Symbolism In The Christmas Tree In A Doll's House

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In Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”, the Christmas tree is a centrally important stage property used to symbolize Nora’s duplicity, reflect the disintegration of the facade of the perfect marriage as well as the fate of the Helmer family, and mirror Nora’s self-image. The state of the Christmas tree transitions from a plain fir tree at the beginning of Act I, to a decorated Christmas tree towards the end of Act I, then finally to a dishevelled tree at the beginning of Act II. Such transition in its appearance on-stage symbolises significant changes that happens in the Helmer household over the Christmas season. The decoration of the Christmas tree symbolizes Nora’s duplicity as being both a seemingly compliant housewife, and a tactfully manipulative…show more content…
Christmas trees are essentially fir trees that are decorated with superficial Christmas tree ornaments, which cover the true identity of the fir tree. The deceptive nature of the decorations mirror Nora’s duplicity where her disguise of being the conventional housewife hides her true identity of being the manipulative and tactful wife. Ibsen shows Nora’s manipulative personality through her use of language when asking Torvald for money as Christmas present in Act I. She tactfully directs the authority of the decision to Torvald using a series of tag questions -- “wouldn’t that be fun?” and “Isn’t that the best way?” -- seemingly giving Torvald the power to make decisions for her, but nonetheless using her means of manipulating Torvald to achieve her aim of getting more money. Her image as a submissive housewife is also shown to be a superficial act when Nora reveals to Mrs. Linde that she “managed to get a lot of copying to do” the previous winter, which is one of the “sources of income” that she has found to repay the loan; while Torvald thinks that she shut herself away to “make flowers for the Christmas tree”. Both her concealment of the loan and her act of lying about the repayment shows Nora’s superficial respect for Torvald’s male ego, but in essence, both acts are Nora’s encroachment onto Torvald’s…show more content…
In Act I, Nora decorates the tree as a response to Krogstad’s threat. The Christmas season is symbolic of family happiness, and the Christmas tree, being a representation of the Christmas season, is an embodiment of such Christmas spirit. Her action of decorating the Christmas tree hence symbolizes the effort she puts into maintaining the happiness of her family by reinforcing the illusion of the marriage. This is explicitly shown through Nora’s emphasis that she would “do everything that [Torvald likes]” while decorating the tree, sustaining her performance as the ideal housewife, which is the foundation to the illusion of the perfect marriage. Nora’s efforts are shown spatially through the central position of the tree on-stage, which is the focal position in drama, and reveals Nora’s focus of attention being put onto her family. At the end of Act I, however, Torvald ironically equates Krogstad’s “poison[ous]” morality to Nora’s, which “contaminates” and “poisons” her home. In Nora’s mindset, his words imply that her efforts, past and future, are deemed useless in securing her family’s safety, prompting her to become hopeless and destroyed when faced with Krogstad’s threat and can no longer focus on her commitment to her family, reflected in the change of position of the Christmas tree from centre to “the corner” of the same
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