Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
The Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree, a festive object meant to serve a decorative purpose, symbolizes Nora’s position in her household as a plaything who is pleasing to look at and adds charm to the home. There are several parallels drawn between Nora and the Christmas tree in the play. Just as Nora instructs the maid that the children cannot see the tree until it has been decorated, she tells Torvald that no one can see her in her dress until the evening of the dance. Also, at the beginning of the second act, after Nora’s psychological condition has begun to erode, the stage directions indicate that the Christmas tree is correspondingly “dishevelled.”
New Year’s Day
The action of the play is set at Christmastime, and Nora and Torvald both look forward to New Year’s as the start of a new, happier phase in their lives. In the new year, Torvald will start his new job, and he anticipates with excitement the extra money and admiration the job will bring him. Nora also looks forward to Torvald’s new job, because she will finally be able to repay her secret debt to Krogstad. By the end of the play, however, the nature of the new start that New Year’s represents for Torvald and Nora has changed dramatically. They both must become new people and face radically changed ways of living. Hence, the new year comes to mark the beginning of a truly new and different period in both their lives and their personalities.
Nora’s Tarantella Dance
When Nora tells Torvald she is leaving him, she focuses on her position in the family as Torvald’s “doll wife.” Nora’s tarantella routine is one of many examples in the play that emphasize this apt description. Torvald not only chooses Nora’s costume for the party, but he also directs exactly how she must dance while wearing it. This dance shows the audience a near literal example of Torvald treating Nora as his doll. He does not physically put her into the costume or move her around the dance floor, but his instructions are so specific he may as well have.
Nora rebels against her doll-like status by deviating from Torvald’s dancing instructions in rehearsal. At the party itself, she dances “a bit too naturalistic” for Torvald’s taste. She uses costume fittings and dance rehearsals as excuses to keep Torvald from interrupting her secret conversations with Mrs. Linde and Krogstad. Even as Torvald creates the dance scheme to fulfill his fantasy of complete ownership over Nora, Nora uses his expectations to begin hiding from and rebelling against them. Through the dance, we can see both Nora’s place as a doll in her home, and the ways she works to circumvent that role.