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Symbolism in Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House

By Nafisa-Rahman Dec 31, 2013 954 Words
A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen is a play filled with numerous amounts of symbols that represent the many personalities of the characters in it. These symbols help the reader to understand the character beyond a literal interpretation. One significant symbol in the play that represents the real personality of the character, Nora, is macaroons. These macaroons reveal the dual personality that Nora has when it comes to dealing with different people. Some people may argue that the macaroons show Nora’s obedient behavior because she is always listening and doing what Torvald says but that is only for a moment. In reality, the macaroons represent Nora’s rebellious and controlling behavior because she is always using Torvald and on top of that, doing things behind his back that she knows he doesn’t approve of.

Some may argue that Ibsen’s use of macaroons represent Nora’s submissive character. However, this is not true because Nora is not submissive but rather controlling and rebellious. This can be exemplified in the play when Doctor Rank comes into Nora’s house for the first time and Nora offers him a macaroon. Rank is confused and says, “What macaroons, I thought they were forbidden here,’’ in response Nora says, “Yes, but these are some Christine gave me… You couldn’t know that Torvald had forbidden them, I must tell you that he is afraid they will spoil my teeth. But, bah!” This shows that Nora does things behind Torvald’s back even though he forbids her from doing it. She tries to look controlling in front of others while Torvald isn’t present but once he is present, she does whatever she wants such as going along with his pet names even though in reality she dislikes them.

Some people say that the macaroons represent Nora’s submissive character because whenever he asks her if she ate any, she always say no because she’d never go against his word. This is illustrated in Act I when Torvald is joking and asking Nora if she had any sweets, in response to that, Nora says, “I should not think of going against your wishes.” In reality, this doesn’t prove that she’s a submissive character because she actually does eat the macaroons and lies straight up to Torvalds face. The definition of submissive is being obedient and listening to someone’s rules but this is not the case when it comes to Nora and Torvald’s relationship. Nora feels dominant throughout the play and she thinks that she can do whatever she wants and get away with it. This can be seen several times in different acts such as in Act I where Nora is confronted by Krogstad for forging her dead father’s signature. Krogstad says, “Your Father died on the 29th of September. But, look here; your father has dated his signature the 2nd of October.” Nora thought she would be able to get away with forging her father’s signature because she is so used to getting away with things with Torvald but she did not expect to get caught, especially with something as serious as this with Krogstad. This can be tied back to the macaroon symbol because she gets away with eating macaroons every single time.

In A Doll’s House, macaroons are a reoccurring symbol that shows up quite a lot. They represent Nora’s rebellious character and tendency to be independent from Torvalds disciplines and rules. Her rebellious character with the macaroons shows how comfortable she is with lying behind Torvalds back. Another example that shows how Nora is controlling is when she persuades Torvald to get whatever she wants. Nora is able to persuade Torvald all the time to get things in her favor. In Act II, she sarcastically pretends as if she forgot how to dance for the party so that Torvald can’t check his mailbox for the next two days and possibly find out about the loan Krogstad provided. “You must not think of anything but me, either to-day or tomorrow; you mustn’t open a single letter-- not even open the letter box--” Nora can easily demand this to Torvald because she knows that when she acts helpless, Torvald always gives in to her wants and needs.

Nora is even more daring when she invites Doctor Rank and Christine for dinner in Act II and says “Yes, a champagne banquet till the small hours. And a few macaroons, Helen--lots, just for once!’’ This quote basically ties up the fact that Nora is a risk taking person because she asks for macaroons in front of Torvald even though she knows he absolutely disapproves of sweets for the last eight years of their relationship. This relates back to the claim that the macaroons show Nora’s rebellious character because of her dual personality that she can easily play off. Whenever she is around people besides Torvald, she acts as though she has all the control and power in the household. This is rebellious because when Torvald is present in the setting, Nora goes along with his pet names and commands by putting on a fake persona.

Macaroons in A Doll’s House plays as a significant symbol because it helps to reveal Nora’s true personality. In literal text, Nora can be seen as an obedient character that is always listening to her husband and stays within his standards. Despite this being half true, Nora is actually a deceptive character that acts independent and rebellious in the absence of her husband. She goes against his words along with the rules he sets and acts as though she is in control of everything in the household.

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