A Doll's House

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The Doll’s House Symbol Analysis

The Doll’s House Symbol Icon
There are a few mentions of doll’s houses early on in the play, for example when Nora shows Torvald the dolls she bought for her daughter, and says that the fact that they are cheap doesn’t matter because she will probably break them soon anyway. This is interesting as it suggests that Nora is raising her daughter for a life similar to Nora’s own, yet simultaneously foreshadows Nora breaking up her family life by leaving Torvald. When Nora plays with her children she also refers to them as her “little dollies.” However, it is not until the end of the play that the metaphor becomes explicitly clear. Nora tells Torvald that both he and her father treated her like a doll, and cites this as one of the reasons why she has become dissatisfied and disillusioned with her life with him.

The Doll’s House Quotes in A Doll's House

The A Doll's House quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Doll’s House. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Oxford University Press edition of A Doll's House published in 1998.
Act Three Quotes

I have been your doll wife, just as at home I was Daddy’s doll child. And the children in turn have been my dolls. I thought it was fun when you came and played with me, just as they thought it was fun when I went to play with them. That’s been our marriage, Torvald.

Related Characters: Nora Helmer (speaker), Torvald Helmer
Related Symbols: The Doll’s House
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

Nora accuses both Torvald and her father of treating her like a doll, and compares her life to a doll's house. At this point the full meaning of the play's title becomes clear. Nora acknowledges that she has found pleasure in her doll life, enjoying the moments when Torvald chooses to "play" with her and when she chooses to play with the children. Ibsen has shown evidence of this, particularly at the beginning of the play when Nora delighted in performing for Torvald and playing the role of the perfect, obedient wife. 

However, at this moment it is clear that Nora has undergone a transformation, leading her to view her life from a different, much more critical perspective. Intriguingly, although Torvald has behaved in a cruel and disdainful way toward her, Nora does not cite this behaviour as the main problem with their marriage. Rather, she implies that their interactions are doomed to be superficial and meaningless because of the fact that Torvald does not see her as an autonomous person, but rather as a possession which he can control. Nora appears to have realized that Torvald values her only because of the control he has over her and because of how their marriage appears to society.


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The Doll’s House Symbol Timeline in A Doll's House

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Doll’s House appears in A Doll's House. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Money and Work Theme Icon
Deceit Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Nora shows off the presents she has bought for the children (a doll for her daughter; a sword and a horse for the boys) and the maids, which... (full context)
Act Three
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
...as her father. She adds that he played with her as she played with her dolls, and that it is the same now she is married to Torvald. She says she... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
...explains that, although Torvald has been kind to her, she has only ever been his doll-wife, just as she was her father’s doll-child, saying she found it fun when Torvald came... (full context)
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
...to change, but Nora says the only way that would be possible were if his “doll” were to be taken away. Torvald says he cannot imagine being separated from her, and... (full context)