“A Doll’s House,” is a three-act play written by Henrik Ibsen. The play is set in a Norwegian town around the late 1800’s. It tells the story of a married woman whose circumstances lead her to seek self-fulfillment in a male dominated world when she finally realizes that she is not valued or happy living her present life. The setting of the play takes place in the living room of the house she shares with her husband and children. It slowly transitions from neat and tidy to a more run down and messy atmosphere, like how the protagonist’s world is falling apart around her. The description of items and their use of placement on the stage from Act I compared to Act II and III reflect how Nora and Torvald Helmer’s relationship is deteriorating and how things are no longer perfect within their household. As well, the room ambience and prop changes coincide with the changes in Nora’s thinking. Her life view shifts from an unauthentic oppressed woman of privilege who believes she needs a man to provide for her and make her happy; to one who wants to discover who she truly is and forge her own future. I will show how the elements in their household setting change to reflect the differences in their marriage and in Nora’s mental state. The beginning of the play is full of love, luxury and harmony and is reflected in the setting. The well-maintained and richly furnished living room is decorated tastefully, showing the importance Maria 2of money and respectability. The fire, lit candles and stove show a home filled with warmth and merriment. The Christmas tree which Nora has purchased symbolizes the life, energy and spiritual strength enjoyed in the home. Christmas represents family, and Nora’s happiness shows she enjoys performing the role of a wife and mother. Her choice of toys suggests she buys into traditional gender roles: the girl must be a nurturing wife and mother, and the boys strong and powerful. Everything indicates that Nora and Torvald Helmer live a harmonious married life. At the same time, Nora’s request for money to buy something for herself suggests she does want the ability to make decisions for herself. Torvald not entrusting Nora with the money for her own present demonstrates the imbalance of power in their marriage. One specific recurring habit seen in context of the stage play that renders it as an important indicator in revealing the plot would be the macaroons that Nora eats despite the fact that Torvald has forbidden her to do so. HELMER: “Hasn’t Miss Sweet Tooth been breaking rules in town today? … taken a bite at a macaroon or two?” NORA: “No, Torvald.” (Henrik, 1.55-1.62) At first the macaroon eating indicates Nora’s innocence and childish happy-go-lucky nature by being naughty and performing a small act of defiance. Although Nora claims that she never disobeys Torvald, it’s proven to be the contrary when she is shown eating macaroons alone in the living room. The macaroons are kept secret from her husband, showing her discrete disobedience. Much like the setting, Nora hides her desires and rebellion underneath her husband’s nose, still portraying the perfect wife without him knowing about her secret for eating Maria 3her favourite snack behind his back. At the end of act II, Nora, after failing to convince her husband to retain Krogstad, asks her maid to put lots of macaroons on the dinner plate. Here the macaroons show her disturbed mental state and her willingness to defy Torvald. The eating of the macaroons also stands for her revolt against Torvald’s authority. The way Torvald prohibits sweets also suggests that he is still treating her like a child. It becomes apparent that Nora behaves like a child because Helmer would like her to do so, and that Nora will do what he wants because she has the illusion that this is love. As secrets bubble to the surface, the setting becomes messier. The distinct difference on how the household has changed is important to the continuity of the play. In Act II, the Christmas tree has been stripped and disheveled, and the candles on it have burned to their stubs. The broken, ignored and bedraggled tree reflect the destruction of the happiness and the temperament of Nora’s mind and spirit as it slowly begins to fall to pieces. The burnt-out candles are a parallel to the decrease in her light and energy as she no longer wants to play with the children as she did in Act I. At the end of Act II, Krogstad places the blackmail letter in Torvald’s mailbox. The locked mailbox confirms that Torvald is a controlling husband who feels superior to his wife. He is the only one who can access the mailbox as he is the only one with the key. Torvald does not even allow Nora the privilege of reading the mail showing how far he will go to keep her apart from the outside world and under his total control. Torvald does not recognize Nora as an intellectual person to be involved with any business or important matters in life. The mailbox Maria 4also represents Nora’s submissiveness, which signifies the oppression of all women during the time period. Similarly, Torvald’s study is a private room that Nora is never allowed to enter.At the beginning the of third act, once Helmer starts fantasizing about the beginning of their relationship and how to return to that, is right when it falls apart. The desire for resolution of conflict is reflected in the setting as the table has been brought to the middle of the room. The obvious change in setting indicates that the household has gone from a playroom to a room for some serious dialogue. It also indicates the inverting of a situation, or the tables being turned, as Torvald Helmer changes from a master to a partner; a commander to a fellow participant and Nora Helmer evolves from an inferior subordinate housewife to a woman who wishes to discover her own self. Once it is clear that Torvald puts himself and his reputation before his wife, Nora realizes that this is not the life she wants and informs Torvald that she is leaving him, because they’ve never had a real marriage. She has never been more than a doll in his eyes. He begs her to stay, but she refuses, leaving both him and the kids, with the slamming of a door. The open hallway door, which has remained closed for the opening two acts, foreshadows Nora’s exit as well as symbolizing her closing this chapter of her life. Ibsen’s stage play “A Doll’s House” is about class and gender issues, strong points in the play that are supported by his use of setting mixed with the atmosphere of Nora and Torvald’s perfect dollhouse that turned into a chaotic mess. The play happens during Christmas and is about a house wife, Nora Helmer, who forged her father’s signature and secretly borrowed a large sum of Maria 5money to take her husband on a trip, so he could recuperate from a serious illness. She has been covertly paying the loan back in small installments by working small jobs and saving from her household allowance as to keep her husband from discovering she borrowed this money. Her husband, Torvald, calls her his doll and gives her direction on how to behave; often chiding her for her carelessness with money and her naive actions. When Torvald is promoted to bank director, he fires a man who was once disgraced for having forged a signature. The man he fires, Nils Krogstad, is the same person from whom Nora borrowed the money. Krogstad threatens to reveal Nora’s crime unless Nora can convince Thorvald not to fire him. Nora tries to convince Thorvald to give Krogstad a chance but Thorvald views Nora as nothing more than a simple child who has no concept of money or business and thus dismisses her suggestion to retain Krogstad. When Thorvald discovers Nora’s forgery, even though she did it for his benefit, his first reaction is to discredit Nora and prevent her from seeing her children. When the incriminating document is destroyed, and the crisis is averted, Nora realizes that her husband was not worth her love and leaves him. As Nora came to understand she wasn’t her husband’s equal, the setting of the plot and use of props reflected the turmoil in which their toxic relationship played out. The portrayed ambience emphasized the conflict within their marriage. Nora was the doll; she was played with, told what to do and how to do it, moved around, and restricted from the outside world. The more she felt her living space was too small and confining, the more run down the household looked, ending with her leaving the doll house to seek a life in the real world.