Symbols in a Doll's House

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Nora's fancy dress costume

Torvald chooses Nora's fancy dress costume, a Neapolitan fisher-girl's dress that he had made for her in Capri. In effect, she is wearing it for him: the sight of her dancing in it throws him into a state of erotic fascination. This reinforces the idea that it is Nora's superficial and transient qualities, such as her beauty, that Torvald most appreciates. It is significant that when the Nurse first brings out the dress (Act 2), Nora notices that it is torn and is tempted to rip it to shreds. This may be symbolic of the flawed state of her marriage and of her feelings about it. Mrs Linde, who is less impetuous and more mature than Nora, suggests repairing it, and it is Mrs Linde who decides that Nora and Torvald must be made to face the truth about Nora's secret. She believes it would be beneficial to the marriage, though in Nora's view the marriage, like the dress, is beyond repair. The Tarantella

The Tarantella was a wild southern Italian dance, generally danced by a couple or line of couples. The dance was named after the tarantula spider, whose poisonous bite was mistakenly believed to cause 'tarantism,' an uncontrollable urge for wild dancing. The 'cure' prescribed by doctors was for the sufferer to dance to exhaustion. Modern psychologists speculate that the true cause of the disorder, which achieved its highest profile in the nineteenth century and which involved symptoms of what would now be called hysteria, was not the spider's bite but the repressed morals of that age. The only outlet for passionate self-expression, they reason, was the Tarantella. In this light, it is significant that Torvald tells Nora to practice the Tarantella while he shuts himself away in his office: "I shall hear nothing; you can make as much noise as you please." While Torvald is ostensibly being indulgent towards his wife, the image of her practicing this passionate dance alone and unheard emphasizes her isolation within her marriage. She...
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