Is A Doll's House about the struggle between the needs of the society, or women's roles in the family?

Expert Answers
Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The play most accurately could be interpreted as exploring the conflicts of women in Nora's society at the time of the play. Nora was born into and continued to live in a male-dominated society that denied social and financial power to women. Women were expected to play roles subservient to men, especially to their fathers and then husbands. Women were not in any way equal partners with their husbands.

Nora's situation in the play reflects the society--and the marriage--in which she lives. In her home, Nora has no authority. Torvald treats her much the same as Nora treats her children, except she is kinder. He oversees her daily activities, gives her money (or not), and even tells her what she can and cannot eat in her own home. Nora plays her role as "doll wife" until the end of the play when she realizes how very little Torvald loves her.

Nora struggles in the play to conceal her earlier act of forging her father's name to get a loan, money she needed to save her husband's health, and perhaps his life. Nora could not borrow money in her own name only because she was a woman. Because of the society in which she lived, Nora was forced to commit the crime which continued to threaten her well being as she had to keep her secret even from her husband.