In A Doll's House, Ibsen uses debt as a symbol to expose the superficiality of Nora and Torvald's marriage. Ibsen uses Nora's secret debt as a tool for making social comment. It is significant for Nora's realisation of the shallowness of their marriage and it also gives her a sense of pride and control in her daily life. Ultimately, the debt gives her freedom for self-discovery but simultaneously restrains her because she must deprive herself and lie to Helmer in order to repay it. When Helmer discovers Nora's secret debt and forgery, he is so caught up in her crime and his appearances' that he overlooks her ignorance and good intentions. When confronted with the fact that Torvald will discover her secret debt, she believes that if he is the man she thinks he is, his finding will only strengthen their relationship.
Act Three reveals that Helmer clearly does not intend to sacrifice himself for her and accuses her of having no religion, no morality, no sense of duty ' (Ibsen p221). Then the façade is unmistakable and 'at that moment [she] realised that for eight years [she] had been living here with a strange man ' (Ibsen p230). Consequently, Nora realises that, before she can become a wife, she must first discover herself by living outside the confines of her doll's house'. She leaves and is determined to become a fuller, more independent person and believes that [she] must stand alone' (Ibsen, p81) in order to do this.
Metaphorically, Nora is a doll in a doll's house, a victim of confinement and patriarchal role-play. Nora merely fulfils Torvald's and society's expectations, neglecting her own feelings and aspirations, therefore, jeopardising her own integrity. By Act Three, Nora realises the falsity of her role and she cannot accept society's laws that she considers wrong. For Nora, forgery would not have been necessary had there not been the barrier of social etiquette. Society dictates that Torvald be the marriage's dominant partner. Nora and Torvald have a father-daughter type of relationship rather than husband and wife. Helmer controls all the money and patronises her. For example; Torvald says
There, here! My little singing bird mustn't go drooping her wings, eh? Has it got the sulks, that little squirrel of mine? [Takes out his wallet] Nora, what do you thing I've got here?' [Quickly turning around] Nora; Money!' (Ibsen,p3)
I suggest that this is why Torvald's rejection of Nora was so heartless, for it undermined his authority as dictated by society. A Doll's House was not intended to represent everyday reality, but to shock the audience into realisation of their own situation. This play is directed towards the nineteenth century Norwegian...