As the play begins, Nora Helmer lives the life of a sheltered child, possessing no knowledge whatsoever of how the world really works - even her own world. She lives in a tidy little home (kept tidy by the maids), plays with her children (who are cared for by a nurse), and obeys her husband, Torvald, as a child does her father (with the exception of sneaking sweets). She has gone from being a charge of her father to being a charge of her husband. As Nora's old friend, Mrs. Kristine Linde, states upon seeing her again after many years, "Well my heavens - a little needlework and such - Nora, you're just a child" (A Doll's House, act 1).
However, Nora surprises Mrs. Linde with a rather unexpected revelation: she took it upon herself some years ago to solicit a rather large loan in the interest of saving her husband's health. She is quite proud of not only her "self-sufficiency" in paying back on the loan (using money her husband has given her for other things) but also her ability to have kept it from Torvald for all this time, thus sparing his pride. "Besides - Torvald, with all his masculine pride - how painfully humiliating for him if he ever found out he was in debt to me. That would just ruin our relationship. Our beautiful, happy home would never be the same" (Doll, act 1). What Nora fails to mention to her friend, or truly consider, is the manner in which she procured this loan. Without any real understanding of the gravity of her actions, she had forged her dying father's signature on the loan note of a crooked bank employee and set herself up for problems later.
In time Nora's actions come back to haunt her, as the banker, Mr. Krogstad, proceeds to threaten to expose her fraud if she does not secure his position at the bank through her husband. She spends several desperate days trying to avert disaster, bringing in Mrs. Linde and even considering doing the same with the family friend, Dr. Ranks. In the end, despite being able to rescue her, Mrs. Linde chooses to make Nora face up to her actions by dissuading Mr. Krogstad from asking Torvald to return him his letter of blackmail threats. "[Torvald] Helmer's got to learn everything; this dreadful secret has to be aired; those two have to come to a full understanding; all these lies and evasions can't go on" (Doll, act 3). This