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Nora's life takes a tragic turn in Ibsen's A Doll's House. To begin with, she is treated as a "doll," by her patronizing husband who forbids her to eat macaroons, so she eats them surreptitiously, and fibs in order to maintain peace, "You know I wouldn't do anything to displease you" when Helmer inquires if she has "[M]unched a macaroon or two."
This rather innocuous patronizing, however, becomes more acrid as the drama unfolds. Ironically, Nora is chastised for mismanagement of money:
"You know, you're funny. Just like your father. You're always looking for ways to get money, but as soon as you do it runs through your fingers and you can never say what you spent it for. Well, I guess I'll just have to take you the way you are. It's in your blood."
For, Helmer does not realize that she is repaying a loan she took in order to save her husband's health by having him recuperate in a warm climate.
Further, in Act II when Nora is reunited with her old friend, Mrs. Linde, who asks her to help her find work, problems arise. When Helmer decides to fire Krogstad and hire her, Krogstad threatens to reveal his loan to Nora on which she forged her father's name. While he misunderstands, thinking Nora has influence with her husband, she, too, misunderstands because she cannot conceive that she can be held accountable for forging her father's name when she saved her husband by doing so. Naively, she does not understand the functions of society and the law, nor does she comprehend her husband's reaction.
Thus, the worse turn of Nora's life occurs when Helmer learns of Nora's past actions of acquiring a loan and is appalled that she has acted illegally, even though she has done so in order to save her husband's life. In Act 3, he castigates her for her actions,
"What a horrible awakening! All these eight years—she who was my joy and pride—a hypocrite, a liar—worse, worse—a criminal! The unutterable ugliness of it all!—For shame! For shame!.... I ought to have foreseen it. All your father's want of principle—be silent!—all your father's want of principle has come out in you. No religion, no morality, no sense of duty—. How I am punished for having winked at what he did! I did it for your sake, and this is how you repay me."
In the end, in response to his claims that she has ruined his life, and then his patronizing attempts to act as though he forgives her even though he does not understand her,
"That is just it; you have never understood me. I have been greatly wronged, Torvald—first by Papa and then by you....You only thought it was fun to be in love with me."
Further, she acknowledges that Torvald cannot be the man to "bring [me] up to be the right kind of wife for you." And, so, she feels that she must leave because she cannot understand that the laws are right.
"A woman shouldn't have the right to spare her dying old father or save her husband's life! I just can't believe that."
Realizing that she "is no wife" for Helmer, Nora leaves the children in "better hands" than hers and departs the "doll's house," alone, releasing him from all responsibility.
So, while Nora may seem in one light liberated from a patronizing relationship at the end of the play, her life was probably more satisfying when she lived in the ignorant bliss of being cared for by her husband and family.
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