In Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, Nora and Torvald Helmer show the possible effects of gender conflict in a marriage. When a woman faces the constraining roles of a strict patriarchal society, she may choose to step outside these roles in order to maintain her own individuality. Nora and Torvald play their conventional roles so completely that it results in gender conflict. They are so entrenched in these roles created by society that they have no sense of themselves. Through conflict with Torvald, Nora discovers the true depth of her marriage and how it differs from what she believes a marriage should be. She struggles with inner conflict, debating whether or not she can remain a part of such an empty marriage. Nora finally comes to the realization that she does not know Torvald at all and has been living with a stranger for eight years. At this point she undergoes a great change. She no longer cares how other people see her, including her husband. She also recognizes that in order to care for her family she must become a competent individual. Nora then leaves her husband and children to "educate" herself about herself and the world in which she lives.
At the very heart of A Doll's House is gender conflict. Nora and Torvald are stereotypical perfection at the beginning of this play, showing the exact roles their society taught them to play. Torvald is expected to teach, protect, and morally guide his wife because of her inferior intelligence and judgement. Nora, in turn is the willing wife, open to her husband's direction and advice, knowing full well that she is not fit to make decisions herself and that her role in life is to make her husband and children supremely happy and healthy. Torvald treats Nora as his pet, possession or child. Torvald scolds Nora, "My pretty little pet is very sweet, but it runs away with an awful lot of money" (919). The words "my", "pet" and "it" show Torvald's true view of Nora as a pet, possession and plaything.