A Doll’s House

by: Henrik Ibsen

Gender Roles

Quotes Gender Roles
And besides – he’s so proud of being a man – it’d be so painful and humiliating for him to know that he owed anything to me. It’d completely wreck our relationship.

Nora explains to Mrs. Linde why she didn’t tell Torvald about the money she borrowed. Such an explanation reveals that Nora and Torvald’s relationship is based on him playing the traditional male role in a household as provider. Nora knows that not only does Torvald feel he must provide for his family, but also her act of helping the family will cause him to feel threatened. The fact that her secret would “wreck” their relationship shows its fragile structure based on traditional gender roles.

Oh, I often got so tired, so tired. But it was great fun, though, sitting there working and earning money. It was almost like being a man.

Nora explains to Mrs. Linde that she accepted some copying work in order to make money to pay back a loan she took on without Torvald’s knowledge. Nora makes it clear that she had no previous employment experience, as that is the man’s realm. In spite of the fact that she found the novelty of earning money stimulating, she could not share the excitement with her husband as working and making money is not considered her domain.

Nice – to give in to your husband? All right, little silly, I know you didn’t mean it like that.

Torvald takes exception when Nora indicates that she reluctantly agreed to Torvald’s idea for her Christmas party costume. According to Torvald, a wife doesn’t have the liberty of her own opinion as the husband has the authority to control whatever she does. This belief that the husband is the master of the household, and that the household includes his wife, is challenged at the end of the play, when Torvald realizes that there is nothing he can do to stop Nora from leaving.

I would not be a true man if your feminine helplessness did not make you doubly attractive in my eyes.

Torvald is exuberant over the resolution of the threat posed by the fraudulent loan Nora obtained to help him recover his health. Krogstad had threatened Nora with blackmail before returning the contract and Nora has expressed to Torvald what a hard time it has been. Torvald attempts to comfort Nora by minimizing her responsibility. When Torvald initially found out about Nora’s loan, he was furious with her and only thought of how he could keep his reputation intact. He came to view what she did for him as an act of love, though misguided and ignorant. The fact that Torvald sees a wife’s complete dependence on her husband as attractive reveals that his love for Nora depends on her being ranked beneath him in both power and intellect.

[Torvald] Helmer: Nora, I would gladly work for you night and day, and endure sorrow and hardship for your sake. But no man can be expected to sacrifice his honour, even for the person he loves. Nora: Millions of women have done it.

At the end of Act Three, Torvald defines the limits of his love for Nora during their final interaction. Nora explains that she expected Torvald to take the blame for the forged signature she used to get the loan. He claims that such a sacrifice would be too great for him as it would damage his honor. Nora points out how often throughout history women have made sacrifices for their families. Over the course of the play we learn Nora sacrificed her own father, her education, and, by forging the signature, her good name for Torvald. The fact that he is unwilling to do the same for her reveals a significant imbalance in their relationship.