In A Doll's House, after drunkenly leaving the party, Rank goes to Torvald and requests a cigar.  As a symbol, what meaning could the cigar have to the play?

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Cigars, generally, symbolize success. Associate with "successful people" who enjoy wealth (literally) as well as with the achievement of a specific goal or task. This general reading seems to fit broadly the meaning of the cigar in the play, however with less of a celebratory element. 

In Act III, Rank now knows that he will certainly die. 

Rank makes various allusions to his previous conversation with Nora; he is indeed dying, and has drunk a lot of champagne to celebrate the certainty of his fate.

Rank's cigar here suggests that his life is at its end, with all is accomplishments. The cigar suggests as well the idea of finality. 

At this point in the play, Nora is reaching a terminal point also. She waits for Torvald to discover Krogstad's blackmail and the loan she took from him. The cigar then takes on a double significance, relating to Nora's knowledge of Rank's condition and her own. 

In this way, the cigar is a "cap" to these two story threads, Nora's and Rank's. 

mathebula | Student

Cigar envokes some pride for man and is enjoyable but end fast. so it symbolise the pride Torvald held over him self and as Rank was asking for it, it shows that he also want to share what Torvald is having. it ends very fast signifies that it was the end of everything, Rank's life, Helmers marriage and Torvald's pride and specifically Nora's world of pretence as she was going to peg a new chapter of her life.  

kellencross1 | Student

Aiden, I agree that cigars represent the lifeline of Rank. It is ironic that it is a cigar however, because at the time the play was written smoking was seen as socially acceptable and no one considered that it could be potentially detrimental. Nowadays, it is known that smoking can lead to cancer, another long and painful disease.

aj-dunnigan | Student

The cigar does, indeed, represent Dr. Rank's fleeting time on earth. The disease will not kill him immediately; the cigar will not be smoked quickly. Cigars burn slow. It will drag him on for sometime in some amounts of pain and suffering until the butt is ashed and thrown away.

jsgrjl | Student

Cigars parallel Dr. Rank's deteriorating existence on Earth. A cigar is lit with the intention of enjoying the finite taste of large amounts of tobacco. The lit fuse at the end of the cigar ignites and quickly burns out. A cigar appeases only for so long and in a way, Dr. Rank mirrors a cigar in his contentment his short time left on Earth.

samuelperkins | Student

cigars indicate some sort of maturity.  They can also symbolize a slow process. Rank's death was very slow to erode him, however, in the play he quickly died. Like any cigar, Ran was tossed quickly and without thought. Cigars also give off a tremendous ordor. Rank did so to the audience and spilt his love onto Nora, but I am finding a tough time to tie cigars wtih Rank except for the fact cigars erode and emmit some sorta disease.

erikdeleon | Student

In a way, cigars are used to symbolize Dr. Rank's imminent death. Like Dr. Rank's life, a cigar once smoked will be over very soon. The fact that Dr. Rank wants one, seemingly out of nowhere, shows how Ibsen carefully crafted this play even in these minute details.

haleymiller | Student

A cigar is thought of as an enjoyable , but short-lived thing. Cigars sizzle and smell nice, but are dead within minutes. This is symbolic of Rank's imminent death. Also, cigars are often celebratory items, but in this case, the celebration is not so happy.

nwest2010 | Student

I really enjoyed reading the posting by "jakemitchell." I would have never looked at it this way, but I must say thank you for opening my eyes! You're brilliant!

I personally feel that the cigar is a wonderful symbol of envy in A Dolls House. As the story progresses we learn that Dr. Rank not only is dying from an illness, but he is also in love with Torvald Helmer's wife. In addition to having a beautiful wife and a healthy bod, Helmer has a full box of cigars. In a final attempt to get a "puff" of what Torvald's life must be like, Dr. Rank requests one last smoke.

jakemitchell | Student

When people die they tend to do some sort of outlandish thing right beforehand because what do they have to lose?  Some go skydiving, or buy something expensive, or even travel the world.  Dr. Rank's way of doing this "final send-off sort of thing" is smoking that cigar.  He realizes he is going to die soon no matter what he does, so he chooses to continue to live life rather than be sorrowed by it and asks Helmer for a cigar to smoke on his drunken walk home.  By this point, it seems Dr. Rank has completely accepted his fate of imminent death.

twilson1739 | Student

Also, the cigar could symbolize Dr. Rank's death. He mentioned how he was dying from the habits of his father; the drinking and partying. When Rank asked for a cigar, he was almost surrendering to his illness because at this point, one cigar would not make anything worse.  He wanted to leave in style and class and what better way to do it than with what he believed was a fine delicacy.

haleylo | Student

Cigars are typically passed out in celebration, such as when a child is born.  Rank receives his test results earlier that day, and although they are morbid, for him they are a rebirth.  The unknown is terrifying, and Rank is comforted in the certainty of his fate.  He is not celebrating his death, but his last hoorah.

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A Doll's House

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