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Symbolism of Henrik Ibsen's play, Doll's House, needs much decoding in the form of thinking and making assumptions about the true meaning of those symbols. Ibsen portrays all the fake values people possess in the play Doll's House. The name of the play Doll's House implies that the actions and events of the play are probably not real. However, the author presents the story of how ordinary people live.
Tarantella is an Italian folk dance which is very fast and energetic. It is usually accompanied by the tambourine. Nora's practicing this dance is symbolizing her twofold struggle against Krogstad and, at the same time, against her husband. The origin of this dance may explain Nora's fight against the men. Tarantella dance took its name after tarantula, whose behavior has particular purpose, "and its swift movement and dizzying rounds are measured to the victims of that poisonous sting" (A Doll's House: An Illustration of Symbolism).
Nora's role as a mother and wife is fully fulfilled by this character. However, she is dissatisfied with her life, with her husband's attitude to her, with daily routine and so on. So, her fight starts as unconscious process, which transforms into conscious goal of her leaving fake house and finding herself as a true individual.
In real life Nora shows high spirits and tries to look happy, but her heart is filled with burdens of her doll life in a doll's house. She is fighting and at the same time being nice and polite, when in her soul there is a volcano or hurricane turning everything upside down. It is ready to blow off any minute.
The other symbol present in the play is macaroons, which are representing Nora's cheating on her husband. At the begging of the play Nora's nibbling on macaroons which her husband asked not to touch may seem rather odd. Eating raw macaroons is not breaking the law, but the action itself reveals something unusual and strange about this female character. Later this simple action turns out to symbolize deceitful act of the wife.
Macaroons as well as Christmas tree are little surprises prepared for Tornvald. In this play a Christmas tree is a symbol of holiday mood. Christmas has always been a positive event. However, in Doll's House the events seem to unfold in positive and holiday-like mood, and only closer to the middle we can see that something is wrong and that some things are not compatible with happy life.
Symbol of tarantella is very vivid, clear and at the same time very difficult to guess from the beginning. Nora was practicing her tarantella dance to present it to the ball and to make her husband happy for her. The practicing throughout the play, which would seem to have nothing in common with life of the main characters, was the most important symbol of the woman's fight for her rights in the men-dominated world. Nora's taking off dress at the end of the play is representation of her taking off her fake identity and starting going in the opposite direction. She has the aim to find her true self lost a long time ago in marriage.
Nora is fighting to the end and at the same time she is waiting for a miracle - for awakening of Tornvald's true love feelings towards her. To be precise, she is longing for his love more than for her own freedom, but left without any chances she chooses freedom after all. Only at the end after eight years of marriage, Nora noticed the true selfish nature of her dearest husband. Her taking off the dress and changes clothes symbolizes the transition from Nora as a doll to Nora as real individuality. Thus, only "miracle of miracles" has the power to bring her back to the family, which is not the case in this play.
The peculiarity of Ibsen's work is that it neither presents the problems directly, nor it solves any of them. There are many problems raised such as forging the husband, idealization relationships in marriage and many others. However, the most significant point of the play was self-realization of Nora as an individual, as a woman, as a mother, as personality. This beginning of search of self is indicated in Nora's words:
"If I'm ever to reach any understanding of myself and the things around me, I must learn to stand alone. That's why I can't stay here with you any longer" (Ibsen 229);
"I have another duty equally sacred ... my duty to myself" (Ibsen 227).
Even nowadays we have fake values in modern families with fake feelings. Fake people-dolls live in our world among us as well. This idea pushes us to think and analyze our lives, actions, feelings, relationships here and now.
Other symbols present in Ibsen's play are the words Tornvald uses to call his wife such as "skylark". It is a symbol of Tornvald's attitude to Nora which is not very serious. He is treating her rather like a child. Always he has his own things to do and he knows that what he tells Nora to do his wife will readily do that for him. Their roles are not equal in the marriage in Tornvald Helmer's eyes. He is the leader of his family team and he knows that he is always right.
Nora's slamming the door is symbol of the total transition from family life into life of self search and development. She doesn't regret leaving family or children. The lost self is much more significant for the woman who kept silent for over eight year in marriage. Self-fulfillment is something we are longing for from the very birth and thus is Nora.
Living in the unreal world of illusions while in marriage is one of the difficult life situations which can be found even today. There are families where women, like Nora, live and devote their whole life to their children and husband. They have neither time nor strength to use a change to find their true self. Even though the family seems happy and prosperous in the eyes of outsider, the true situation can be opposite. The reality is much more important. It can be changed and is worth doing so.