Helmer. Well, well, out with it!
Nora. 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.
Helmer. But Nora…
Nora. Oh, please, Torvald dear! Please! I beg you. Then I’d wrap the money up in some pretty gilt paper and hang it on the Christmas tree. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Helmer. What do we call my pretty little pet when it runs away with all the money?
Nora. I know, I know, we call it a spendthrift. But please let’s do what I said, Torvald. Then I’ll have a bit of time to think about what I need most. Isn’t that awfully sensible, now, eh?
Helmer. Yes, it is indeed–that is, if only you really could hold on to the money I gave you, and really did buy something for yourself with it. But it just gets mixed up with the housekeeping and frittered away on all sorts of useless things, and then I have to dig into my pocket all over again.
Throughout the first two acts of this play, one cannot help but notice the very different roles that each character, especially depending on gender, plays in the household. The most notable comparison comes with the relationship between Helmer and Nora. Husband and wife, this couple would certainly maintain an equal partnership in maintaining the house, family, etc. in today’s society. However, it is clear here that such a relationship is not present, surely reflective on how such partnerships were constructed during this time period.
In this passage, it is more than obvious who calls the shots in this relationship. Nora must beg her husband to even consider allotting her any extra money, implying that he assumes full control of the family’s finances. Even though we later find out that her intentions for wanting the extra allowance were in fact very good-natured, Helmer is adamant in believing that she will do nothing but waste it, the reason for which we can assume is because she is a woman and therefore has no regard for monetary value. While Nora seems to lead a more “Lady Macbeth” type role in this play as she cryptically runs the household behind her husband’s back, Helmer refuses to believe that she has enough sense to even handle a small bit of extra money.
I chose this passage because it represents something very prevalent that I noticed throughout the first two acts. Helmer (as well as the other male characters) neglect to see that Nora is in fact a strong character that is worthy of respect and possibly more sensible & able than one might think upon first interaction. It will be interesting to see how this cryptically strong woman can overcome the obstacles of such an ignorant society in order to thrive under the pressure of very obvious and troubling acts of sexism and disrespect.