A Doll's House

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.
Gender Theme Icon

A Doll’s House exposes the restricted role of women during the time of its writing and the problems that arise from a drastic imbalance of power between men and women. Throughout the play, Nora is treated like a child by the other characters. Torvald calls her his “pet” and his “property,” and implies that she is not smart or responsible enough to be trusted with money. Neither Krogstad nor Dr. Rank take her seriously, and even Mrs. Linde calls her a “child.” While this treatment does seem to mildly frustrate Nora, she plays along with it, calling herself “little Nora” and promising that she would never dream of disobeying her husband. However, there are clues that she is not entirely happy with the limited position she has as a woman. When revealing the secret of how she borrowed money to finance the trip to Italy, she refers to it as her “pride” and says it was fun to be in control of money, explaining that it was “almost like being a man.” Although she comes to regret her decision to borrow money, Nora’s dissatisfaction with her status as a woman intensifies over the course of the play. In the final scene she tells Torvald that she is not being treated as an independent person with a mind of her own. Her radical solution to this issue is to leave domestic life behind, despite Torvald's declaration that he will change. Nora's decision suggests that she, and the play, see the issue as only partially with Torvald. The more fundamental issue is with domestic life as it was conceived and lived at the time, in the way it legally and culturally infantilized women and made it impossible for them to be recognized or treated as full individuals.

Meanwhile, the men of the play are also expected to fill a certain role. Both Torvald and Krogstad are very ambitious, driven not only by the need to provide for their families but also by a desire to achieve higher status. Respectability is of great concern to both of them; when Nora’s borrowing is revealed, Torvald’s first thoughts are for his reputation. Meanwhile, Krogstad is fixated on achieving success now that he has “gone straight,” and intends to one day take over Torvald’s job and run the bank.

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Gender ThemeTracker

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

Below you will find the important quotes in A Doll's House related to the theme of Gender.
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:

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Oh, sometimes I was so tired, so tired. But it was tremendous fun all the same, sitting there working and earning money like that. Almost like being a man.

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker)
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.


Oh, I think I can say that some of us have a little influence now and again. Just because one happens to be a woman, doesn’t mean… People in subordinate positions, ought to take care they don’t offend anybody… who… hm…

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker)
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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You see Torvald is so terribly in love with me that he says he wants me all to himself. When we first married, it even used to make him sort of jealous if I only as much as mentioned any of my old friends back home. So of course I stopped doing it.

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker), Torvald Helmer
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

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A man’s better at coping with these things than a woman…

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker)
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

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If it ever got around that the new manager had been talked over by his wife… As long as the little woman gets her own stubborn way…! Do you want me to make myself a laughing stock in the office? Give people the idea that I am susceptible to any kind of outside pressure? You can imagine how soon I’d feel the consequences of that!

Related Characters: Torvald Helmer (speaker), Nora Helmer
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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You can’t frighten me! A precious little pampered thing like you…

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

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Tell me what to do, keep me right—as you always do.

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker), Torvald Helmer
Related Symbols: The Tarantella
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

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But my dear darling Nora, you are dancing as though your life depended on it.

Related Characters: Torvald Helmer (speaker), Nora Helmer
Related Symbols: The Tarantella
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act Three Quotes

What else is there to understand, apart from the old, old story? A heartless woman throws a man over the moment something more profitable offers itself.

Related Characters: Nils Krogstad (speaker), Kristine Linde
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Without work I couldn’t live. All my life I have worked, for as long as I can remember; that has always been my one great joy. But now I’m completely alone in the world, and feeling horribly empty and forlorn. There’s no pleasure in working only for yourself. Nils, give me somebody and something to work for.

Related Characters: Kristine Linde (speaker)
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

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I wouldn’t be a proper man if I didn’t find a woman doubly attractive for being so obviously helpless.

Related Characters: Torvald Helmer (speaker)
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

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For a man, there is something indescribably moving and very satisfying in knowing that he has forgiven his wife—forgiven her, completely and genuinely, from the depths of his heart. It’s as though it made her his property in a double sense: he has, as it were, given her a new life, and she becomes in a way both his wife and at the same time his child.

Related Characters: Torvald Helmer (speaker), Nora Helmer
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

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I have been your doll wife, just as at home I was Daddy’s doll child. And the children in turn have been my dolls. I thought it was fun when you came and played with me, just as they thought it was fun when I went to play with them. That’s been our marriage, Torvald.

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker), Torvald Helmer
Related Symbols: The Doll’s House
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

I believe that first and foremost I am an individual, just as much as you are—or at least I’m going to try to be. I know most people agree with you, Torvald, and that’s also what it says in books. But I’m not content anymore with what most people say, or what it says in books. I have to think things for myself, and get things clear.

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker), Torvald Helmer
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

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