In A Doll's House, what do Torvald's nicknames for Nora tell you about their relationship?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The relationship between Nora and Torvald in A Doll's House, on the surface, seems uncomplicated. Torvald is clearly the "head of the household" and is responsible for financial issues and decision-making. Nora's role is simple - so Torvald believes - care for the children and run the home BUT under his strict guidance.

Nora wants to be the perfect wife but has no idea what that really means. She appears to be the erratic and most-definitely fickle wife, hiding her propensity for eating macaroons from her husband as if she were a spoilt child. She perpetuates his belief in her lack of skills when he calls her his "little squirrel" almost enjoying the term as she sees it as endearing whereas actually it is demeaning.

Torvald also has his concept of the "perfect " family and his interpretation of that does not allow for any interference from his "little spendthrift" whom he berates for spending and then promptly gives her more money. This indulgence he sees as his way of showing his "love." 

The relationship between the two is far more complex than it appears though and the lack of understanding or recognition of this - by either of them - is what brings this story to its unfortunate conclusion. Torvald believes he is the provider and to think that Nora would have loaned money is inconceivable to him. He feels it discredits him and makes him, look bad - no concern for the sacrifice and secrecy Nora has had to make and maintain.

The very fact that Nora has had to go to such lengths is also indicative of their relationship. She knows he would not approve and so must hide the truth. She demeans herself in fact.

Nora and Torvald's relationship is based on societal norms and expectations not real life and definitely not real love. The wife is inferior to the husband and the names Torvald call Nora more than confirm this reality.

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A Doll's House

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