In A Doll's House, how does Nora's choice to keep or reveal her secret(s) affect the plot and contribute to the motif of the play as a whole?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A Doll's House centers on a stereotypical, suburban, comfortable family in the nineteenth century which outwardly, at least, has the appearance of respectability to which any audience could relate. Indicators that reveal that this family is not everything it appears to be include symbols like the title A Doll's House.From the outset, there is more than meets the eye and Nora, the "little spendthrift" can only maintain appearances for so long. She does long to be rid of her secret; to make her husband proud of her and to be free of her debt but that kind of freedom has, up until this point, eluded her.

 Nora and Torvald have different opinions regarding money. He maintains that borrowing is never an option but acknowledges that Nora does not agree with him. He believes she cannot help her propensity for over-spending - "It's in the blood. Yes, Nora, that sort of thing is hereditary." She has been content to maintain her secret and allows her husband to think of her as a possession and an expense: "No one would believe how much it costs a man to keep such a little bird as you."

The Christmas Tree with all its tinsel and fake decorations, is glitzy and pretty and essentially just like Nora. Nora is keeping her "little Christmas secrets" from Torvald and all will be revealed on Christmas Day. The audience so far has seen what they expect of the play but the "secrets" will not be simply surprize gifts which the audience anticipates; such the suspense builds.   

However, the arrival of Christina and talk of her hardship does prompt Nora to reveal details she has kept hidden for so long so that Christina, at least, can see that Nora "is not so silly as you all think." At first, she tells Christina only half the story but, in an attempt to obtain Christina's respect, she tells her the means by which she borrowed the money - without her husband's consent. She could never tell him as "how painful and humiliating it would be for Torvald, with his manly self-respect" and begs Christina to tell no-one.

The chance meeting with Krogstad, believed to be "corrupt to the very core of his character" and who comes to talk to Torvald creates tension for Nora and Christina, for very different reasons. The letters he later writes which reveal Nora's secret and Christina's decision not to intervene and destroy the letters leads the plot to its final, dramatic conclusion. Krogstad needs to free himself from his corrupt past now hat he has made amends and needs others to give him another chance and Christina has a chance to finally find real love.  

Nora needs to escape her double life and a husband that, after all, does not love her. Torvald is unable to put anything above the appearance of decency as "no man sacrifices his honour, even for one he loves" and Nora has ruined him.

Nora's decision to retain her secret for so many years and reveal it flippantly to Christina allows the audience to consider its own circumstances and examine whether there is perhaps more truth to the story than the audience would like to admit.  


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A Doll's House

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