As the play opens, Nora is bringing home the Christmas shopping. She carries several packages. Right behind her is a porter, carrying the Christmas tree and a basket. He hands the basket to Ellen, the family’s maid.
Nora inquires how much the porter’s charge is for carrying these things. When he tells her sixpence, she gives him a shilling—twice the amount he stated—and tells him to keep the change. This generosity at holiday time shows that she understands the value of workers’s time and that she is in the holiday spirit.
By establishing the idea that Nora is generous, Henrik Ibsen sets the stage for the subsequent conversation between Nora and her husband, Torvald, who then enters. Torvald teases her excessively about being a spendthrift, as she justifies spending a bit more this year because he is getting a promotion.
It soon turns out, however, that Torvald is completely clueless. Nora is far from frivolous; she has created this false impression in her husband’s mind to disguise the fact that she has been working herself, and scrimping and saving from the household money as well, so that she can repay a loan she obtained under false pretenses.