What scene and symbols are being conveyed in the poster of the 1922 theatrical production of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House ?http://www.enotes.com/dolls-house/pictures/scene-from-production

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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This poster of the 1922 theatrical performance of A Doll's House by Alan Hale and Alla Nazimova seems to be a very dramatic interpretation of the scene in which Nora is practicing the Tarantella before Torvald and Dr. Rank in Act 2. In this scene, Nora is dancing the Tarantella very fast and very wildly, and Torvald is not a bit impressed. He tells Dr. Rank to play the piano so he can give Nora better instruction. In the stage direction, Ibsen tells us that Helmer has moved near the stove and is giving her "frequent instructions" (II). Nora is dancing more and more wildly. Torvald comments that she is "dancing as if [her] life depended on it" (II). Finally he tells her to stop, calling her dancing "sheer madness" (II).

Where the poster differs from the original scene is that Nora seems to have fallen down while Torvald stands over her with his hands raised as if he is directing her like a conductor of an orchestra. In Ibsen's actual scene, Nora never falls down. In the poster, Nora also looks absolutely terrified of Torvald's instructions, which also never really happens in Ibsen's scene.

However, we do still see some symbols in this poster that are also used in the play. One symbol is the Neapolitan fisher-girl costume that we know Nora is wearing while she practices that Tarantella. The costume itself is symbolic of working class women, like Christine, and two social injustices presented in the play: 1) the fact that lower class women like Christine are only permitted to work low-paying jobs, thereby slaving their lives away; and 2) the fact that lower class women were permitted to work but not middle class women, like Nora. The Tarantella dance itself is also symbolic. The wildest Tarantella dance symbolizes a victim being bit by the wolf spider, or tarantula; it was believed that the victim had to engage in frantic motion in order to stay alive. In A Doll's House, the Tarantella represents the poisonous marriage Nora, as well as other middle class women of that era, has suffered through. 


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