In A Doll's House, Ibsen paints a bleak picture of the sacrificial roles held by women of all economic classes in his society. In general, the play's female characters exemplify Nora's assertion that even though men refuse to sacrifice their integrity, hundreds of thousands of women have. In order to support her mother and two brothers, Mrs. Linde found it necessary to abandon Krogstad, her true but penniless love, and marry a richer man. The nanny had to abandon her own child to support herself by working as Nora's (and then as Nora's children's) caretaker. As she tells Nora, the nanny considers herself lucky to have found the job, since she was a poor girl who'd been led astray. Nora, however, recognizes that her life has been nothing but a performance, constrained by social norms by the end of the play. As a result of her revelation, Nora feels that she is unfit to be a good mother for her children. Thus, she feels justified that she must abandon her children for their sake.
At the beginning of A Doll's House, Nora seems completely happy. She responds affectionately to Torvald's teasing, speaks with excitement about the extra money his new job will provide, and takes pleasure in the company of her children and friends. She does not seem to mind her doll-like existence, in which she is coddled, pampered, and patronized. Though Nora is economically advantaged in comparison to the play's other female characters, she nevertheless leads a difficult life because society dictates that Torvald be the marriage's dominant partner. Torvald issues decrees and condescends to Nora, and Nora must hide her loan from him because she knows Torvald could never accept the idea that his wife (or any other woman) had helped save his life. Furthermore, she must work in secret to pay off her loan because it is illegal for a woman to obtain a loan without her husband's permission. By motivating Nora's deception, the attitudes of Torvald and society, leave Nora vulnerable to Krogstad's blackmail.
Krogstad's blackmail and the trauma that follows do not change Nora's nature; they open her eyes to her unfulfilled and underappreciated potential. I have been performing tricks for you, Torvald, she says during her confrontation with him. Nora comes to realize that in addition to her literal dancing and singing tricks, she has been putting on a show throughout her marriage. She has pretended to be someone she is not in order to fulfill the role that Torvald, her father, and society at large have expected of her.
Nora's abandonment of her children can be interpreted as an act of self- sacrifice. Despite Nora's great love for her children manifested by her interaction with them and her great fear of corrupting them, she chooses to leave them. Nora truly believes that the nanny will be a better mother and that leaving her children is in their best interest.