Tag Archives: A Doll’s House

Role of Women vs. Men

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.

Poisoning the Children

“Hel: It seems most commonly to be the mother’s influence, though naturally a bad father’s would have the same result. Every lawyer is familiar with the fact. This Krogstad, now, has been persistently poisoning his own children with lies and dissumulation; that is why I say he has lost all moral character. [Holds out his hands to her]. That is why my sweet little Nora must promise me not to plead his cause. Give me your hand on it. Come, come what is this? Give me your hand. There now, that’s settled. I assure you it would be quite impossible for me to work with him; I literally feel physically ill when I am in the company of such people.”

In this paragraph, there are many ironic points. Hel condemns Krogstad for committing forgery and then lying about it. He believes through this act, Krogstad has “poisoned his own children.” You can see Hel believes good moral character is a very important aspect in a person and holds it highly. However, ironically, Nora commits the same exact crime Krogstad commits. Throughout the whole time Hel is talking, he is unknowingly also referring to Nora. When he calls Nora, “my sweet little Nora,” readers know that he believes Nora is the complete opposite of Krogstad. In a way, Hel also believes Nora is incapable of committing such crime because she is so peppy and a women. Throughout Act I, Hel treats Nora as if all she knows to do is spend money. He is stuck on the idea that women are incapable of committing such crime because they do not have the brains to. Hel believes all they should do is focus on keeping up the house and taking care of the children. It seems that Hel thinks men are far more superior to women.

Nora also embodies how society envisions women to be and the independent women who goes against the “norm.” Nora is capable of providing for her family when they are in dire need even though it is out of secrecy. She also goes against the norms by committing forgery. However, she constantly also acts how society think women act. She is a spendthrift. She is very naiive and believes people can do no wrong. Nora gets nervous after Hel says someone who is dishonest and commits forgery is “persistently poisoning his [or her] own children with lies and dissumulation.” On the last line of the act she states, “Deprave my little children? Poison my home?…It’s not true. It can’t possibly be true.” Nora wants to believe everything is as easy and happy as she perceives it to be, that such “poisoning” is not possible for her to do. She likes to believe she is independent in a sense, but she really is not.

Little Wife

Little Wife

” Hel. You can’t deny it, my dear little Nora. It’s a sweet little spendthrift, but she uses up a deal of

money.  One would hardly believe how expensive such little persons are!

Nora. It’s a shame to say that. I do really save all I can.

Hel. That’s very true- all you can. But you can’t save anything!

Nora. You haven’t any idea how many expenses we skylarks and squirrels have, Torvald.

Hel. You are an odd little soul. Very much like your father you always find some new way of wheedling money out of me, and as soon as you have got it it seems to melt in your hands… Still, one must take you as you are…”(4).

In the opening pages of A Doll’s House we are introduced to husband and wife, Torvald and Nora respectively.  Ibsen informs the reader immediately of the dynamic of their relationship in this opening dialogue.  Torvald uses the word, “little” numerous times when addressing his wife.  This is telling of the relationship that the two of them have.  Nora is his submissive and seems to enjoy this.  She refers to herself as, “skylarks and squirrels.” This indicates that she sees herself as someone he needs to take care of and would in turn be lost and alone without her caregiver.  Torvald is pointing out a flaw in his wife, in this passage. This flaw being that she can be a reckless spender of his money.  Torvald does not know the way in which Nora is truly spending her money and Nora uses her womanly prowess to her benefit when she is trying to get something she wants from her husband.  Torvald elaborates in this passage, “one must take you as you are.”  This language connotes that Torvald is speaking down to his wife- inferring that he has no choice in having to deal with his wife’s character flaw of spending too much.

This passage is very telling of how Nora and her husband continue to interact through scene two.  Torvald tells Nora that the money “seems to melt in her hands.” Torvald is furtively acknowledging that he does not know where the money is going that he sometimes gives her.  The reader finds out that the money is going to Mr. Krogstad in order to pay off a loan that he gave her when her husband fell ill.  Mr. Torvald does not know this, for he thinks that the money came from Nora’s wealthy father. Nora does not want Torvald to find out because she thinks it would insult his masculinity.  Nora tries to feed his sense of masculinity from the beginning of the play and she uses this tactic throughout.