Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” is a controversial play focusing on the marriage of Nora and Torvald Helmer. The play is filled with symbols that represent abstract ideas and concepts. These symbols effectively illustrate the inner conflicts that are going on between the characters. Henrik Ibsen’s use of symbolism such as the Christmas tree, the locked mailbox, the Tarantella, Dr. Rank’s calling cards, and the letters allows him to give a powerful portrayal to symbolize aspects of characters and their relationship to each other.
The Christmas tree in itself is symbolic and it means the play takes place during Christmastime. Ibsen uses Christmas tree to mainly construct the character of Nora. The Christmas tree symbolizes the feelings of Nora. At the start of the play, Nora enters the room carelessly and her mood is festive. The Christmas tree, a festive object used for decorative purposes, represents the function of Nora in her household who is pleasing to look and who adds the charm to their home. Nora dresses the tree just as Torvald dresses her up for the Stenborgs’ party. Like other married women during the period, Nora is simply decorative and is not allowed to make familial decisions. Nora instructs the housemaid, “Hide the Christmas tree carefully, Helen. Be sure the children do not see it till this evening, when it is dressed” (Ibsen 793), the same as when she tells Torvald that no one can see her in her dress until the evening of the dance. The Christmas tree also imitates the psychological state of Nora when it is described to be “…stripped of its ornaments and with burnt-down candle-ends on its disheveled branches” (Ibsen 812). This describes Nora when she receives the bad news from Krogstad; as a result her mind is a mess, just as tousled and scruffy as the tree. Ibsen clearly includes several parallels between the Christmas tree and Nora’s life and emotions throughout the play.
Ibsen also uses a symbol to develop Torvald Helmer as a character. The locked mailbox represents Torvald as a superior and controlling husband. The mailbox is for Torvald alone to access, as he only holds the key. Similarly, Torvald’s study is a private room that Nora is never allowed to enter. The fact that Torvald will not even allow Nora to read the mail shows how far he has kept her apart from the outside world and kept her under his total control. Torvald does not recognize Nora as an intellectual person to be involved with any business or important matters in life. The mailbox also represents Nora’s submissiveness, which signifies the oppression of all women during the time period.
The Tarantella is an Italian folk dance. The name “Tarantella” derives from the name of a poisonous spider; the Tarantula. When bitten, the venom will of the Tarantula makes the person move uncontrollably as if dancing. This movement believes to relieve the person from pain. Thus, dancing non-stop...