When a young girl plays with her doll house, she imagines a make-believe world full of enchantment. However, little does she realize the false and unattainable image of perfection that lies before her. With every miniature doorway and elaborate bookcase, the doll house disguises reality with a mask of flawless excellence. Similarly, Henrik Ibsen describes many appearances in A Doll House as mere façades of deception. These images reiterate the theme that outer appearances are never what they seem. Through his dealing with Nora’s societal role and his use of symbolism, Ibsen effectively contrasts the themes of appearance and reality and suggests that all façades will eventually be revealed.
In society’s view, the marriage between Nora and Torvald is a wonderful relationship. Torvald supports the family through his job at the bank while Nora is the caretaker for the children. However, they have no real communication between them. Torvald commonly refers to Nora as his “little lark” or “squirrel” (1010, 1012). He never treats Nora as an equal marital partner, much less an individual. In the end, the marriage has to end because of its lack of real communication. Thus, a source of deception in the play stems from the fact that the actual marriage between Nora and Torvald is not a healthy relationship, as in society’s view. Furthermore, when Nora decides to go against her husband’s will to borrow the money for the loan, she forsakes her matrimonial bond, yet gains personal independence. Nora considers the loan “something to be proud and happy for” (1017). Yet, in essence, she is pleased with her ability to lie to her husband. Through this circumstance, Ibsen successfully reveals that a relationship built on dishonesty cannot remain. In the end, the marital façade is revealed through Nora’s inability to remain in a relationship that, in her point of view, is not “a true marriage” (1061).
Another form of deception in the play is Nora’s oscillating role between a homemaker and an individual. For Nora’s entire life, society has forced her to succumb to its expectations of a woman’s role as a devoted mother, rather than to her personal desires. However, in raising the children, she continues to reinforce these societal traditions. For example, Nora plays a game of hide-and-seek with her children. Although this amusement may seem infantile, the game itself is based on deception with its emphasis on concealment. Symbolically, Nora continues to hide behind the female persona of a mother. In the game, Nora replies, “Yes, let me hide first” (1023). As a mother, Nora sets the standards for her children. Thus, in essence, she is telling her children that it is acceptable to hide your true, individual desires. She therefore continues the repressive chain through the symbolic game of hide and seek, as she calls her children her “little, lovely doll babies” and encourages them in this entertainment (1023).