Oh Nora, Nora, how like a woman!
After Nora asks why they should care about the consequences of borrowing money, Torvald responds with this remark. We can see from the beginning of Act One how dismissive Torvald is of his wife’s intelligence, and of all women in general. Torvald’s view of women sets up his treatment of Nora and the power dynamic in their relationship for the rest of the play.
My little songbird must never do that again. A songbird must have a clean beak to sing with. Otherwise she’ll start twittering out of tune.
Torvald delivers this patronizing warning after discovering Nora lied after he asks if anyone has been to their house. At first, Nora replied no, but then admits that Krogstad visited after Torvald mentions he saw him leaving. Nora acts as though she simply forgot but Torvald knows the truth. His reaction to a small lie reveals how important telling the truth and preserving harmony are to Torvald.
Do you expect me to make a laughingstock of myself before my entire staff – give people the idea that I am open to outside influence? Believe me, I’d soon feel the consequences!
When Nora tries to convince Torvald to let Krogstad keep his job, he explains how it would make him look to the rest of his staff, who know he plans to fire Krogstad. Torvald is much more concerned with what his coworkers will think of him rather than the actual business. The fact that he thinks he would be a “laughingstock” for listening to his wife shows how little he considers her opinion.
Isn’t it an insult to imply that I should be frightened by the vindictiveness of a depraved hack journalist? But I forgive you, because it so charmingly testifies to the love you bear me.
After Torvald has sent Krogstad’s dismissal letter and sees that Nora is upset, he assumes she is worried that Krogstad will spread lies about him in the news. Although Torvald implies he could never be frightened by this, the audience knows that his reputation being ruined would be the worst thing that could happen to him. His response to Nora also shows that he assumes she is always thinking of him.
You ought to take up embroidery… It’s much prettier. Watch me, now. You hold the embroidery in your left hand, like this, and then you take the needle in your right hand and go in and out in a slow, easy movement – like this. I am right, aren’t I?
Torvald says this to Mrs. Linde as he reminds her to take her knitting. We learn earlier in the play that Torvald does not like to see knitting out, and his lines here explain why: Torvald thinks the act of knitting is less graceful than the hand movements in embroidery. Such a nuance highlights the fact that Torvald prefers everything look nice and pretty at all times.
Helmer: You see, you see! How right I was not to let you stay longer! Nora: Oh, you’re always right, whatever you do. Helmer: (kisses her on the forehead) Now my little songbird’s talking just like a real big human being.
This exchange occurs between Torvald and Nora after they return home from a party. Earlier, Nora complained that Torvald would not let her stay longer. In an attempt to appease Torvald, however, Nora later revealed she was tired and was happy he made her leave early. Such a scene is but one example of how controlling Torvald is with Nora, and how she is so accustomed to being controlled that she’ll deny her true feelings to keep the peace.
Do you know, Nora, often I wish some terrible danger might threaten you, so that I could offer my life and my blood, everything, for your sake.
After learning that Dr. Rank is dying, Torvald is inspired to shares these thoughts with Nora. The fact that Torvald seems to wish her harm so that he could look like a hero shows how little he actually cares for her as a human being, and how self-centered his version of love is. Soon after hearing Torvald’s thoughts, Nora encourages him to read Krogstad’s letter, believing that he actually would sacrifice himself for her.
There is something indescribably wonderful and satisfying for a husband in knowing that he has forgiven his wife – forgiven her unreservedly, from the bottom of his heart. It means that she has become his property in a double sense; he has, as it were, brought her into the world anew; she is now not only his wife but also his child.
After Krogstad rescinds his blackmail threat and returns the loan document with the signature Nora forged, Torvald is relieved and tells Nora he forgives her. However, Torvald uses his forgiveness as an additional means of objectifying and controlling Nora by saying he now owns her doubly. He believes he has the power to make her a new person, showing how little he thinks of her and her ability to make anything of herself on her own volition.