We see in the play that Nora is very much affected by the attitudes and behaviors of the men in her life. She has a tendency to be submissive but eventually is able to recall her agency and her power to some extent when she decides to stand up for herself. Her relationship to Krogstad is not an intimate one, and yet it has a profound impact on her life and on the events of the play. She speaks to him with some authority, referring to him as her husband's subordinate. There is an indication that she feels she has the ability to display some power here, in a way she is afraid to do with her husband, who treats her like a child. Krogstad does his best to manipulate her, and Nora falters when she fears her secret (that she owes money to Krogstad in his position as a bank employee, and that she forged her father's name to secure the loan) will be revealed to Torvald; but clearly it is Torvald she fears, and not Krogstad, whom she stands up to:
Nora. What right have you to question me, Mr. Krogstad?--You, one of my husband's subordinates! But since you ask, you shall know. Yes, Mrs Linde is to have an appointment. And it was I who pleaded her cause, Mr. Krogstad, let me tell you that.
Krogstad. I was right in what I thought, then.
Nora [walking up and down the stage]. Sometimes one has a tiny little bit of influence, I should hope. Because one is a woman, it does not necessarily follow that--. When anyone is in a subordinate position, Mr. Krogstad, they should really be careful to avoid offending anyone who--who--
Krogstad. Who has influence?
Krogstad [changing his tone]. Mrs Helmer, you will be so good as to use your influence on my behalf.
Soon after, Krogstad's somewhat bullying manner causes Nora to cry. But as he continues to build his case against her, to convince her to intervene on his behalf, she decides she feels justified in her actions and will fight against his attempts to implicate her:
Nora [appears buried in thought for a short time, then tosses her head]. Nonsense! Trying to frighten me like that!--I am not so silly as he thinks. [Begins to busy herself putting the children's things in order.] And yet--? No, it's impossible! I did it for love's sake.
Nora's relationship with Torvald Helmer, her husband, is fraught with expressions of the power dynamic between them. Torvald treats her like a misbehaving child and is often condescending to her. In return, Nora tries to manipulate Torvald to do what she wants, being flirtatious and cajoling or pretending to be helpless. He uses pet names for her, like his little squirrel and his little lark; he also berates her for spending money by sarcastically referring to her as his "little spendthrift" and insults her intelligence by calling her his "little featherhead":
Helmer [calls out from his room]. Is that my little lark twittering out there?
Nora [busy opening some of the parcels]. Yes, it is!
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?
Later in this scene, Nora asks her husband to give her money; we later learn she has been borrowing from Krogstad, so we can assume she wishes to try and pay off her debt without her husband finding out. But still, Torvald is unable to conceive that Nora would be clever enough to deceive him, since he thinks she is so childish and unable to manage even simple shopping errands or managing the household spending. She uses childlike language and humor to placate him:
Helmer. What are little people called that are always wasting money?
Nora. Spendthrifts--I know. Let us do as you suggest, Torvald, and then I shall have time to think what I am most in want of. That is a very sensible plan, isn't it?
Helmer [smiling]. Indeed it is--that is to say, if you were really to save out of the money I give you, and then really buy something for yourself. But if you spend it all on the housekeeping and any number of unnecessary things, then I merely have to pay up again.
Nora. Oh but, Torvald--
Helmer. You can't deny it, my dear little Nora. [Puts his arm round her waist.] 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.
Helmer [laughing]. That's very true,--all you can. But you can't save anything!
Nora [smiling quietly and happily]. You haven't any idea how many expenses we skylarks and squirrels have, Torvald.
By the time play ends, Nora has matured a great deal from the events of the play and replies her marriage is a sham and that she is nothing but a "doll" to her husband. With great courage and careful thought, she decides that leaving her husband is her only option. At this point her dialogue is thoughtful, and missing the childlike tone she felt compelled to use earlier when communicating with her husband. When Torvald begs her to stay with him, she does not allow him to manipulate her, and stands firm in her resolve:
Helmer. Nora, Nora, not now! Wait until tomorrow.
Nora [putting on her cloak]. I cannot spend the night in a strange man's room.
Helmer. But can't we live here like brother and sister--?
Nora [putting on her hat]. You know very well that would not last long. [Puts the shawl round her.] Goodbye, Torvald. I won't see the little ones. I know they are in better hands than mine. As I am now, I can be of no use to them.
Helmer. But some day, Nora--some day?
Nora. How can I tell? I have no idea what is going to become of me.
Helmer. But you are my wife, whatever becomes of you.
Nora. Listen, Torvald. I have heard that when a wife deserts her husband's house, as I am doing now, he is legally freed from all obligations towards her. In any case, I set you free from all your obligations. You are not to feel yourself bound in the slightest way, any more than I shall. There must be perfect freedom on both sides. See, here is your ring back. Give me mine.
Helmer. That too?
Nora. That too.
Helmer. Here it is.
Nora. That's right. Now it is all over. I have put the keys here. The maids know all about everything in the house--better than I do. Tomorrow, after I have left her, Christine will come here and pack up my own things that I brought with me from home. I will have them sent after me.