In Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, the main male character, Torvald Helmer, speaks very condescendingly to his wife, Nora throughout the first act of the play. He has a definite and narrow definition of a woman’s role, which is clearly exemplified in his dialect towards his wife as well as in reference to her. In his opinion, it is the divine duty of a woman to be a good wife to her husband and a good mother to her children. Furthermore, he tells Nora that women are solely responsible for the morality of their children (yet also somewhat contradicts his point at the same time in reference to Krogstad): “It generally comes from the mother’s side, but of course the father’s influence may act in the same way” (164). Basically, he sees women as child-like, careless, helpless creatures detached from reality while they also must act as prominent moral forces responsible for the purity of the world via their influence in the home.
Torvald also has nearly no trust in Nora. In the first act, he continually scoffs at her for her flirtatious way of spending money, stating, “It’s a sweet little lark; but it gets through a lot of money. No one would believe how much it costs a man to keep such a little bird as you” (Ibsen 140). He continuously mentions how he would give her money if she would do with it as he sees fit, then “gives in” as his part of this game they play with one another where Nora plays dumb so she may have what she wants. .
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Torvald calls Nora a number of names in the first act, including “my little lark,” “little spendthrift,” “little rogue,” “squirrel,” “little songbird,” “poor little Nora,” and “little woman” (Ibsen 137-154). Torvald is extremely consistent about using the modifier “little” before the names he attaches to Nora, followed with “my,” an indication of his belief that Nora is a possession of his, rather than his wife who has her own opinions and thoughts.