Use of Imagery in A Doll's House
Imagery symbolically guides the process of self-emancipation for Nora, the protagonist of A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen. Objects like the macaroons, the lamp, the Christmas tree, and costumes represent the movement towards freedom of a woman who was a victim of society. Ibsen painted Nora as a youthful and lovely creature who was brought through life treated as a plaything by both her father and then her husband, Torvald. She must break society's unwritten laws. Although the consequences of her actions are initially minor, they start her along the path towards crisis when she realizes her position and the injustice of it. Through Ibsen's use of symbolism
, objects in the play echo her process of anguish to liberation.
Nora spent most of her life as a toy. Her father would be displeased if she had separate opinions from him. The masquerade and costumes
are her own masquerade; their marriage is a decorated Christmas tree. She also pretends to be the doll
, letting Torvald dress her up and tell her to dance. Her husband's use of words, names like 'little Miss Obstinate" and "skylark" both showed his affection for her and that his affection was terminal if she were to step outside her porcelain boundaries. As Nora's initial submission, is overturned to tenacity and rebellion, the games she played with her children disappear. Confused, she thinks she will poison them by owing money, but eventually she realizes that it is not debt, but her treatment of her children that will turn them into dolls like her. The Christmas tree has become ragged and stripped of ornamentation, like Nora and Torvald's marriage. When she changes out of her tarantella costume towards the end of the play, she also removes the disguise and turns into a "real" person.
Previous to her transformation, Nora must find other ways of having her own personality. The macaroons, like her flirtation with Dr. Rank, are her secret defiance. They allow her a form of rebellion, an escape from her husband, a hiding place. The light Nora has brought in after Dr. Rank declares his love for her is seen by Rank as Nora in his life. He thanks her for the "light", meaning for the only friendship, love, and hope he has ever had. With things out in the open between her and Dr. Rank, she must soon encounter her husband if he finds out the truth about her debt to Krogstad, and more importantly, the "act of love" that some call forgery.
Nora had a large capacity for self-dramatization, as shown in the last scene. Especially theatrical is her declaration that she "cannot spend another night in a strange man's house." She has finally realized the quality, or lack thereof, in their marriage. She will no longer be satisfied as the song-bird wife and must discover herself in the world. With that in mind, the slamming of the door could mean that Nora will never return, that the time she has spent entertaining Torvald is at an end. Torvald, however, predicts hopefully that they will renew their marriage. Nora will certainly romanticize her emancipation, but the final curtain leaves the reader with no hints as to whether she will return or not.
Through the turn of events, Nora was fated to meet the crisis of her misdeed and overcome it. It was almost pure luck that she and her husband were not blackmailed by Krogstad, but more significantly, Nora was able to overcome her place as a toy doll in her own household. Though Nora's logic is based on her misconceptions, ideals, and dreams, it is Torvald who's overboard and high-minded morality crumbles to petty selfishness in a crisis. Ibsen deals with women's liberation and self-emancipation by showing the characters' internal aspects through images. The refined furnishings of Torvald and Nora's home are reflections of their roles, marriage, and ultimate separation.