ADoll's House opens on Christmas Eve. Nora Helmer enters her well-furnished living room--the setting of the entire play--carrying several packages. Torvald Helmer, Nora's husband, comes out of his study when he hears her arrive. He greets her playfully and affectionately, but then chides her for spending so much money on Christmas gifts. Their conversation reveals that the Helmers have had to be careful with money for many years, but that Torvald has recently obtained a new position at the bank where he works that will afford them a more comfortable lifestyle.
Helene, the maid, announces that the Helmers' dear friend Dr. Rank has come to visit. At the same time, another visitor has arrived, this one unknown. To Nora's great surprise, Kristine Linde, a former school friend, comes into the room. The two have not seen each other for years, but Nora mentions having read that Mrs. Linde's husband passed away a few years earlier.
Mrs. Linde tells Nora that when her husband died, she was left with no money and no children. Nora tells Mrs. Linde about her first year of marriage to Torvald. She explains that they were very poor and both had to work long hours. Torvald became sick, she adds, and the couple had to travel to Italy so that Torvald could recover.
Nora inquires further about Mrs. Linde's life, and Mrs. Linde explains that for years she had to care for her sick mother and her two younger brothers. She states that her mother has passed away, though, and that the brothers are too old to need her. Instead of feeling relief, Mrs. Linde says she feels empty because she has no occupation; she hopes that Torvald may be able to help her obtain employment. Nora promises to speak to Torvald...