Describe how secrets inform the plot of A Doll’s House.

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Secrets inform the plot of A Doll's House as they grow out of the frustration women feel by a lack of opportunity.

Nora's most important secret is that she forged her father's signature in order to secure money needed for her husband's health treatments. When Torvald was seriously ill,...

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Secrets inform the plot of A Doll's House as they grow out of the frustration women feel by a lack of opportunity.

Nora's most important secret is that she forged her father's signature in order to secure money needed for her husband's health treatments. When Torvald was seriously ill, doctors indicated that he needed to go to Italy for healing. Nora realized that her husband would never jeopardize their finances by "splurging" on a trip for his health, so she took matters into her own hands. Torvald is completely oblivious to Nora's loan, and she steadily makes payments by using some of the money Torvald provides to her for household expenditures. Interestingly, when Torvald initially finds out about this loan, he isn't thankful to Nora for saving his life; instead, he is furious and tells her that she has "ruined all [his] future" and calls her a "hypocrite, a liar ... a criminal."

Nora was forced to employ the assistance of Krogstad, who works at the bank, to accomplish this secretive task. Therefore, Krogstad knows about Nora's secret, and when he realizes that Torvald plans to fire him, he uses Nora's secret against her. If the truth is made public, Nora will be declared a criminal, and Torvald will be humiliated for his inability to "control" his wife's actions.

Of course, Nora keeps more minor secrets from her husband, like the fact that she has been snacking on macaroons as the play opens. Torvald is quick to remind his wife about the "rules" he has established for Nora's "sweet tooth." Nora denies eating the sweets, though the audience watches her hide the bag in her pocket when Torvald enters the room and quickly wipe her mouth to hide the evidence. The fact that Nora feels compelled to hide such a trivial aspect of her life is an indication of her need to please her husband; she lacks the courage or the desire to assert her own will, even in the smallest aspects of their life together.

It's important to note that within this historical context, women had almost no power. Women could not engage in financial matters, and married women were forced to submit to laws which severely limited their financial independence—forcing them to become almost entirely reliant on the financial decisions of their husbands. Nora explains how frustrating it is to feel so powerless to control her own life:

I was simply transferred from papa’s hands into yours. You arranged everything according to your own taste, and so I got the same tastes as you—or else I pretended to, I am really not quite sure which—I think sometimes the one and sometimes the other. When I look back on it, it seems to me as if I had been living here like a poor woman—just from hand to mouth. I have existed merely to perform tricks for you, Torvald.

The secrecy in A Doll's House grows out of this lack of opportunity; Nora must be deceptive in order to assert any sense of independence within her patriarchal society.

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