What symbols show individualism in Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House ?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

All throughout the play, Henrik Ibsen uses several symbols to portray individualism, especially the individualism of women.

One of those symbols is the macaroons that Nora is seen eating in the very first act. The macaroons not only symbolize Nora's rebelliousness, they also symbolize her hidden self-respect. Nora has been forbidden by her husband to eat any sweets as he is afraid they will ruin her teeth. However, this command diminishes her as an equal adult and an individual. In forbidding her to eat sweets, he is treating her as a child. He is also belittling her desires as an adult. However, the fact that Nora is brave enough to rebel, even if it is behind his back, shows that Nora still respects herself as a person and still sees importance in her own desires.

A second symbol of independence is the knitting that Christine is seen doing later in the third act. Christine works on her knitting while waiting for Nora to return from the party in order to inform Nora that she was unable to convince Krogstad of informing Torvald of Nora's fraud. Torvald notices Christine's knitting and asks her about it. He actually even insults her about it, saying that she ought to take up embroidery because it is far more becoming than knitting, as we see in his lines:

But in the case of knitting--that can never be anything but ungraceful; look here--the arms close together, the knitting-needles going up and down--it has a sort of Chinese effect--. (III)

Christine's response is to curtly dismiss him, saying, "Yes, perhaps--" followed by, "Well--good-night, Nora" (III).
In Christine's mind, knitting is her preference, what she feels needs to be done, and Torvald has no right to criticize her for it. The fact that Christine continues to prefer knitting, regardless of what any man like Torvald thinks, shows us that knitting is a symbol of Christine's independence as a woman.