A Doll's House: Top Ten Quotes
"Yes - some day, perhaps, after many years, when I am no longer as pretty as I am now. Don't laugh at me! I mean, of course, when Torvald is no longer as devoted to me as he is now; when my dancing and dressing-up and reciting have palled on him then it may be a good thing to have something in reserve." (Act One)
Nora responds to Mrs Linde's question as to whether she will ever tell Torvald of the loan that she took out in order to save his life. Nora's words reveal that she is aware that Torvald's feelings for her are superficial and based on her beauty and ability to perform for him and amuse him. For these reasons, she believes that one day he will tire of her.
"To be able to be free from care, quite free from care; to be able to play and romp with the children; to be able to keep the house beautifully and have everything just as Torvald likes it!" (Act One)
Nora delightedly looks forward to the time when she will have paid off her debt to Krogstad and reflects that then she will be free. Her speech has dramatic irony (where the audience knows or suspects that the opposite to what the character believes is true), as her freedom as she defines it is in fact her bondage. She comes to realize this by the end of the play.
"Your squirrel would run about and do all her tricks if you would be nice, and do as she wants." (Act Two)
Nora attempts to manipulate Torvald into keeping Krogstad in his post at the bank, so that Krogstad will not reveal to Torvald the details of Nora's debt.
"It is no use lying to one's self." (Act Two)
Dr Rank tells Nora that he must confront his imminent death. His remark has greater resonance, however, as Nora and Torvald are indeed lying to themselves. Nora tells herself that Torvald loves her so much that he will sacrifice everything for her, and Torvald believes that he has a submissive, decorative but helpless little wife. Both are under an illusion.
"A wonderful thing is going to happen!" (Act Two)
Nora makes this comment to Mrs Linde after Krogstad has dropped a letter, revealing Nora's debt to him and her forgery of her father's signature, into Torvald's letterbox. Though Nora does not yet explain what the "wonderful thing" is, it later becomes clear that she is referring to her expectation that Torvald will take the entire blame for her actions upon himself. This never happens, though it could be said that another wonderful thing - Nora's awakening - does occur. The "wonderful thing" theme is taken up again by Nora at the play's end, just before she leaves Torvald, when she says that such a thing would have to happen for them to get back together. However, she adds that she no longer believes in wonderful things.
"Why shouldn't I look at my dearest treasure? - at all the beauty that is mine, all my very own?" (Act Three)
Helmer stares at Nora in her fancy-dress costume, which he picked out for her, in a state of erotic fascination. He looks upon her as a beautiful possession. His attitude towards her is contrasted with that of Dr Rank, who soon enters and confides in Nora that he now knows for sure that he will die within a month. Dr Rank treats her as an equal and loves her essence, not just her appearance, as is plain from his comment that she must go to the next party as a good fairy, but in her normal clothes.
"At the next fancy-dress ball I shall be invisible. There is a big black hat - have you never heard of hats that make you invisible? If you put one on, no one can see you." (Act Three)
Dr Rank tells Nora, in code so that Torvald will not understand, that he will be dead by the time of the next fancy-dress ball. The big black hat symbolizes death.
"Do you know, Nora, I have often wished that you might be threatened by some great danger, so that I might risk my life's blood, and everything, for your sake." (Act Three)
Torvald, enthralled by Nora's beauty in her fancy-dress costume, fantasizes about how he might rescue her from some great danger. This comment has great dramatic irony, as very soon, when her secret is revealed, he will have the opportunity to do just that. Indeed, Nora is expecting him to do just that, but he fails miserably. Far from rescuing her, he only thinks of his own ruined reputation, and of the necessity of keeping up appearances.
"From this moment happiness is not the question; all that concerns us is to save the remains, the fragments, the appearance - " (Act Three)
Torvald, having learned the details of Krogstad's loan to Nora, does not appreciate her sacrifice for him or consider her feelings. He rejects her both as a wife and a mother for their children, but wants her to remain in his house and pretend that all is well with their marriage. He is concerned only to preserve the appearance of respectability.
"I have existed merely to perform tricks for you, Torvald. But you wanted it like that. You and father have committed a great sin against me. It is your fault that I have made nothing of my life. our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was father's doll-child; and here the children have been my dolls." (Act Three)
In a seminal speech that explains the play's title, Nora realizes the truth about her marriage, which has been not a meeting of minds and hearts, but a performance. She blames her husband and, before him, her father for treating her as a spoilt child and a plaything for their own amusement. They wanted her to be ignorant and helpless, and thus far she has only tried to please them, missing out on any opportunity to educate or improve herself.