In Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, what kind of lies does Nora tell? Do the lies indicate that Nora cannot be trusted, or are they a sign of something else about her personality?

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In Henrik Ibsen’s play, Nora Helmer has developed the habit of lying almost constantly to her husband, Torvald . Although in the early years of their marriage, she might have been truthful with him, at a certain point she made a decision to commit the crime of fraud, which...

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In Henrik Ibsen’s play, Nora Helmer has developed the habit of lying almost constantly to her husband, Torvald. Although in the early years of their marriage, she might have been truthful with him, at a certain point she made a decision to commit the crime of fraud, which led to her telling a huge lie to cover up that illegal act. Ever since then, she has been trying to correct the situation that she created with the original crime. Nora also lies to other people about events and actions related to the fraud and its repercussions. The fact that Torvald has a low opinion of Nora’s capabilities makes it easier for him to hide the truth from him; in that respect, he is an enabler whose behavior encourages her to continue along her established path.

Nora does not lie to everyone, however; Ibsen draws a sharp distinction between Nora’s behavior with her patronizing husband and her friend Kristine Linde, whom she considers her peer and equal. In fact, Nora seems relieved to unburden herself in her conversation with Kristine. Hiding behind lies has proven exhausting for Nora, and by the time she decides to be honest with Torvald, it is too late. She had thought that he was an upstanding, honest person and felt guilty for being a criminal and a liar—although she rationalized her actions as being for his benefit. Once she is confronted with the truth about her husband’s hypocrisy, Nora shows herself to be a fundamentally honest person who can no longer tolerate living a lie.

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While a lying character is often indicative of a flaw in personality, care should be taken in plot analysis to consider the reasons for any character's dishonesty. In A Doll's House, Nora's lies stem from the demeaning treatment she receives from her husband.

The most significant lie she tells is actually constructed in an effort to save her husband's life. Because women in her society are not considered capable of managing finances, Nora has to forge her father's signature in order to obtain a loan so that she can finance a trip to Italy to save Torvald's life. Forgery is illegal, but Nora is devoted to her husband and risks the possibility of consequences associated with this lie in order to obtain the best possible treatment for him, as he won't spend the money himself.

Later, Krogstad (from whom she borrowed the money and forged the needed male signature) threatens to expose her and attempts to blackmail her. Nora is living in a society with few opportunities for independence for women and with men controlling her life at every turn.

Her lies, then, do not expose an innate moral flaw but are the manifestation of a woman desperate to rise above the patriarchal society which confines her. Even her husband doesn't truly appreciate her efforts, though he would not be alive without her. In the end, Nora finds the courage to be honest with herself and her husband, and she leaves her family in search of a life where love is real.

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The lies that Nora tells throughout Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House stem from living a life of being protected, and not being taken seriously, being treated with little respect by both her father and husband, as many women in her society were treated. Nora's lies are less a reflection of her own character, or personality, and more a reflection of the characters of the men surrounding her. Nora lies to not only protect herself from ridicule, but also to protect the one's she loves, such as her husband.

One instance of Nora telling a lie to protect her own dignity and prevent ridicule takes place in Act 1, Scene 1. In the very beginning of this scene, Nora lies to her husband about eating macaroon's. Torvald has forbidden Nora to eat sweets because he feels they will spoil her teeth, but she treats herself to macaroons while shopping on Christmas Eve and lies to Torvald by saying that she has not been eating macaroons. This scene is proof that Torvald feels no respect for Nora's adulthood. He treats her like a child, thereby showing her very little respect. Nora lies to Torvald about the macaroons because she feels the need to maintain her dignity and self-respect, while catering to her own desires.

Nora also lies about spending three weeks locked up in a room the previous Christmas. Nora tells her husband and children that she is making Christmas gifts and ornaments for the tree. When at the end of the three weeks she has no gifts or ornaments to present, she lies again, saying that the cat tore them all to pieces. The truth is that Nora spent those three weeks making things to sell to pay off her dept. It is necessary for Nora to keep her dept a secret from her husband because he became very angry with her when she asked him to sign a loan, therefore she must continue to lie to her husband about her need to pay off the dept. The fact that Nora feels a need to lie about a dept that saved her husband's life shows how little her husband respects her ideas and the solutions Nora comes up with for life's problems. Again, this instance of Nora's lies proves how trapped she is by the opinions of the men she is surrounded by.

A third instance, is that Nora lies to her husband about the reason why she wants to travel to Italy. Nora believes that since the doctors told Nora about how ill her husband is, that if he learned how ill he is, he would loose all hope of recovering. Nora pretends to desire to go abroad out of whimsy because she believes she is protecting her husband. This third instance of Nora's lying, does not show any deceitfulness in her character, but rather shows that she has the desire to protect. But since she lives in a society that reduces a woman's ability to act on her own accord, she is reduced to lying to achieve her goals.

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