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

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The lies that Nora tells throughout Henrik Ibsen's play, The 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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A Doll's House

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