In A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen, what are the major conflicts and themes?
A major theme in the play is the search for identity, especially as it concerns women in nineteenth-century Europe. This theme underlies the basis of conflict for Nora Helmer, who has always lived as a "doll" in the house of her self-centered husband, Torvald. Torvald controls Nora's life to the point that he monitors what and how much she eats, refers to her with demeaning pet names such as "my little spendthrift", and pats her on the head like a puppy.
Another important theme is deception. Nora lies to her husband about silly things such as sneaking a few forbidden macaroons for herself, but she also harbors a significant secret which, if revealed, could lead to severe consequences. Nora forged a signature to borrow a large sum of money previously, and is struggling to pay it back without Torvald's knowledge, even though the money was ironically borrowed to save his life.
The conflicts which ultimately destroy Nora's and Torvald's marriage stem from pride, unrequited love, and betrayal. Nora lies to her husband and betrays his trust in part because she loves him and wants to please him. Torvald cannot accept his wife's sacrifice in securing the loan that saved his life because, in desperation, she got the money illegally, and if the fact became known, it would be a blow to his pride. When Torvald will not defend his wife, it is the final betrayal of her love, and their marriage does not survive.
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