A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen reveals a dysfunctional family beneath the appearances of a respectable household. Appearances are certainly deceiving in the Helmer house and both Torvald and his "little squirrel" or "little spendthrift," as he calls his wife Nora, contribute to what develops into an unacceptable situation. Their insincerity, and Torvald's obstinacy, will ultimately destroy any chances of a reconciliation.
Nora has no formal occupation as she would not be permitted to be employed. Women were only allowed to work if they were unmarried or widowed and so Nora is dependent upon her husband who reminds her in Act I, "No one would believe how much it costs a man to keep such a little bird as you." Nora can only do "light fancy work: crochet, and embroidery, and things of that sort" she tells Christina. However, Nora does reveal to Christina that she managed to get "a heap of copying" to do and so she spent many late nights to get it finished. She admits that she loved the work and especially the fact that she earned money; to the point that she says, "I almost felt as if I were a man."
Nora cannot reveal to her husband that she has earned any money because he has no idea that she is paying off a debt. He will not tolerate debt of any sort even though some time previously he needed to recuperate from an illness and the only way the family could afford it was if Torvald took out a loan. As a wife, Nora would not have been permitted to take a loan in her own name without either her husband's permission or a guarantee (which in this case seemingly came from her father). However, because Torvald refused to borrow the money, Nora forged her father's signature, thus obtaining the loan which made it possible to take Torvald on holiday. Nora tells Christina that "It would utterly upset the relation between us" if Torvald ever finds out about the loan, even though she did it to save him.