In the opening scene of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, Nora Helmer returns home from a Christmas shopping trip laden with wrapped parcels, followed by a Porter with a Christmas tree and a basket of other items.
The first question Nora asks in the play is about money.
NORA. ...How much?
NORA. There is a shilling. No, keep the change.
Nora's husband, Torvald, is working in his study. After exchanging a few pleasantries with Nora, Nora asks him to come out of his room to see what she bought. This brings him to the door of his study.
TORVALD. Bought, you say? All these things? Has my little spendthrift been wasting money again?
With these few opening lines of the play, Ibsen leaves no doubt that money is going to be an important elements in A Doll's House in terms of plot, character, and theme.
Torvald has just been promoted to manager of the bank—a location that's important to the play—and Nora is delighted by his promotion, and his increased income.
NORA. (To Torvald) You are going to have a big salary and earn lots and lots of money. ...
NORA. (To Mrs. Linde) You may imagine how pleased we are! He is to take up his work in the Bank at the New Year, and then he will have a big salary and lots of commissions. For the future we can live quite differently--we can do just as we like. I feel so relieved and so happy, Christine! It will be splendid to have heaps of money...
The central monetary issue of the play soon becomes apparent.
For a time, Torvald was ill and couldn't work. Unbeknownst to Torvald, Nora borrowed money to pay for an expensive trip to Italy where Torvald could convalesce. Nora didn't tell Torvald about the loan because Torvald has a very strong aversion to debt.
TORVALD. ... Nora, you know what I think about that. No debt, no borrowing. There can be no freedom or beauty about a home life that depends on borrowing and debt.
When Torvald returned to work and was again receiving a salary, Nora regularly used money that Torvald gave her to spend to pay back the loan.
The source of the loan is a man named Nils Krogstad, a low-level employee at the bank Torvald manages, with whom Nora once had a romantic relationship. Krogstad was recently fired from his position at the bank by Torvald, and he's come to Nora to ask her to intercede with Torvald on his behalf so that he can return to his position at the bank.
Nora declines to speak with Torvald about Krogstad, which prompts Krogstad to blackmail Nora—more out of necessity than malice—for having forged her father's signature on loan documents.
Later in the play, Torvald is angry and devastated when he finds out about the loan, Nora's forgery, and her deception.
TORVALD. What a horrible awakening! All these eight years--she who was my joy and pride--a hypocrite, a liar--worse, worse--a criminal! The unutterable ugliness of it all!--For shame! For shame! ...
Torvald's reaction to what Nora has done is one of the reasons that prompts Nora to leave Torvald and their children.
NORA. ... It was tonight, when the wonderful thing did not happen; then I saw you were not the man I had thought you were.
At the end of the play, Nora explains the "wonderful thing" to which she refers.
NORA. That our life together would be a real marriage.