The modern tragic play, A Doll’s House, written by renowned Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen in 1879, exposes the apparent issues of society during Victorian times. Nora Helmer, the main character is entrapped in the societal system, which confines her, as like the majority of women at the time, to submissive conduct towards her husband, Torvald Helmer, the patriarch. Ibsen employs a range of dramatic devices to represent Nora’s entrapment, which in turn emphasises his purpose of challenging societal values, beliefs and gender roles during the Victorian period. In terms of props, the decorations Christmas tree symbolises Nora’s role in the Helmer household as merely, a female plaything. Her entrapment is further emphasised in her Tarantella dance, which represents her suppressed personal freedom due to Torvald’s treatment of her as a toy. Nora however, is able to find her true definition of personal freedom. Ibsen creates this through employing dramatic language techniques in Nora’s and Torvald’s dialogue. Overall, the dramatic devices which Ibsen deploys to create his purpose exemplifies Nora’s entrapment.
The decorations on the Christmas tree represent Nora’s role in the household as a female toy. Nora’s function in the Helmer household is effectively the same as the tree. She is merely an ornamental object which exists for the purpose of pleasing Torvald and her children. The Christmas tree decorations runs parallel with Nora’s life. The stage directions state she is ‘busy decorating the tree.’ (P51) She busily puts the ‘candles here - and flowers there.’ (P51) Both the stage directions and Nora’s hurried tone tells the audience she treats the Christmas tree as a material object – nothing more than a decoration. Torvald also treats Nora as a decoration, which is present in the household for the purpose of amusement. Nora essentially foreshadows her understanding of the entrapped role she plays for Torvald, as she admits when she is old, ‘it no longer amuses him to see me [Nora] dance.’ (P35) Her slightly pessimistic tone suggests she is aware of her position as a material object to Torvald, but is not yet fully aware of her societal entrapment. The function of the decorations on the Christmas tree runs parallel with Nora’s role as a female plaything, as the Christmas tree is also a decoration, merely present to pleasure the eyes,
Nora’s Tarantella dance encapsulates Nora’s suppressed freedom through Torvald’s treatment of her as a toy. Nora’s fancy Italian costume and her Tarantella dance symbolises her role as a ‘pet’ to Torvald. Nora realises her role in the household as she confronts Torvald towards the conclusion of the play. She metaphorically labels herself as a ‘doll-wife.’ (P98) The image creates a sense of superficiality in the marriage of Nora and Torvald, as Nora explains how Torvald effectively views her as a plaything. Her understanding of her role as a wife is foreshadowed when Torvald denies her request to stay upstairs after her Tarantella dance. Having had enough of Nora’s dancing, Torvald says to Mrs Linde he ‘practically had to use force to get her away!’ (P85) Torvald’s carefree tone suggests he views his wife as nothing more than an amusement object, as he has the power to do as he pleases with her, as a child would do to a doll. The fact that Nora’s Tarantella dance was merely a show to pleasure Torvald and the guests of the Stenborgs’ party is further proven when she confronts him over the reality of her life with him. Nora says to Torvald that she lives in the household ‘like a pauper’ (P98), and only performs ‘little tricks’ (P98) for him. The demeaning tone and imagery demonstrates Nora’s frustration in being trapped in submitting to Torvald. Her Tarantella dance is an example of her duty to serve her husband. The Tarantella dance which Nora performs for Torvald the guests of the Stenborgs’ party epitomises her role was a wife, whose personal freedom is