A Doll's House


Henrik Ibsen

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Themes and Colors
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Doll's House, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Deceit Theme Icon

At the beginning of the play, Nora appears to be a dutifully obedient and honest wife, however it is quickly revealed that she is hiding a serious secret from him—the fact that she borrowed money from Krogstad to finance a trip to Italy that she claims saved Torvald’s life. This renders all her statements about never disobeying him or hiding anything from him deceitful. When she reveals her dishonesty to Mrs. Linde, Mrs. Linde insists that she ought to confess to Torvald immediately, insisting that a marriage cannot succeed when husband and wife are not completely honest with each other.

A parallel occurs between Nora and Krogstad when it is revealed that they both committed forgery. Their acts of deception spark the unravelling of both their lives—Krogstad’s reputation is ruined, and Nora is forced to re-evaluate everything about herself and the society around her, eventually leading her decision to leave her husband and family at the end of the play. In some ways, deceit is presented as a corrupting and corroding force in the people’s lives; however, in Nora’s case, it is clear that the motivation for her dishonesty was love—she lied in order to save her husband’s life. Furthermore, her actions wouldn't have had to be deceitful if it weren’t for societal law dictating that women were not allowed to handle financial matters independently. Therefore Nora’s deceit was not the result of a personal flaw, but rather the only means necessary of overcoming restrictions in order to commit a noble act.

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Deceit ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Deceit appears in each act of A Doll's House. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Deceit Quotes in A Doll's House

Below you will find the important quotes in A Doll's House related to the theme of Deceit.
Act One Quotes

I would never dream of doing anything you didn’t want me to.

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker), Torvald Helmer
Related Symbols: Macaroons
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

I am not so heartless that I would necessarily want to condemn a man for a single mistake like that.

Related Characters: Torvald Helmer (speaker), Nils Krogstad
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

Just think how a man with a thing like that on his conscience will always be having to lie and cheat and dissemble; he can never drop the mask, not even with his own wife and children. And the children—that’s the most terrible part of it, Nora… A fog of lies like that in a household, and it spreads disease and infection to every part of it. Every breath the children take in that kind of house is reeking evil germs.

Related Characters: Torvald Helmer (speaker), Nora Helmer, Nils Krogstad
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Two Quotes

When a poor girl’s been in trouble she must make the best of things.

Related Characters: The nursemaid (speaker)
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

Now Dr. Rank, cheer up. You’ll see tomorrow how nicely I can dance. And you can pretend I’m doing it just for you—and for Torvald as well, of course.

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker), Torvald Helmer, Dr. Rank
Related Symbols: The Tarantella
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

I want to get on my feet again, Mrs. Helmer; I want to get to the top… For the last eighteen months I’ve gone straight; all that time it’s been hard going; I was content to work my way up, step by step. Now I’m being kicked out, and I won’t stand for being taken back again as an act of charity. I’m going to get to the top, I tell you… It’ll be Nils Krogstad, not Torvald Helmer, who’ll be running the bank.

Related Characters: Nils Krogstad (speaker), Nora Helmer, Torvald Helmer
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Three Quotes

Helmer must know everything. This unhappy secret must come out. Those two must have the whole thing out between them. All this secrecy and deception, it just can’t go on.

Related Characters: Kristine Linde (speaker), Torvald Helmer
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

The thing must be hushed up at all costs. And as far as you and I are concerned, things must appear to go on exactly as before. But only in the eyes of the world, of course… From now on, their can be no question of happiness. All we can do is save the bits and pieces from the wreck, preserve appearances…

Related Characters: Torvald Helmer (speaker)
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis: