Helmer. Is it my little squirrel bustling about?
Helmer. When did my squirrel come home?
Nora. Just now. [Puts the bag of macaroons into her pocket and wipes her mouth.] Come in here, Torvald, and see what I have bought.
Helmer. Don’t disturb me. [A little later, he opens the door and looks into the room, pen in hand.] Bought, did you say? All these things? Has my little spendthrift been wasting money again?
Nora. Yes but, Torvald, this year we really can let ourselves go a little. This is the first Christmas that we have not needed to economise.
Helmer. Still, you know, we can’t spend money recklessly.
Nora. Yes, Torvald, we may be a wee bit more reckless now, mayn’t we? Just a tiny wee bit! You are going to have a big salary and earn lots and lots of money.
Helmer. Yes, after the New Year; but then it will be a whole quarter before the salary is due.
Nora. Pooh! we can borrow until then.
Helmer. Nora! [Goes up to her and takes her playfully by the ear.] The same little featherhead! Suppose, now, that I borrowed fifty pounds today, and you spent it all in the Christmas week, and then on New Year’s Eve a slate fell on my head and killed me, and–
Nora [putting her hands over his mouth]. Oh! don’t say such horrid things.
Helmer. Still, suppose that happened,–what then?
Nora. If that were to happen, I don’t suppose I should care whether I owed money or not.
Helmer. Yes, but what about the people who had lent it?
Nora. They? Who would bother about them? I should not know who they were.
Helmer. That is like a woman! But seriously, Nora, you know what I think about that. No debt, no borrowing. There can be no freedom or beauty about a home life that depends on borrowing and debt. We two have kept bravely on the straight road so far, and we will go on the same way for the short time longer that there need be any struggle.
Nora [moving towards the stove]. As you please, Torvald.
I chose the above passage from A Doll’s House as it was part of the opening of the story, but also because it sets the time period, and the way both Torvald and Nora will be interacting throughout. By calling her a name like squirrel I believe that Torvald is already putting Nora is a position of being below him. A name like “squirrel” is putting her as someone who is basically helpless and needs a lot of support. My assumption is further proven when Nora asks for Torvald to come check out what she had bought, and he blows her off by saying “Don’t disturb me.”
A Doll’s House was first published and performed in December 1879 in Denmark. The perceived role of women back in that period was much different than now, and is something that needs to be recognized by the reader. Torvald is consistently condescending throughout the story, but this is something that was considered OK. Men took the dominant role in marriage, and this makes life very difficult for Nora. Torvald gives Nora a hard time for spending money on gifts, even though Torvald has a higher rank at the bank starting in the new year. When Nora attempts to justify, Torvald makes up a possible reason why he could end up losing the job, and what would she do to pay back the debit of buying things on credit. When she says it wouldn’t matter at that point, he generalizes that what she said is typical of a woman.