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The Christmas tree, Nora’s fancy dress costume and the Tarantella dance are powerful symbols which enhance the meaning of the play.
The Christmas tree is a symbol of Nora herself. Nora presents a façade to the world just like the tree is covered with glittering ornaments. She presents herself as a frivolous, carefree woman, whose husband calls his “little skylark,” “little squirrel” and “little song-bird” (Ibsen, I). She sparkles like the tree. However, the ‘unornamented’ Nora is a woman of great strength of character, who controls her husband, struggles with debt and is willing to sacrifice herself for her family. She is like the Christmas tree which she wants hidden and seen only “when it is dressed” (Ibsen, I). As the tree appears denuded of ornaments at the start of Act II, it represents the Nora who is stripping away the outer decorations of her own personality to assert her true identity.
Nora’s fancy dress costume is another graphic symbol in the drama. She puts on the costume of a Neapolitan fisher-girl, made for her by Helmer. Again, the dress demonstrates Nora’s superficial assumption of the role prescribed for her by her husband and society. Nora is the “doll-wife” (Ibsen, III) who Helmer dresses. She submissively tells him, “Torvald, couldnt you take me in hand and decide what I shall go as, and what sort of a dress I shall wear?” (Ibsen, I). As Nora sheds her assumed identity and prepares to reveal her true personality, she tells her husband that she is “Taking off my fancy dress” (Ibsen, III). The torn dress also signifies the breaking-down of their marriage.
The Tarantella dance is a very powerful symbol of Nora’s state of mind. Nora is deeply affected by Helmer’s condemnation of all deception as he says, “such an atmosphere of lies infects and poisons the whole life of a home. Each breath the children take in such a house is full of the germs of evil”
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