The expectations imposed upon Nora were created by society and her husband. In the nineteenth century women had few alternatives to marriage; they were not expected to step beyond their roles as housewife and mother. Females were confined in every way imaginable. Women were limited by their identities as it relates to society and their husband’s expectations.
On page 1571, Mrs. Linde says to Nora ‘A wife can’t borrow money without her husband’s consent.’ Mrs. Linde expects Nora has gotten the money through other means; either the lottery or other indiscreet means. It wasn’t expected that women with a little business know-how could derive ways to earn or borrow money. Torvald treats Nora like a doll. He calls her by all manner of names: squirrel, silly child, lark, songbird. The names he uses directly relates to how Torvald feels about her at the time. He tends to treat her views and opinions as less than important or trifling. Torvald doesn’t want Nora spending too much money at Christmas. Nora wants to borrow against his upcoming promotion and subsequent raise in salary. Torvald states on page 1565 ‘Are your scatterbrains off again? What if today I borrowed a thousand crowns, and you squandered them over Christmas week.’ On the rare occasion when Torvald gives her money, he is concerned that she will waste it on candy and pastry.
Nora asks Torvald what her most sacred vows are and he responds ‘And I have to tell you that! Aren’t they duties to your husband and children?’ Later on he states Before all else, you’re a wife and mother. Torvald states that her sacrifice for him was nothing. He states on page 1611 ‘I’d gladly work day and night, Nora, and take on pain and deprivation. But there’s no one who gives up honor for love. Torvald reveals his true feelings, which put appearance, both social and physical, ahead of his wife, whom he says he loves.
Nora states on page 1611 ‘you neither think nor talk like the man I could join myself to. When your big fright was over – and it wasn’t from any threat against me, only for what might damage you – when all the danger was past, for you it was as if nothing had happened. I was exactly the same, your little lark, your little doll that you’d have to handle with double care now that I’d turned out so brittle and frail. Torvald in that instant it dawned on me that I’ve been living with a stranger….’
As a women she is judged by laws framed by men that judges women from a masculine point of view. In the laws eyes she has committed forgery not an act of love for her husband. Even her husband views it that way. In the nineteenth century if a wife deserts her husband, the law frees him from all responsibility. Nora states on page 1610 ‘When a wife deserts her husbands house, just as I’m doing, then the law frees him from all responsibility. In any case I’m freeing you from being responsible.
Torvald and society’s expectations of women in the nineteenth century were very limited and binding. Women were not expected to have opinions or be able to think for themselves. Oppressed and confused by the belief in authority, she loses faith in her ability, right, and obligation to rear her children.