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Symbols in A Doll's House

Symbols Examples in A Doll's House:

Act III

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"Taking off my fancy dress...."   (Act III)

Just as Torvald took of his “domino” earlier, Nora now takes off her fancy dress—the costume Torvald bought for her to dance the Tarantella in. Now both of their fantasies are broken. Torvald has revealed his true nature to Nora; now Nora will reveal her true self to Torvald.

"He, with his sufferings and his loneliness, was like a cloudy background to our sunlit happiness. ..."   (Act III)

Inadvertently showcasing his superficiality, Torvald laments the loss of Doctor Rank’s gloomy presence and the way it made Torvald and Nora’s life seem happier. Without Rank around to provide a contrast, the Helmers’ relationship might appear less ideal. Notice that Doctor Rank does not impact the plot the way that Krogstad and Mrs. Linde do. He is not involved in the central scandal at all. Instead, he can be read as a more symbolic figure, representing the decay of the Helmers’ relationship. Just as Rank has been sick since childhood, the Helmers’ marriage has been diseased from the beginning. However, Nora’s forgery has forced the disease to become deadly sooner than expected. The symbolism is clarified by Rank’s death announcements, which arrive just before Torvald reads Krogstad’s letter.

"Do you know, you ought to embroider...."   (Act III)

Torvald gives unsolicited advice to Mrs. Linde, saying that she should embroider rather than knit since embroidery is “more becoming.” Not only is this line indicative of Torvald’s preoccupation with appearances, but it also reveals his view of women. Knitting is meant to create new items that are functional and useful, such as blankets, socks, or scarves. Embroidery is purely decorative, meant to add colorful designs or monograms to existing items. Rather than valuing Mrs. Linde’s ability to create something useful, Torvald insists that she should focus on making things look nicer. Combined with his disparaging remarks about Nora’s homemade ornaments and gifts, this exchange suggests that Torvald views women themselves as decorative rather than functional or capable.

"a black domino..."   (Act III)

A “black domino,” in the context of clothing, refers to either a set of hooded robes most often worn at masquerades or a simple black mask that covers the eyes. Both items are associated with the concealment of identity. Torvald, who is concerned with appearances, must wear a costume in order to maintain his image. Notice that he eventually takes the domino off and throws it onto a chair. Symbolically speaking, removing costumes and masks is associated with honesty and authenticity, foreshadowing the exposure of Torvald’s true self.

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