer, releasing him of the trap in which Krogstad has ensnared him. Krogstad embodies Ibsen's theme, showing that honor is truly not as important as love.
Helmer, on the other hand, does not demonstrate Ibsen's theme through his actions. Helmer is only concerned with his reputation. He does not care about his wife so much as he does his status. When he discovers Nora's secret, he immediately makes plans to hush the whole thing up, keeping her in the house with him, but no longer allowing her to live as his wife and mother to his children. When Krogstad sends him the bond, however, he is overjoyed, and thinks that he and Nora will be able to forget the whole thing and move on. Thinking of himself and his honor before his wife and their love, he proves himself to be very selfish and shallow indeed. Unable to forgive him, Nora leaves him miserable and alone, an example of what happens when one places oneself before one's love.
These two characters are essential in Ibsen's expression of his theme in A Doll's House. Krogstad truly shows the reader that when one has love, one's honor is not important. Helmer, on the other hand, has a tragic ending when his honor becomes more important than his wife, and he loses both in the process.