Stylistic or literary devices are techniques (ways to do things, styles, or forms) that authors use to get the attention of the reader which include playing with words, creating imagery, comparing and contrasting, or using metaphors, just to name a few. In A Doll’s House, the author has used a variety of stylistic devices, as discussed below.


Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colours used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. The following are the symbols used in the play: 1. Christmas and New Year Days   

The action of the play is set at Christmas and New Year season. Christmas and New Year holidays are both associated with rebirth and renewal and several of the characters go through a kind of rebirth over the course of the play.

Both Nora and Torvald have a spiritual awakening, which could be seen as a “rebirth.” Nora’s trials and tribulations wake her up to the sorry state of her marriage. When the “wonderful thing” fails to happen, she realizes she will never be a fully realized person until she breaks away from her husband. And when she slams the door behind her, she is in a way reborn.

Nora is not alone in her spiritual awakening, however. Torvald’s last line, “The most wonderful thing of all?”(Pg 120) seems to indicate that he has also realized the complete inadequacy of his existence. By the end of the play, both Helmers have been reborn.

Krogstad and Christine are reborn as well. When these “two shipwrecked people…join forces,” (Pg 88) they each get a fresh start in life. Both of them view their renewed love affair as a chance for salvation. Krogstad hopes that it will help increase his standing with the community, and that Christine’s influence will make him a better person. Christine, on the other hand, is overjoyed that she will have someone to care for. She once again has purpose in her life.

Nora and Torvald both look forward to New Year’s as the start of a new, happier phase in their lives, a new beginning with no debts. 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.

In the end of the play, it resembles new beginnings as almost all the characters are starting new lives, Nora and Torvald separately, while Christine and Krogstad together.


  1. Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree symbolizes Nora’s role in her household. She is only a decoration to be looked at. Her function in the household is pretty much the same as the tree. She is merely decorative and ornamental. She dresses up the tree just as Torvald dresses up her for the party. It’s interesting that she tells the maid not to let the children see the tree until it’s decorated.

The Christmas tree, therefore, 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.

It also symbolizes family happiness and unity, as well as the joy Nora takes in making her home pleasant and attractive.

At the beginning of Act Two, the Christmas tree has been stripped of its ornaments and is only left with burnt-down candle-ends on its disheveled branches. Nora is alone in the room, walking about uneasily. Basically, Nora is a mess and so is the tree. She’s gotten the bad news from Krogstad, and as a result her mind is just as disheveled as the poor tree.

The tree seems to mimic Nora’s psychological state. It can be interpreted as symbolic of Nora’s disintegrating web of lies. The pretty decorations that Nora used to cover up her deceit are falling away. Soon the bare, ugly truth will emerge. This represents the end of Nora’s innocence and foreshadows the Helmer family’s eventual disintegration.

  1. Macaroons

Torvald has banned Nora from eating macaroons. Although Nora claims that she never disobeys Torvald, this is proved false in the very opening of the play when Nora eats macaroons while she was alone in the living room. The macaroons are symbolic of Nora’s disobedience and deceit. She lies to Dr. Rank about having been given some by Mrs. Linde, and after giving her performance of the tarantella asks that macaroons be served at dinner, which indicates a close relationship between the macaroons and her inner passions, both of which she must hide within her marriage.


  1. The tarantella

Tarantella takes its name from a spider, a Tarantula,   which, according to the Italian legends, bites its victim to quick death. The only way to get rid of its poison is to dance so as to let the poison come out of the body with the sweat. Similarly, the wild dance of Nora is a symbolic expression of her tragic inner condition and, at the same time, a therapeutic instrument that gives her courage to face up the suicide that she plans to carry out. Nora dances the Tarantella at a time when she had accelerated anxiety, on the border of madness. So through the dance, her body was trying to express what couldn’t be said in words.

Like the macaroons, the tarantella symbolizes a side of Nora that she cannot normally show. It is a fiery, passionate dance that allows her to drop the mask of the perfect Victorian wife and express her desperate and tragic interior condition and her inner feelings.  It is a dance of recovering from the madness of her fate; Tarantella has the power to heal Nora.

After the dance, in fact, she reemerges matured and able to look death in the eyes.

It is important to note that the rehearsal of Tarantella is the first moment in which Nora doesn’t obey what Torvald commands. Her repressed feelings are not allowed to come out in her marriage, the only way she can express them is through a performance. And her performance is wild and hysteric. Through the dance Nora liberates herself from her sexual doll’s role, which is a transformation from an old existence to a new one.

  1. The Doll’s House

The title of the play A Doll’s House is also symbolic. It represents something impermanent or short-lived.

There are a few mentions of dolls 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 probably suggests that Nora is raising her daughter for a life similar to her own. It also foreshadows Nora breaking up her family life by leaving Torvald.

When Nora plays with her children she also refers to them as her “little darlings.” (Pg 42) 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.


  1. The dance costume

At the end of the play, Nora decides to leave Torvald. The next thing Nora does is to change out of her fancy dance dress. Torvald bought this dress for Nora to wear at a costume party because he wanted her to appear as a “Neapolitan fish girl”. As one would put clothes on a doll, Torvald dresses Nora. When she sheds this dress, she is symbolically shedding her past life with Torvald and her doll-like existence.

  1. Rank

Dr. Rank is a symbol of moral corruption within society. He has been lusting for Nora secretly. His illness is symbolic of the moral illness of the society as represented by himself, Krogstad and, by extension, Torvald.

  1. Mrs Linde

Mrs Linde is a symbol of a modern, independent woman. She arrives in town in search of a job in order to earn money and survive independently. She perhaps also symbolizes hollowness in the matriarchal role.

  1. Torvald Helmer

Torvald Helmer is a symbol of a male dominated, authoritative, and autocratic society.

  1. The slamming of the door

The slamming of the door symbolizes the finality of the relationship between Torvald and Nora Helmer.




A metaphor is a comparison without using the terms ‘like’ or ‘as.’ Henrik Ibsen uses quite a number of metaphors in A Doll’s House. These include the following:

  1. Torvald’s pet names for Nora

He calls her “featherhead,” “songbird,”  “squirrel,” “hunted dove…saved from hawk’s claws,” and “skylark.” When she leaves him, he calls her a “heedless child.” All these metaphors are, on one hand, aimed at reflecting Nora’s apparently innocent, carefree nature, and on the other hand, they suggest that her husband does not think of her as a proper adult because she is a woman.

-Another metaphor is where Torvald says, “…how much it costs a man to keep such a little bird as you.” Here, Torvald is comparing Nora to a bird by saying that people would not expect her to spend as much money as she does.  The “bird” reference means that birds are typically low maintenance, but Nora is not.

  1. The doll

-In Act 3, Nora tells Torvald that both her father and Torvald have treated her like a doll-child, with no opinions of her own, and have only played with her. Both men, she says, have committed “a great sin” against her in discouraging her from growing up. Torvald’s pet names for her are prefaced by “little,” showing that he sees her as a child.

  1. Big black hat

-In Act 3. Dr. Rank has a coded conversation with Nora (designed to protect Torvald from unpleasant truths) in which he says he will attend the next fancy dress ball wearing “a big black hat” that will make him invisible. This is a way of saying that he will be dead.


Other metaphors

-Krogstad is labeled “morally diseased” because of the incriminating forged bond and the forged documents that tarnished his reputation.

Nora and Torvald crumbling marriage and home are referred to as a “doll’s house” to mean their impermanency.

– Krogstad uses this metaphor, “I am a shipwrecked man clinging to a bit of wreckage” (Pg 87) to describe how he felt when Mrs. Linde chose to marry her late husband instead of him. Mrs. Linde replies that she had her mother and younger brothers to take care of and she needed financial stability, which Krogstad could not offer her. In this metaphor, Krogstad might be suggesting that he is still in love with Mrs. Linde.

-Torvald refers to his wife as his “frightened little songbird” and promises her that his “big broad wings” would protect her.  -The title of the play A Doll’s House is an extended metaphor. It is comparison of a small toy with that of a perfect house. It compares Nora’s relationship with every man in her life to that of a young child playing with her, merely a pretty plaything.


A simile is a comparison by use of the terms ‘like’ or ‘as.’ Similes are used in different places in the story to compare certain necessary ideas.


“It was like being a man.”(Pg 21) This simile was used by Nora to compare the role she played in sustaining the family during their one-year stay in Italy. It made her feel like a man supporting them for all that time.

-Torvald brags that he will protect Nora “like a hunted dove that [he has] saved from the talons of a hawk.” Here, he wants to emphasize his commitment in ensuring Nora of her safety.


Irony is a figure of speech in which words are used in such a way that their intended meaning is different from the actual meaning of the words. It may also be a situation that ends up in quite a different way than what is generally anticipated. There are three types of irony evident in A Doll’s House, namely:

verbal, situational and dramatic irony.


Dramatic irony

Dramatic irony occurs when the audience is more aware of what is happening than one, some or all the characters on stage. The full significance of a character’s words or actions is clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character. In other words, the audience’s or reader’s knowledge of events or individuals surpasses that of the characters.


-This happens in A Doll’s House near the opening of the play when Nora eats macaroons. When Torvald then asks Nora if she has been eating sweets, she lies and says she has not. Nora and the audience know this is a lie and so know more than Torvald, making this a situation of dramatic irony.

-Torvald tells Nora, “That is like a woman! But seriously, Nora, you know what I think about that. No debt, no borrowing. There can be no freedom or beauty about a home that depends on borrowing and debt.”(Pg 3) But nevertheless, she has borrowed money from Krogstad which she has been paying for a long time without his knowledge.

-The reader is aware that Nora borrowed money from Krogstad without her husband’s permission. Nora also forged her father’s name to gain the money. She says, “You don’t know all. I forged a name.” In the following conversation between Nora and Christine it is clearly stated that Torvald does not know of Nora’s actions

Mrs. Linde: And since then have you never told your secret to your husband? 

Nora. Good heavens, no! (Pg 20)

-Another example of dramatic irony in A Doll’s House is when

Nora wants to practise a dance called the Tarantella. When Torvald goes to look in the letter box Nora says, “Torvald please don’t. There is nothing in there.” (Pg 80) The reader knows there is a letter in the mailbox that has been dropped by Krogstad. The reader also knows that Nora has not forgotten the dance as she claimed, she was just pretending. The reader knows this when Torvald goes to check the mail and Nora begins to play the Tarantella. Nora then says, “I can’t dance tomorrow if I don’t practise with you.” (Pg 81) The reader knows that all Nora is trying to do is keep Torvald from reading the mail which contains a letter from Krogstad.

-Dramatic irony is evident throughout the text to indicate Nora’s exit from her marriage with Torvald. Some escalating events have happened in the three acts to give clues to the audience that she has already decided to leave.



  1. Nora to Nurse regarding the children:

Nora: Yes, but, nurse, I shall not be able to be so much with them now as I was before.

Nurse: Oh well, young children easily get accustomed to anything.

Nora: Do you think so? Do you think they would forget their mother if she went away altogether? (Pg 50)

  1. Nora to Torvald:

Nora: “Torvald, you will be sorry for not letting me stay, even for just half an hour.”

She knows that the letter is still in the mailbox and doesn’t want Torvald to find out about the contract. iii) Nora to Mrs Linde:

Nora: “You all think I’m incapable of doing anything

serious…or of ever having to face the brutality of life.”


 Situational irony

Situational irony occurs when something entirely different happens from what the audience may be expecting, or the final outcome is opposite to what the audience is expecting.


Situational Irony is present when Nora is discussing Krogstad’s forgery with her husband in Act 1. Minutes before this conversation, Krogstad approached Nora about her own forgery of her father’s signature.

-There is very little hint that Nora is going to leave Torvald until the end of the play. At the beginning of the play she acts as if she loves him very much. Not until she says “Or if anything else should happen to me – anything, for instance, that might prevent me from being here” does anyone think about Nora leaving Torvald. At the end of the play she calls Torvald a “stranger” and walks out.

-It is ironic that Torvald states that he awaits the moment when Nora will be in trouble so that he can rescue her. When in fact the truth comes out and Torvald has been given his opportunity to rescue Nora, all he is concerned with is his reputation. He yells at her. He insults her by calling her feather brain. He screams at her, telling her to go to her room. He is not interested in how he can rescue her. He is interested in how he can get out of this mess without ruining his good name.

-When Krogstad returns the IOU document, Torvald exclaims that he is saved and that he has forgiven Nora. When Nora asks if she is saved, Torvald exclaims that she is, of course. Only moments earlier, he was furious with her. Ironically, he did not even consider that she had borrowed the money to in fact save him.

-Situational irony is also evident earlier on in the play during Nora’s chat with Mrs. Linde, where she talks, or rather brags about her husband getting promoted as the manager of the bank. She says, “I feel so relieved to have heaps of money and not need to have any anxiety…” (Pg 11-12) Here, Nora visualizes a happy and blissful life with Helmer. However, there is irony in what she says because later on in the play, her marital relationship will be shattered and she will leave her husband and all the “money” that she had visualized, for an uncertain future away from Torvald after realizing that the world she was living in was equivalent to the world of a puppet, or rather, a doll.

Verbal irony

Verbal irony occurs when a speaker’s intention is the opposite of what he or she is saying.


-Verbal irony is present when Helmer says, “Is that my little skylark twittering out there?” (Pg 2) He is not really asking if Nora is a bird. He is not even saying that she is twittering like a bird. He is just asking if it is his wife, Nora, and if she is saying something. When Torvald Helmer says, “Is it my little squirrel bustling about?” (Pg 2) he does not think that Nora is a squirrel either.

-Nora has her share of verbal irony too. When she is sitting down talking to Mrs. Linde she says, “There now, it is burning up.” The place is not literally burning up. The house is not on fire. Nora is just stating that the temperature inside the house is hot.  – When Nora is chatting with Mrs. Linde, where she says “just fancy, my husband has been made manager of the Bank!”(Pg 11) where she talks, or rather brags about her husband getting promoted as the manager of the bank. She says, “I feel so relieved to have heaps of money and not need to have any anxiety…” (Pg 11-12) The reader is tempted to think that her life and that of her family is one smooth ride. But it emerges that she is deep in debt and even has to work extra hours at night in order to keep up with the payments.



Foreshadowing refers to clues that point to events that will happen later.


-Nora’s early rebellion of eating the macaroons against Torvald foreshadows her later rebellion

-The way Torvald always called Nora “My little skylark”, “My little squirrel”, “My little singing bird,” “My pretty little pet,” “My little sweet-tooth,” and “My poor little Nora.” was a foreshadow. She ends up saying something like “I’m just your little dove” in the later Acts when she decides to leave him. She acknowledges the fact there was never actually love between them; she was just his play toy, hence the name of the play, A Doll’s House.

-In the following conversation between Nora and Anne-Marie, there is use of foreshadow.

Nora: Yes, but, nurse, I shall not be able to be so much with them now as I was before.

Nurse: Oh well, young children easily get accustomed to anything.

Nora: Do you think so? Do you think they would forget their mother if she went away altogether? (Pg 50)   Nora eventually leaves her family, which was why she asked Anne-Marie how she possibly could have done it. -Torvald’s stubbornness about denying Krogstad the banking job has complicated Nora’s attempt to continue hiding her little secret. We know there is going to be trouble later on. Nora’s secret is bound to come out. Ibsen has foreshadowed an ironic inevitability.

-Mrs. Linde plays the role of foreshadowing the future of Nora and a mirror to Nora’s character. She delves into the mistakes Nora will make and views her for what she truly is. She is the wise woman who has hindsight of what becomes of women who spend their money and borrow. She provides exposition to the play because she is the only one Nora can discuss her history with without consequences. Talking to Mrs. Linde provides an opportunity for the audience to understand Nora’s character.

-Mrs. Linde shares with Nora that her husband had died and that, due to her habits and his unstable business, she was now poor and struggling to make ends meet. She seems to be foreshadowing Nora’s impending fate.


Contrast or juxtaposition involves two characters or things being placed together with a contrasting effect.


-The father-daughter relationship between Nora and her father and that of Nora and Torvald is contrasted in the final Act. Nora makes this connection that life with her father was like life with Torvald. Nora’s father would force his beliefs on her and she would comply with them lest she upset him; she would bury her personal belief under Papa’s. According to Nora, Torvald was guilty of the same things. A good example was his insistence on her wearing the fish girl costume and his frustration over her inability to grasp the tarantella.

-Krogstad and Nora are also contrasted. The more we learn of Krogstad, the more we understand that he shares a great deal with Nora Helmer. First of all, both have committed the crime of forgery. Moreover, their motives were out of a desperate desire to save their loved ones. Also like Nora, Krogstad has contemplated ending his life to eliminate his troubles but was ultimately too scared to follow through.

  • Rank’s treatment of Nora is contrasted sharply with that of Torvald. Rank always treats Nora like an adult. He listens to her and affords her a dignity, which is definitely missing in Torvald’s treatment.
  • Mrs Linde’s relationship with Krogstad also provides a point of comparison with that of Nora and Torvald.

-Nora and Mrs Linde are also contrasted. Whereas Mrs. Linde took responsibility for her sick parent, Nora abandoned her father when he was ill. Mrs. Linde’s account of her life of poverty underscores the privileged nature of the life that Nora leads. Her sensible worldview contrasts sharply with Nora’s somewhat childlike outlook on life.



A foil is a literary character who contrasts another character in order to highlight certain aspects of the other character.


-Mrs Linde’s life’s journey from independence to marriage is a foil to Nora’s journey in the opposite direction.

-Dr Rank is a foil to Torvald in that he treats Nora as an intelligent human being and she in return speaks more openly to him than she does to her husband.

-Mrs. Linde is the character that really makes Nora look bad in comparison and acts as a foil for Nora. In fact, you could argue that all the characters act as foils for Nora.


Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.


Nora’s definition of freedom

-Nora’s understanding of the meaning of freedom recurs in the course of the play. In the first act, she believes that she will be totally “free” as soon as she has repaid her debt, because she will have the opportunity to devote herself fully to her domestic responsibilities. After Krogstad blackmails her, however, she reconsiders her outlook regarding freedom and questions whether she is happy in Torvald’s house, subjected to his orders and commands. By the end of the play, Nora seeks a new kind of freedom. She wishes to be relieved of her familial obligations in order to pursue her own ambitions, beliefs, and identity.


Use of letters

-Many of the plot’s twists and turns depend upon the writing and reading of letters. Krogstad writes two letters: the first reveals Nora’s crime of forgery to Torvald; the second retracts his blackmail threat and returns Nora’s promissory note.

-The first letter, which Krogstad places in Torvald’s letterbox near the end of Act Two, represents the truth about Nora’s past and initiates the inevitable dissolution of her marriage. The second letter releases Nora from her obligation to Krogstad and represents her release from her obligation to Torvald.

-The two letters have exposed the truth about Torvald’s selfishness, and Nora can no longer participate in the illusion of a happy marriage.

-Dr. Rank communicates his imminent death through another form of a letter: a calling card marked with a black cross in Torvald’s letterbox. By leaving his calling card as a death notice, Dr. Rank politely attempts to keep Torvald from the “ugly” truth, as he had said earlier about his best friend, Torvald.

Other letters include Mrs. Linde’s note to Krogstad, which initiates her life-changing meeting with him, and Torvald’s letter of dismissal to Krogstad.



Hyperbole refers to extreme exaggeration of statements or claims which makes someone or something sound bigger, better or more than they are.


  1. Nora: Yes, that’s just it.

Helmer: Now you have destroyed all my happiness. You have ruined all my future. It is horrible to think of! I am in the power of an unscrupulous man; he can do what he likes with me, ask anything he likes of me, give me any order he pleases – I dare not refuse. And I must sink to such miserable depths because of a thoughtless woman! (Pg 104)

It is a hyperbole because although Nora may have caused a major accident of forging a signature and hiding it from Helmer, it is not obvious it will affect his future. Helmer is exaggerating that his happiness is destroyed because he feels betrayal and anger, just to show the seriousness of the shame that Nora has caused.

  1. Linde: But now I am quite alone in the world – my life is so dreadfully empty and I feel so forsaken.

This is a hyperbole because Mrs. Linde is exaggerating about her situation.

  • NORA: I should like to tear it into a hundred thousand pieces.

It is a hyperbole because Nora cannot possibly be able to tear the letter into a thousand pieces.




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