You will prepare and submit a term paper on Symbolize and meaning of Play. Your paper should be a minimum of 500 words in length. “A Doll’s House Symbolism. Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” analyzes gender roles and feminine identity in marriage. Nora Torvald, the protagonist, is portrayed as a stereotypical wife and mother, who is totally dependent on her husband, Helmer. As the net of forgery and blackmail closes round her, Nora becomes a desperate woman who contemplates suicide. When Nora realizes that Helmer’s social position is more important to him than his love for her, she resolves to leave him. She becomes a woman determined to find her own self-identity. Ibsen makes skillful use of visual details and objects as symbols in his drama. The Christmas tree, Nora’s fancy dress costume and the Tarantella dance are powerful symbols which enhance the meaning of the play.
The Christmas tree is a symbol of Nora herself. Nora presents a façade to the world just like the tree is covered with glittering ornaments. She presents herself as a frivolous, carefree woman, whose husband calls his “little skylark,” “little squirrel” and “little song-bird” (Ibsen, I). She sparkles like the tree. However, the ‘unornamented’ Nora is a woman of great strength of character, who controls her husband, struggles with debt and is willing to sacrifice herself for her family. She is like the Christmas tree which she wants hidden and seen only “when it is dressed” (Ibsen, I). As the tree appears denuded of ornaments at the start of Act II, it represents the Nora who is stripping away the outer decorations of her own personality to assert her true identity.
Nora’s fancy dress costume is another graphic symbol in the drama. She puts on the costume of a Neapolitan fisher-girl, made for her by Helmer. Again, the dress demonstrates Nora’s superficial assumption of the role prescribed for her by her husband and society. Nora is the “doll-wife” (Ibsen, III) who Helmer dresses. She submissively tells him, “Torvald, couldnt you take me in hand and decide what I shall go as, and what sort of a dress I shall wear?” (Ibsen, I). As Nora sheds her assumed identity and prepares to reveal her true personality, she tells her husband that she is “Taking off my fancy dress” (Ibsen, III). The torn dress also signifies the breaking-down of their marriage.
The Tarantella dance is a very powerful symbol of Nora’s state of mind. Nora is deeply affected by Helmer’s condemnation of all deception as he says, “such an atmosphere of lies infects and poisons the whole life of a home. Each breath the children take in such a house is full of the germs of evil” (Ibsen, I). In Taranto, where this dance originates, it is believed that performing the Tarantella is the antidote for the poisonous bite of the tarantula. Nora sees her forgery as a tarantula bite, slowly poisoning her life with the constant pain and struggle of keeping her secret. .Her frenzied dancing represents her attempt to work the poison out of her system. It is significant that Nora does not submit to Helmer’s instructions regarding the dance, but gives it all the passion which is pent-up inside her.
The Christmas tree, the fancy-dress costume and the Tarantella are rich visual details which add depth and meaning to “A Doll’s House.” The theme of the play is Nora’s transformation from her superficial role as a clinging wife into the woman in search of her true identity. This development is mirrored in the initially decorated and then denuded Christmas tree. Nora’s disintegrating façade is poignantly represented in the torn costume designed by Helmer. Finally, the Tarantalla depicts the impassioned woman who seeks an antidote to the poison which is killing her marital relationship. Ibsen skillfully uses these details as symbols which convey to the reader Nora’s character and her state of mind and contribute to the richness of the play.
Ibsen, Henrik. “A Doll’s House.” eNotes. Web. 18 March 2013.
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