Through all these events, Torvald demonstrates that he does not see Nora clearly. He is blind to her strengths and exaggerates her weaknesses, and sees her only as someone to entertain and enhance his image in the eyes of others.
HOW NORA RELATES to TORVALD
While clearly Torvald sees Nora as an entertaining child who must be guided, Nora's conversations with her friend Mrs. Linde show that to some extent, Torvald is right. Mrs. Linde visits Nora while she is in some distress. Her husband has died and she desperately needs a job. As Nora talks to her, she says whatever pops into her head first without considering how it will affect Mrs. Linde. She comments that Mrs. Linde is not as attractive as she once was. Even though she knows Mrs. Linde has no income, she boasts that with Torvald's promotion they will have "pots and pots of money." Right after Mrs. Linde tells her old friend that she had no children from her marriage, Nora speaks highly of her own three children. This suggests that Nora as well as Torvald has a strong selfish streak in her.
With Torvald, she demonstrates this by manipulating him. She knows that he cannot deny her. By agreeing that she spends too much money, she manipulates him into giving her more. It should be noted, though, that Nora has to play the hand she has been dealt. She is married to a man who is utterly convinced of his superiority to her, and she lives in a time when cultural standards support her husband's view of what kind of wife Nora should be.
Nora has another manipulative tool. Nora lies to Torvald, about relatively trivial things as well as very serious ones. When necessary, she lies to others as well in order to make sure Torvald does not find out about her lies.
Torvald has forbidden her to bring macaroons into the house, believing that they are bad for her teeth. Nora buys them any way, eats them, but then lies multiple times and says she has not. Most people would agree with her on this lie, because his dictates about what she can and cannot eat appear to be an extreme level of controlling her. But since Torvald is so repulsed by lying, when Nora offers a macaroon to their friend Dr. Rank, she lies again. Dr. Rank knows Torvald doesn't want her to have them, so she says that Mrs. Linde brought them.
Lying about macaroons seems trivial, but lying about a loan is far more serious, especially since Nora broke a law and forged her father's signature to get the loan. This major lie causes other complications. Nora then has to earn money to pay the loan off, and takes in work as a copier. She tells her husband first that she was making Christmas tree ornaments, and then that the cat got into the room and destroyed them, to cover up both her part-time job and the fact that she took out the loan.
Finally, she lies and says that one of the children tampered with the mailbox. Nora is distressed by her lying, believing as Torvald does that her lies may somehow result in the ruination of her children (Drake, PAGE).
Nora's life as a wife is defined by the "cult of domesticity." Her action to get a loan to save her husband's life was a strong and independent thing to do, and in conflict with beliefs at that time regarding women. She had to hide her actions or risk looking like a woman who did not know how to behave properly.
Nora's lies put her in a very difficult position, because she believes that her behavior could have a very seriously negative impact on her children. This is what makes it understandable when she leaves not only Torvald but also her children. Just as Torvald's behavior is hard to understand by today's standards, so is Nora's. It is only by looking at their actions and choices in terms of how women were viewed at the time that their actions seem rational.
Downs, Brian W. A Doll's House (Et Dukkenhjem), 1879. Cambridge University Press, 1950
Downs, p. 113)
Drake, David B. "Ibsen's a Doll House." The Explicator, Vol. 53, 1994
Hartman, Dorothy. "Women's Roles in the Late 19th Century," in Life in the 1880's. Accessed via the Internet 6/19/05.…