Symbols used in A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen.


A Doll’s House is the play written by Henrik Ibsen, a Norwegian playwright. Here in the play, the playwright uses various symbols which usually something concrete – an object, a place, a character, an action – that suggests for something abstract and universal. He uses them to convey his expected meaning to his readers. Here in the play, the major symbols he uses are: a doll’s house, macaroons, Christmas tree, bird, squirrel, tarantella, the bond, the letter, Doctor Rank, Mrs. Linde, money and so on.

“A Doll’s House” depicts a woman’s emancipation from the proprietary rights a husband claims to have over his wife. The title of the play is very significant. While playing, children make the dolls perform social roles over which the lifeless dolls have no control. A parallel is suggested by the title and by several speeches in Insen’s play between the life and that is represented in the house and the false life of a doll’s house. In fact, the word ‘doll’ refers to a woman who has no mind or will of her own. A doll’s house, therefore, means a house where there lives such a woman. Nora Helmer is almost always treated like a doll both by her father and husband. Before her marriage, she is treated like a baby-doll by her father and after she is married off to Torvald, she receives the same treatment from her husband too. Thus she has stayed like a doll in a doll’s house. They always play with her just like a child plays with his toys for fun and amusement.

Macaroons are the cookies that show her childish tendencies, such as sneaking unhealthy food. It also shows the side of her that she hides from her husband, or her concealed self.

Christmas tree is another symbol of concealing in the play. Nora wants to hide the Christmas tree from her children, showing secrecy. She also does not want them to see it before it has been decorated, symbolizing the contrast between realistic and idealistic, which is a common theme throughout the play.

“Hide the Christmas Tree carefully, Helen.
Be sure the children do not see it till this evening, when it is dressed.”

Nora Helmer’s husband calls her by several names as songbird, squirrel and skylark. These nicknames are representative of Nora’s false image she portrays. She is shown as a mindless woman who innocently lives her life according to her husband and wastes her time on frivolous things.

Tarantella is a type of dance that symbolizes Nora’s change from an innocent woman (the bird) to more of a devious character. It shows the transformation into her true self, which is not a transformation that her husband enjoys. She becomes more independent in thoughts and actions at this point and is attempting to conceal the fact that she went behind her husband’s back in order to get a loan. She is spinning a “web of lies”.

The bond symbolizes the secrets Nora keeps from her husband, and is the basis for much of the conflict in the story. It is seen as a thing of evil, and seems to bring out the worst traits in each character, such as Nora’s lies, Torvald’s self-involvement (for he worries only about what it will do to his career), and Krogstad’s vengefulness.

And the letter symbolizes Nora’s vulnerability and is a cause of panic toward the end of the play. Once it is discovered it will expose Nora’s deceit to her husband and put their family in jeopardy.

Doctor Rank is the character that symbolizes fate in the play. He speaks frequently of the sickness in society and seems to have a pessimistic view of the world. He is dying and must meet the fate he has been dealt, since fate cannot be altered and only accepted. Mrs. Linde is Nora Helmer’s friend who shows contrast to Nora and represents the coming of age of women.

Money symbolizes the shallowness of this society, since much of the play revolves around it. Many of the characters lives seem to depend on money in order to fulfill their needs.

To sum up, it can be said from the elaborate discussion above that the symbols the playwright employed in his play “A Doll’s House” are really excellent. They have heightened the emotional effect of various situations in the play.