The most significant representation of this would be the appearance of the family and the Helmer’s marriage in general. Upon the first act or so of the play it appears to the audience that the Helmers are a perfect family. Mr. Helmer is a very typical husband for the time setting, as is the Mrs. Helmer and children. Their house is always tidy; they seem financially stable and can afford nice things. Their household is also equipped with a maid and a Nurse for the children signifying that they can afford nice things. The relationship between the husband and wife is very typical and almost stereotypical of what the perfect household would be in that time era. It is even stated that Nora loved her husband so much that she secretly borrowed a very large sum of money in order to send her husband on a trip to the south for the benefit of his health.
However, once the plot begins to thicken, and the play progresses, one can see that the Helmer household is not as perfectly put together as it appears. As it turns out, Nora feels as though she is not an equal to her husband and that he treats her like a child. She also states that she feels as though Mr. Helmer and her father have both treated her as if she were a doll. In act three Nora states, “…our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll-wife …that is what our marriage has been, Torvald.”
This concept of appearance versus reality plays a big role in the play. It is essentially the basis of the plot and is the inspiration for the title of the play itself.