Nora Helmer, the "doll" wife, realizes after eight years of marriage that she has never been a partner in her marriage. At the play's conclusion, she leaves her husband in order to establish an identity for herself that is separate from her identity as a wife and mother.
Appearances and Reality
On the surface, Nora Helmer appears to be the ideal wife her husband desires. Torvald sees a woman who is under his control; he defines her every behavior and establishes rules that govern everything from what she eats to what she buys. The reality is that Nora has been maintaining a secret life for seven years and that Torvald and Nora maintain a marriage that is a fiction of suitability and trust. Torvald has a public persona to maintain, and he views his marriage as an element of that public need. When the fiction is stripped away at the play's conclusion, both partners must confront the reality of their marriage.
Betrayal becomes a theme of this play in several ways. Nora has betrayed her husband's trust in several instances. She has lied about borrowing money, and to repay the money, she must lie about how she spends her household accounts and about taking odd jobs to earn extra money. But she also chooses to lie about eating sweets her husband has forbidden her. However, Nora trusts in Torvald to be loyal to her, and in the end, he betrays that trust when he rejects her pleas for understanding. Torvald's betrayal of her love is the impetus that Nora requires to finally awaken to her own needs.
Deception is an important theme in A Doll's House because it motivates Nora's behavior and through her the behavior of every other character in the play. Because Nora lied when she borrowed money from Krogstad, she must continue lying to repay the money. But, Nora thinks she must also lie to protect Torvald. Her deception makes her vulnerable to Krogstad's blackmail and casts him in the role of villain. And although Nora does not lie to Mrs. Linde, it is Mrs. Linde who forces Nora to confront her deceptions. Dr. Rank has been deceiving both Nora and Torvald for years about the depth of his feelings for Nora. Only when she attempts to seek his help does Nora finally see beneath the surface to the doctor's real feelings. Torvald, who has been deceived throughout most of the play, is finally revealed in the final act to have been the one most guilty of deception, since he has deceived Nora into believing that he loved and cherished her, while all the while he had regarded her as little more than his property.
(The entire section is 1080 words.)