A Dolls House
Henrik Ibsen used symbolism throughout the play to Really help the audience grasp the meaning of what he was trying to present. The conflicts, characters, and themes are portrayed within this play successfully with the use of symbolism. Symbolism is used to describe Nora’s actions and how they led her to find her true self. Many things in this story would be very hard to understand without a representation, causing it to be misleading.
Henrik Ibsen not only succeeded in Capturing the audiences attention, but he also made the story easier to understand and more relatable by using symbolism. That is why Many objects, such as the christmas tree, are used as symbols that set the whole theme for the play. The most obvious symbol is Nora herself. Nora, pretending to be the perfect wife that her controlling husband wants, is the “doll” of the house. She is dying inside to find herself and to become free of all the work that comes with being the perfect wife in that time period.
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Torvald also treats her as if she were a doll. He treats her as is she was an object, something that belonged to him that he thought he could never lose, as if she were a toy rather than being a human being. He controls Nora’s life to the point that he refers to her with degrading pet names, such as “my little spendthrift”, and pats her on the head like a puppy. “Come, come, my little skylark must not droop her wings. What is this! Is my little squirrel out of temper? (Taking out his purse. ) Nora, what do you think I have got here”(Ibsen).
This passage shows that even his tone towards her is degrading, as if she was too dumb to understand, like an animal. “It’s a sweet little bird, but it gets through a terrible amount of money. You wouldn’t believe how much it costs a man when he’s got a little song-bird like you! ” (Ibsen). Torvald portrays how he sees Nora as property in this passage, just spending away his money. He even monitored what she ate, and macaroons became a symbol of rebellion, since he had forbidden her to eat them.
“Nora’s father would force his beliefs on her and she would comply with them lest she upset him; she would bury her personal belief under Papa’s. According to Nora, Torvald was guilty of the same things”(Bandger). Noras father seemed to be very similar to Torvald by the way he is mentioned in the play. Ibsen associated fatherhood with, corruption, absence, abandonment and illness. “The polluted father appears in the father of Dr. Rank, Nora and Torvald’s friend. Because Rank’s father kept mistresses and contracted syphilis, Rank inherited the disease and was “sickly from birth” (156).
Rank must suffer for “somebody else’s sins”(Bandger). She begins to hide many things from Torvald, and this portrays how oppressed she truly is. One of the greatest secrets that she kept from Torvald,that if revealed, could lead to many consequences. Nora forged a signature to borrow a large sum of money previously, and is struggling to pay it back without Torvald’s knowledge, even though the money was ironically borrowed to save his life. “Nora imagines that Torvald would sacrifice his own reputation and future to save her, but Torvald tells her that he would not make the sacrifice, shattering Nora’s dream world.
At this point it becomes clear to Nora that she had been living all these years with a strange man, and she had born him three children. This realization forces Nora into the real world and she ceases to be a doll”(Goonetilleke). Torvald cannot accept his wife’s sacrifice in securing the loan that saved his life because, in desperation, she got the money illegally, and if the fact became known, it would be a blow to his pride. When Torvald will not defend his wife, it is the final betrayal of her love, and their marriage does not survive.
The Tarantella, a dance that Torvald taught Nora, is also a symbol in the play. During this dance, Nora dances wildly because she is full of agitation, excitement and nervous energy, and Torvald is displeased with her. “Ibsen’s mode of presentation is realistic, but he incorporates symbolism and visual suggestion, too. For instance, when Nora dances the tarantella, the frenzied dance is an image of the torment in her mind. Indeed, Nora’s very language, though prose, is vibrant with emotion and acquires a poetic intensity.
The play confirms Ibsen’s view: `I have been more of a poet and less of a social philosopher than people generally suppose’”(Goonetilleke). Ibsen wanted to portray the fact that Nora had too much going on in her mind, and she didn’t know what to do anymore. Torvald does not approve of the dance, which can be seen as Nora’s attempt at a full and satisfying life symbolically. The dance also represents Nora’s inner struggle. The dance is a chance for her to break free and prove herself indirectly. Nora could never have a more satisfying life with her husband,he wont agree and approve to change.
Just as Nora instructs the maid that the children cannot see the tree until it has been decorated, she tells Torvald that no one can see her in her dress until the evening of the dance. The tree symbolizes Noras position in the household. Their are also many other objects in the story seen as symbols as well. The locked mailbox represents secrecy, control, and where power lies in the household. The macaroons portraying the struggle between Nora and Torvald where the power lies, the symbolic indication of rot at the center of their marriage, foreshadowing nora’s rebellion.
The new year symbolizing a new phase in life; usually met with high expectations , Nora’s new beginning. “Hasn’t Miss Sweet Tooth been breaking rules in town today? […] taken a bite at a macaroon or two? ” (Ibsen). Torvald never allows nora to eat macaroons, but she still does so and lies about it. The macaroons symbolize freedom, rebellion, and independence. Nora’s decisions led her to become a symbol to represent women in the nineteenth century in Europe. Women in this time time period are treated like property and are controlled like dolls, and Nora represents women of her time by being controlled by Torvald.
This time period was marked by males being judged by their work success and women being socially oppressed and relegated to domestic duties. “My mother was alive then, and was bedridden and helpless, and I had to provide for my two younger brothers; so I did not think I was justified in refusing his offer” (1. 136-1. 137)(Ibsen). Nora had to Offer herself in marriage because it was one way a women could provide and support her family at this time. “I have other duties just as sacred.
Torvald tries to convince her that the most important duties are to be a wife and mother, and she responds by saying she’s important too, and she would like to fulfill her independence and freedom. This idea was completely scandalous in Ibsen’s time. The thought that a woman might have value other than homemaking and being a mother was outrageous. Ibsen explored the impossible situation of women. We can still connect with this play today because we have modern issues that relate to it all the time. Men can? abandon their children and this is normal in our society – a woman does it and she’s immediately judged.
Abortion is necessary for women to achieve gender equality otherwise you remove the right of choice. Everyone is a feminist if they believe in equal rights. Ibsen was probably exploring the role of his own mother in his life, who he saw suffer hardship and never left the family and was a pillar of strength. Nora represented her change and freedom by having a dress change at the end of the play. By doing that it represents her decision to become new women. She takes out her dress to wear a usual everyday day garment, with that,she puts her new persona of a free women.
Overall A Dolls House symbolizes the fact that Nora, the main character, is a doll living under her husbands control. Towards the end of the play, Nora’s persona shifts from that of the everyday perfect housewife, to that of a self-empowering, independent woman. She struggles with lies, marriage, and the forever long journey of finding herself. The door slammed heard around the world, Still as powerful today!? Nora leaving her family to find herself encouraged many other women that they weren’t dolls, that they are humans that deserved respect and Independence.