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Essay on Visual Symbols in "A Doll's House" by Henrik Ibsen

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"A Doll's House", written in 1879, is one of the most famous works by playwright Henrik Ibsen, the founder of modern realistic prose drama. It tells the story of a nineteenth century bourgeoisie woman who breaks the chains of society that determine her role in life in order to find herself. The female protagonist Nora lives a perfectly comfortable and seemingly carefree life until her husband Torvald Helmer falls ill. She is forced to forge a signature on a contract that would enable her to borrow enough money from a lawyer named Nils Krogstad to travel to southern Italy to save his life. When Torvald finds out what she did and becomes infuriated rather than grateful for the wife who loves him enough to save his life, Nora realizes that his love for her is not as deep as his self-pride. At the end of the play, Nora deserts her husband so that she may pursue a life with meaning and happiness.
The abundant visual symbols that Ibsen uses in "A Doll's House" carry important meanings. The first among these is the macaroons. In Act I, the reader learns that Nora's husband has forbidden her from eating macaroons, fearing that they would make her teeth decay. However, she continues to buy them secretly from the confectionary against his explicit orders, demonstrating a sign of rebellion. This shows how Nora is treated like a child by Torvald. It is not uncommon for parents to ban sweets from their children and for the children to defy them in secret.
Another example of symbolism in the play is the lark. Ibsen uses the lark to illustrate the relationship between Nora and Torvald. Torvald is the strong and powerful man while Nora is his helpless little wife, dependent on him for everything. "Lark" is just one of a series of nicknames To...


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...possibly continue living this way. The slam is her declaration of independence from Torvald and society and the beginning of her search for true happiness and self-satisfaction. She will no longer work only to serve and please others. When Torvald accuses her of running out on her most sacred vows, which in his opinion are her duties to her husband and children, she responds by saying that her duties to herself are "equally sacred".
The way the play ended incited public controversy because the idea of a woman deserting her husband and discarding traditional values the way Nora did was deemed totally outrageous and inappropriate for the time period and Ibsen was forced to change the ending on numerous occasions. Today, however, A Doll's House is hailed as a literary masterpiece, praised for its realistic portrayal of the lifestyle of women in the Nineteenth Century.


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