While rehearsing the tarantella dance, Nora tries to distract Torvald from opening the letterbox because her secret will be revealed. Like Nora, Torvald also playacts in order to maintain his position both in his household and in society. When Nora begs Torvald to alter his decision about Krogstad, he refuses for he believes the bank staff would see him as “ridiculous” if they knew “the new bank manager had changed his mind because his wife said to” (Ibsen 1624). He chastises Nora as a “stubborn little creature,” but he stubbornly conforms to the expectations society has set. Thus, Torvald chooses conflict with his wife in order to maintain his reputation. Torvald assures Nora that whatever may come, he is “man enough to take everything on himself” for he has “both courage and strength if necessary” (Ibsen 1625). Through these statements, Torvald insinuates that Nora is neither courageous nor strong. But, when Nora’s secret debt is revealed and courage is needed, Torvald selfishly abandons Nora. He calls her a “hypocrite,” a “liar,” and a “fool” for borrowing money from Krogstad, regardless of the fact that she acted in order to save Torvald’s life (Ibsen 1643). Even in the resolution when Krogstad mercifully returns the contract, Torvald thinks only of himself: HELMER. Yes, it’s true! I’m saved! Nora, I’m saved!
Moss 4 NORA. And what about me? HELMER. You too, of course. We’re both saved, you and I. (Ibsen 1644) Nora remains an afterthought or a mere prop. Both the Helmers are masters of manipulation capable of directing the other’s attention away from the truth. Nora and Torvald exploit each other in order to fulfill their set roles; this deceit undergirds the conflict between them throughout A Doll’s House . In the end Nora’s refusal to continue playing the role of adoring wife brings resolution to the conflict with Torvald. When Nora convinces Krogstad to loan her the money for the trip to Italy, it is her greatest act of love for Torvald. She steps outside of her role, which is confined to the house, and secures a future for her husband and their family. But, to Torvald it shows “unspeakable ugliness” that brings shame upon him (Ibsen 1643). In burning the contract
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