The dance was named after the tarantula spider, whose poisonous bite was mistakenly believed to cause tarantism, an uncontrollable urge for wild dancing. The cure prescribed by doctors was for the sufferer to dance to exhaustion. Modern psychologists speculate that the true cause of the disorder, which achieved its highest profile in the nineteenth century and which involved symptoms of what would now be called hysteria, was not the spiders bite but the repressed morals of that age. The only outlet for passionate self-expression, they reason, was the Tarantella.
In this light, it is significant that Torvald tells Nora to practice the Tarantella while he shuts himself away in his office: I shall hear nothing; you can make as much noise as you please. While Torvald is ostensibly being indulgent towards his wife, the image of her practicing this passionate dance alone and unheard emphasizes her isolation within her marriage. She persuades him to watch her practice the dance in order to prevent him opening Krogstads letter. He tries to rein in her wildness with his instructions, but she ignores his comments and dances ever more wildly, her hair coming loose.
The mythology of tarantism suggests that she is dancing in order to rid herself of a deadly poison. Depending on how we wish to interpret this symbolism, the poison may be the threat posed by Krogstads revelations, or the poison of deception and hypocrisy that characterizes the Helmer marriage. Light Light is most often used to symbolize Noras state of awareness. After Torvald claims to be man enough to take everything upon himself (Act 2) and while she is talking to Dr Rank, the light begins to grow dark. This symbolism refers to two processes.
First, Nora is using her sexual attractiveness to manipulate the dying Dr Rank into giving her money to pay off her loan. When Dr Rank confesses his love for her, she is shocked out of her game. She brings in a lamp, telling Dr Rank that he must feel ashamed of himself now that the lamp has come. Light also appears to symbolize hope and spiritual redemption when Dr Rank is talking in code to Nora about his coming death (Act 3). He talks of death as a big black hat that will make him invisible, an image of obliteration of life. But Nora brings him a light for his cigar as she wishes him goodbye.
Dr Rank loves her, and in spite of her sometimes dubious behavior towards him, she has given him understanding, compassion and acceptance. She also means at this point, it seems, to join him in death by committing suicide. Their bond is represented on stage by the image of them standing together in the pool of light from her match a frame that excludes Torvald. Christmas tree In Norway, Christmas is an important family celebration, but the focus of the festivities and the opening of presents occurs on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day is something of an anti-climax.
This is paralleled by events in the play. At the beginning of the play on Christmas Eve, Nora still believes her marriage to be happy. We see her ordering the Christmas tree to be brought in and insisting that it is hidden until she has decorated it. Symbolically, this alerts us to the fact that there are hidden aspects to life in this household, that a carefully created appearance is what matters, and that Nora is the keeper of appearances. Significantly, when she is trying to wheedle Torvald into keeping Krogstad in his job, she draws his attention to how pretty the flowers on the tree look.
By Christmas Day, the tree is stripped of its ornaments and its candles have burnt out (a link with the symbol of light). By this point, Torvald has refused to keep Krogstad in his job and Nora feels sure that Krogstad will reveal all to him. The carefully maintained appearance of the happy marriage is disintegrating under the encroachment of truth. New Years Day New Years Day is traditionally viewed as a new beginning, and the Helmers at the beginning of the play are looking forward to just such a new beginning.
Torvald is due to start a new and better paid job at the bank, and Nora anticipates being free from her debt. By the end of the play, Nora has indeed made a new beginning, though it is of a quite different nature, consisting in leaving Torvald and her children. Other characters too enter new phases in their life. Mrs Linde and Krogstad begin their life together after long periods of suffering, and Dr Rank dies, which can be seen as an end or a transition, depending on ones viewpoint.