In Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”, in Act Two Scene 6, Nora’s deceptive behaviour and desperation reaches its climax due to the arrival of the letter. This is because the letter contains the means she used to get hold of the money. During the time when the play took place, society frowned upon women asserting themselves. Women were supposed to play the role in which they supported their husbands, took care of their children and made sure that everything around the house was perfect. Work, politics and decisions were left to the males. Nora broke the law and decided to borrow money to pay for her husband’s treatment. She did not borrow the money in the ‘right’ way instead she forged her father’s signature.Order now
By doing this, she not only broke the law but also stepped away from the role society had placed on her, being totally dependent on her husband. In this scene, she faces the truth in the letter. The person from whom she borrowed the money, Krogstad, wants payment on the loan. He also blackmails her about influencing Helmer to give him a better job at the bank and hence increase his position in society.
This causes Nora to try to keep the letter away from her husband; but what is the significance of the letter and what does it mean to Nora? Possibly, this letter catalyses how Nora acts and how she thinks and she has been deceiving Helmer for the whole of their marriage. This included all sorts of deceptions. One thing that a good audience can recognise is how petty her lies become throughout the play. Nevertheless, no matter how petty her lies are, all she wanted is to cover up her secession.
Associated with her deception is the situation she is now in, her desperation, which causes an avalanche of deceitful behaviour and thoughts. When Helmer asks if she is trying on her costume, her agreement is followed by “I’ m going to look beautiful for you,” which reveals and sums up her deception. The truth is that she is trying to sort out her next moves with Mrs Linde in how to keep Helmer away from that letterbox. Conceivably, Nora is beautiful as commented by Helmer, but what lies underneath her beauty are, the complicated thoughts and the idea of forgery.
Nora is a character who acts on her impulse and cannot think of the consequences from her impulsiveness. She is frantic and very hysterical. She talks about a miracle. A miracle, used in this way, is a complex word probably multi-layered with meaning. Nevertheless, this might suggest about a kind of action contrary to the laws of society at the time the play was set. She might be thinking about Helmer taking the blame and paying Krogstad the money. This is impossible because Helmer is too proud. He does not want to give in to women even if she is his wife. He is someone obsessed with his reputation- a common obsession of males because it was a way of gaining a respectable position in society. This was made worse when he was promoted and gained a position of social esteem.
Another idea might be her committing suicide. The audience is aware that she cannot do this because she has to go ‘under the ice, down into the cold black water and then in spring to float up again, ugly, unrecognisable and hairless.’ She is also ‘a pampered little pretty’. Above all she does not believe in anything else, that is why she is trying to believe in the ‘impossible’ because her desperation has reached its climax.
Her desperation increases as she tries to distract Helmer from opening the letterbox. The audience, as Ibsen engineers Helmer’s movements towards the box, feel the greatest tension. His movements are interrupted by Nora playing the first bars of the tarantella. The tarantella is used in distracting Helmer from the letterbox but also might implicate something more complex after what Nora says afterwards. The tarantella is a dance accomplished by moving your body nervously in a systematic way. Ibsen might have chosen this deliberately as to show how nervous Nora’s actions are. It was also believed that the venom from the tarantula spider caused these nervous movements and when you danced the tarantella, you could be healed.
Her efforts to distract Helmer away from the letterbox fail and she just goes straight to the point of not thinking of anything else except for her. She also begs him not to forsake her when the time comes near her ‘dance of life’. This shows the extent of Nora’s desperation that she has to agree to Helmer’s superiority to keep her ‘miracle’ alive.
Nora: correct me, lead me the way you always doâ€¦you see how much I need you! You must show me every step of the way. Right to the end of the dance. Promise me you will Torvald?
In the all the other scenes in the play, for eight years in the character’s lives, Nora has been covering up all her secession from what her society expects of women. She did not just assert herself but committed a forgery, which she knew deep down that Helmer would not accept it. It is a pivotal moment in her life to see if the miracle will happen. It is not just significance to her but the play as a whole and the audience. It decides what goes on in the other scenes. Later in the play, her actions are prone to this initial but significant scene.