Ibsen uses the realistic prose of the characters to foreshadow their actions at the end of the play and to alert audiences to the eventuality that the marriage of Nora and Torvald—a marriage that is stereotypically gendered and conforms to society’s expectations—cannot bring true happiness and fulfillment. In A Doll’s House, Nora and Torvald often make grand statements about how happy they are and how much they love each other, but their actions—Nora eating the forbidden macaroons and Torvald taking Nora away from the ball despite her protestations—undermine their words and foreshadow the downfall of their marriage.
Torvald's Failure to Help Nora
Nora truly believes that a “wonderful thing” will happen once Torvald reads Krogstad’s letter revealing how she borrowed money and forged a signature. She is confident that Torvald will sacrifice his reputation to save hers, yet his selfish and shallow deeds throughout the play foreshadow that he will not have the courage to save Nora. Torvald likes to view himself as a “true man” who will help Nora (“So my obstinate little woman is obliged to get someone to come to her rescue?”), but his actions show that he is much more concerned with upholding his own status in society than her happiness or feelings. Torvald’s selfish and jealous control of Nora surfaces many times, like when Nora explains that Torvald did not recognize Mrs. Linde because he is too jealous to even think of a time when Nora had a life of her own. Torvald’s unwillingness to save Nora is also foreshadowed by Krogstad, who sees Torvald’s true character before Nora does. Krogstad, who has been belittled and rejected by Torvald, recognizes Torvald’s cowardice and unwillingness to do anything that would harm his own reputation:
Krogstad: Does your husband love you so little then? He knows what I can expose you to, and yet he ventures—
Nora: How can you suppose that he has any knowledge of the sort?
Krogstad: I didn’t suppose so at all. It would not be the least like our dear Torvald Helmer to show so much courage—
The shocking end of the play, in which Nora leaves Torvald and their children in order to gain control over her own life, creates a complete reversal from the beginning, when Nora enters the home in a cheerful mood. Ibsen subtly hints at the discord in Nora and Torvald’s marriage from the start, like when Nora denies eating macaroons to Torvald four times, despite the fact that the audience has just seen her eating them. Nora’s lie about such a silly matter gives the audience a clue that the marriage is not as sweet and innocent as it seems when Torvald first enters calling Nora his “little lark” and “squirrel.” Furthermore, Nora’s dealings with Krogstad, from securing the loan in the first place to her claims that she has the “strength” to save her family, show that she is not just the “silly” girl that society and Torvald see.