The Importance of the Dance in A Doll's House

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The Importance of the Dance in A Doll's House


Dancing is a beautiful form of expression that reveals a good deal about a person in a matter of minutes.  Characters that dance in plays and novels usually flash some sort of underlying meaning pertaining to their story, shining light on themselves, other characters, and the movement of the action.  In Ibsen's A Doll's House, Nora's performance of the tarantella summarizes the plot of the entire play


Take, for example, Torvald's attitude towards Nora's offbeat movements.  Torvald plays the piano for Nora initially, but becomes so frustrated with Nora's dancing that he abandons his tune and attempts to re-teach Nora the tarantella.  This simple confrontation reflects the main action; Torvald is the one who provides Nora with music and who had previously taught Nora how to dance, just like he is the one who gives her a home and has sculpted her into his ideal wife.  Nora cannot dance rhythmically to Torvald's song because both her lies and Torvald's strong belief in appearance have disrupted the harmony of their relationship.  As soon as Rank begins to play the piano, Nora dances more wildly. 


Nora's maddening movements stem from the fact that she is subconsciously contemplating suicide in order to save her husband's reputation, and her obsession with thoughts of death parallels her with the fatally ill Dr. Rank, creating a mystical, unearthly understanding between Nora and the doctor.  Torvald is unable to re-mold Nora's dance skills, foreshadowing both Nora's unwillingness to listen to Torvald at the end of the play and Torvald's inability to perform on the same level as Nora, in this case, physically, and later on, morally. 


Nora thinks that Torvald will take the blame for Nora's forgery and she is willing to kill herself in order to transfer the guilt of her crime from Torvald to her.  Nora is now showing a hint of maturity; she is willing to sacrifice her life for Torvald and accept responsibility for her own actions because she strongly believes that Torvald will blame himself for her mistake.  Through her death, Nora hopes to let her secret surface and re-focus what she thinks is the lens of truth, which has been distorted during her marriage to Torvald. Nora calls her vision about Torvald's reaction to her forgery "the miracle," however, like most miracles that humans desire, it never happens. 


Torvald expressed earlier that he wished he could save Nora from a life-threatening predicament, but when he gets his chance, he refuses to help her and proves that he does things only for the sake of appearance, not reality.  Her earlier thoughts of suicide show that Nora now wants truth, and although Nora does not murder herself in the play, her state of mind while dancing strengthens and prepares her to destroy the life that she is living in a different way: she will slay her marriage as soon as she realizes that her ideals clash with Torvald's.  By moving from Torvald to Rank on the piano, Ibsen briefly sketches the play's plot and symbolically relates the pace of the tarantula to Nora's changing relationship with Torvald.



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MLA Citation:
"The Importance of the Dance in A Doll's House." 27 Nov 2015

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