Symbolism in ‘A Doll’s House’ by Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen has employed a number of symbols throughout his play A Doll’s House. The very title ‘A Doll’s House’ itself serves as a symbol as it rightly relates to the theme and plot of the story. The female protagonist Nora is the Doll who lives in the Doll’s house. To be specific, in the play A Doll’s House, Ibsen portrayed his ideas using the 19th Century’s new literary style “symbolism” at the given different kind of happenings such as an individual’s inner world, the relationship between characters, and the overall events and effects in the play.
To begin with, ‘Macaroons’ has some symbolic meaning in the play. Ibsen uses this symbol to show that Nora is not open to Torvald and that their home is affected by a hoax. “She slips the bag of macaroons in her pocket and wipes her mouth…” (Ibsen, 8). It shows that Nora is not willing to obey her husband who has forbidden Macaroons. Furthermore, she justifies her act saying; “You couldn’t know why Torvald forbade them. I must tell that he is afraid that they will spoil my teeth…And I shall have one, or most two” (29-30). The ring is an element that symbolizes the relationship (marriage) between Torvald and Nora. When Nora gives the ring back to Torvald in act 3, their marriage also ends. “Nora: here is your ring back, now give me mine” (113). Needlework is also a symbol that indicates the stereotypes and social oppression that women endure in that time of period. It is important to see what Nora tells about it; “Torvald can’t bear to see the dressmaking going on…” (55).

Another important symbol in the play in Italy, and it symbolizes Nora’s hope and opportunity for a happy life. Nora’s inner world is revealed through her words when she says; “It was a wonderfully beautiful journey and it saved Torvald’s life” (17). Nora maintains childish and flirtatious behavior towards Dr.Rank. And, ‘stockings’ is the symbol that Ibsen uses to portrait this relationship. To illustrate, the way Nora shows her silk stockings matters a lot; for, that time of the century it was a really big and flirty thing to do to a man. It shows how intensely Nora desired for a man. Another significant symbol used by Ibsen is ‘the letter’. It symbolizes secrets throughout the play. For instance, the first letter from Krogstad to Torvald contains the truth about Nora’s past whereas the second one from Nora to Torvald contains Nora’s relief to Torvald.
Hence, the letter as a symbol has a great impact on the story.

Finally, Tarantella is another symbol that represents Nora’s inner struggle and attempt of a joyful life. Evidently, she does not like a life with Torvald who always disagrees with her. And, the dance shows her excitement and energy about a change. “Torvald wants me to be a Neapolitan peasant girl and dance the Tarantella that I learned in Capri.” (52). Her words show that she did not like the control Torvald had over her. The symbol ‘Christmas Tree’ represents the relationship between Nora and Torvald also Nora and her children. The way that the tree is decorated for the Christmas symbolizes the importance of the appearance and roles between Nora and Torvald’s relationship. The fact that Nora does not want her children to see the unfinished tree shows the unfinished and lose the relationship between them. The New Year also constitutes a major storyline of the play. Christmas and New Year’s Day, all of the characters expect to start a new life and new hopes.

In short, a Doll’s House is unique for the vast number of symbols the playwright employed throughout the play. Macaroons, The Ring, Needlework, Italy, Stockings, The letters, Tarantella, The Christmas Tree, The New Year are only a few of such symbols that represent an individual’s inner world, the relationship between characters, and the overall events and effect in the story.

 

Works Cited
Ibsen, Henrik. A Dolls House. Arc Manor LLC, 2009. Print.

You Might Also Like