The play’s title, A Doll’s House, comes into focus in the last moments of the final act. Here, Nora confronts an ugly truth: She’s never had the opportunity to be a complete adult person. Instead, she’s been passed from her father’s care to her husband’s. She tells Torvald, “He used to call me his baby doll, and he played with me like a doll. Then I came to live in your house…” (80). Torvald himself casually mentions that he thinks of her not as a partner but as a “treasured possession”; he intends this as a compliment (69).
Nora’s false doll-life represents the predicament of women in general in 19th-century Europe. Expected to be nothing more than charming children, women in the middle and upper classes were denied their full humanity; they were, indeed, playthings for the men around them. If Nora wants to be a real person rather than a mere doll, she has no choice but to leave her stultifying home.