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Flashcards in Symbols Deck (4)
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1

The Stove

- familial comfort - provides warmth and when fire is lit family is sat in a close proximity = hallmark of familial contentment

- becomes more threatening, "there, that should burn up now" and pushes the rocking chair away from the stove when with Krogstad - the tension and pressure equate to fire, speed that Krogstad could bring destruction is like that of a fire. pushing rocking chair away from fire symbolises her want to protect her family from such threats


- dr rank - threat of illness - "the sands are running out for me"
- Helmer stands by stove as Nora dances Tarantella, her wildness and freedom (symbolised by the dance) providing the greatest threat to their marriage
- Ibsen specifically indicated these moments should be played near the stove – moments of threat, of danger –moments in which the artifice of harmony could catch light at any moment.

2

The Lamp

- Ibsen uses the amount of light in a scene as morality symbol –the absence/presence of light becomes a kind of moral barometer, the scene in which Nora is provocative towards Dr Rank begins with the stage direction, “During the following scene it begins to grow dark” (ACT 2), representing the moral dubiousness of the behaviour
- Dr Rank confesses his feelings towards Nora, Nora calls to maid to bring lamp in and says to Dr Rank, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, now that the lamp has come in?”(ACT 2).

3

The Door

- whole of a doll's house set in one room = entrances and exits are large events in scenes, added to it's a play about a family threatened by outside forces = door becomes the site where this threat is focused
- One of most threatening moments in the play is when Krogstad enters ‘unnoticed’ as the door, the defence a family has against the outside world, seems to have been bypassed
- The final gesture of the play is the "noise of a door slamming". Nora has decided to put herself on the other side of her own front door; she has become an outsider to her own family.
- Leaving your husband and children was, at the time of the first performance of A Doll’s House, a wildly radical idea, and, because of this, the slamming of the door at the end of the play takes on great symbolic weight. The closure of this one door has come to stand for a cultural shift from patriarchal 19th-century morality to a new era of increased individuality and liberalism.

4

The Tarantella

- a wild dance that originates in Southern Italy; cultural connotation of the dance, being a hot-blooded Roman expression of savagery, contrast with the cool and calm nature of the Scandinavians
- named after the tarantula spider. The poison of the tarantula spider was suspected to cause ‘tarantism’, a mad jigging than only ceased when the victim was exhausted. This dance works as a symbol for Nora’s downfall in several ways. Firstly, the dance originates in Italy, the country that is connected with the debt, as if the borrowing of the money/the fraudulent signature are the ‘bite’ of the spider and, ever since, Nora has been ‘dancing’ or pretending to Helmer. Indeed, she must keep dancing, just like the victim of the bite, until she is exhausted.
- There is also the sense that the tarantella is Nora’s swansong. She intends to kill herself when the dance comes to an end. So again, Nora’s dance represents the original mythology surrounding the tarantella –that it is, in a sense, a death dance
- Nora is also dancing to stop Helmer opening the letter from Krogstad, so in this respect ‘social death’ –the loss of face and honour –is equated to actual death. When Nora performs the dance it is a dance of wild abandon. This force of savagery breaks with the idea of ‘appropriate behaviour’ or ‘decorum’. It is, therefore, a physical embodiment of the force of will and the strength of independence that makes Nora leave at the end of the play.
- Helmer’s interaction with this symbol is also telling. Helmer only wishes to see the sedate version of the dance that society has cultivated. When Nora practices the dance, Helmer says: I’ll go and sit in the inner room and shut the doors, so you can make all the noise you like –I shan’t hear a thing.(ACT 2) And when Nora dances the dance with all her wild abandon, Helmer complains that it was “a trifle too realistic... more so than was... artistically necessary”(ACT 2).Again, we see that Helmer can only cope with an artificial, socially codified version of reality –not with the savagery of life as it actually is