What kind of wife does Helmer want Nora to be? He affectionately calls her names such as "lark" and "squirrel."

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Torvald wants Nora to be the kind of wife who is beautiful and obedient; he expects her to be sweet and dependent on him. For example, Nora tells her friend, Mrs. Christine Linde, that Torvald has forbidden macaroons in their home because "he's afraid of [her] spoiling [her] teeth" with them. He treats her as one would treat a child—outlawing a kind of sweet because it might rot her teeth—as though a grown woman cannot decide for herself if and when she can eat a cookie! Torvald expects her obedience, and Nora plays along with his expectations (and then sneaks around and does what she wants behind his back). When he asks her if she went to the confectioner's shop today, she denies it, saying, "I shouldn't think of doing what you disapprove of." Nora has also kept secret from Torvald the loan she took out years before, knowing how unhappy it would make him to learn that she'd borrowed money for their trip to Italy (the trip that saved his life). He expects her submission to him, and she appears to deliver.

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Torvald Helmer perceives and treats Nora as his possession and believes that she should solely focus on her marital duties as a mother and wife. Torvald sees himself as Nora's protector, savior, and guardian. He does not perceive his wife as an individual with hopes, dreams, and aspirations. In Torvald's opinion, Nora should be content raising their children, obeying his decisions, and entertaining him. The fact that Torvald continually refers to Nora as his little lark and squirrel emphasizes his perception that she is an inferior being who relies on him to protect, provide, and guide her throughout life. To modern audiences, Torvald's pet names for Nora are demeaning and insulting. However, Nora initially accepts being called a happy lark, squirrel, featherhead, and featherbrain. The dynamics of Nora and Torvald’s relationship reflect the Victorian belief that men should be the dominant partners in marriage, which is something that Torvald fully subscribes to. At the end of the play, Nora experiences a dramatic transformation and refuses to be objectified by her husband, which influences her to leave Torvald and her family behind in order to seek independence.

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The character of Torvald was, in part, designed to be an extension of Nora's father. Although Nora's father is not an active character, but we do know that he used Nora as a doll to play with. As Nora stated herself, she went from "her father's hands to those of Torvald". In the end, Helmer treated her just as her father did.

Hence, a wife is expected to nurture, entertain, obey, accept, become educated, be protected, be needy, and be temperamental. All these qualities are the ones that Torvald kept repeating over and over to Nora. After the issue with Krogstaad, she realized that her husband was no different than her father, and that she had wasted her time and care for no reason on both. This is when she decided that, rather than submitting to their expectations of her, she would go out and find out who she really is.

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In short, Torvald wants a wife who will succumb to his every wish, desire, and/or command. He wants a wife who will behave like a kept animal or a pet. He also constantly refers to her as "little" or some other diminutive terms as though she is a child or a toy, a "doll." In all of these cases, Torvald sees himself--and men in general--as being superior, and women as being inferior and subservient.

However, Torvald's chauvinistic ways are not entirely his blame alone. He is a product of his society and culture and has never considered the possibility that Nora might have her own ideas, her own desires, or even her own needs.

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