What do the macaroons symbolize in A Dolls House?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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In the play A Doll's House, by Herink Ibsen, the main character is a young wife named Nora. Nora's role within her marriage is to please and entertain her husband, rather than to serve as a solid foundation for the family. This has caused Nora to opt for a behavior that befits her role in the marriage: She is childish, hyperactive, dramatic, and seemingly very immature.

Among her many childish behaviors, Nora tends to sneak macaroons and eat them behind her husband's back. When he sees her sneaking the macaroons, he adopts an overly-important fatherly tone to scold her. In turn, Nora embraces the "little girl" persona as a result. This alone shows how the macaroons help Torvald assert the authority that he feels that he deserves to have over Nora. Hence, the macaroons can be seen under a completely different light when we see the dynamics that eating them creates in the relationship between Nora and Torvald.

Yet, there is much more to the macaroons than it seems: Nora has to sneak the macaroons. It is a secret pleasure that she is hiding from her husband. They symbolize the suppressed delights that Nora endures as a result of playing the role of a child within the marriage. They also symbolize the forbidden and so-badly wanted pleasure of being allowed to be free within the relationship to engage in the behaviors that she seems fit. Nora is obviously running on empty and out of ideas on how else she could act like her husband's doll- The macaroons, and the need to consume them, are also allegorical to the preoccupation that Nora has to conceal her real self.