Torvald Helmer is Nora's husband in A Doll's House. The play was written in the 1870s, and Torvald reflects the societal expectations of that time period. He works and expects his wife to stay home and care for their children. He doesn't expect that Nora is capable of doing much else and often refers to her by pet names such as "squirrel," "skylark," and "pet." In fact, he further lessens Nora's position by including diminutive adjectives in front of these names, referring to his wife as "my poor little Nora" or "my little sweet-tooth." Torvald believes that his wife is weak and exists only to entertain and please him.
When Torvald discovers that Nora has not only taken out a loan without his knowledge but has forged the signature needed to legalize it, he is furious. He verbally attacks her because he fears for his own reputation. After all, he can't be viewed as a man who cannot control his own wife. Torvald even tells Nora that moving forward, he will not "allow [her] to bring up the children." He plans to solely focus on saving his "appearance"—specifically, that he is still in control of his marriage and wife.
Ultimately, Krogstad rescinds his threats, and the Helmers are spared public humiliation. When Torvald learns this, he immediately tries to make amends, believing that Nora will act as his typical little "pet." Nora, however, has realized a hard truth about her marriage and decides to leave Torvald. Devastated, Torvald begs for his wife to stay, and the final scene reveals that Torvald does actually seem to care for his wife, though their marriage would have to change drastically in order for Nora to remain.