Henrik Ibsen

This essay has a total of 2068 words and 8 pages.

Henrik Ibsen

In the plays Ghosts, An Enemy of the People, and Wild ducks by Henrik Ibsen there are many
similar themes, which become evident to the reader. A theme, which is consistant though
out these plays, is the opposing values of the Ideal and the Real. The views of the
idealist versus the realists make for many duels between the two personalities.


The theme of idealism versus realism is also dealt with in the play The Wild Duck. Gregers
Werle has avoided his father, whom he detests, by spending fifteen years in the family
mining concern. Gregers is so unattractive in appearance that he has given up all hope of
marrying and having a family. Instead he has become an idealist and goes about advocating
and preaching a theme of truth and purity. He calls his mission the "claim of the ideal."
His father, Old Werle, has allegedly driven his sick wife to her death by carrying on love
affairs in his own home. Once he had his serving girl, Gina, as his mistress. Arranging
her marriage with Hialmar Ekdal, the son of his former partner, Werle also sets the couple
up in the profession of photography. Hialmar is pleased with his marriage and believes
that Gina's child is his own daughter. Lieutenant Ekdal, Werle's former partner, is now a
broken old man. He does odd jobs for Werle. He is now living with Hialmar and Gina.
Gregers Werle comes to Hialmar and explains the claim of the ideal and tries to make
Hialmar see that his marriage is based on a lie. But rather than making Hialmar happy by
understanding the true nature of his marriage, Gregers only succeeds in turning Halmar
against his daughter, Hedvig. The daughter, in order to prove her love for her father who
is rejecting her, takes a pistol and kills herself.

The Wild Duck is a play in which reality versus idealism becomes a structural feature.
Each scene illustrates this dualism. First Gregers confronts his father, a realist, and
accuses him of a life built on lies and deception. The conflict between Gregers and his
father reveals a lot about the two. It shows that Gregers is obsessed with the truth and
in changing the wrongs of the past. This is shown when he attacks his father's ability to
allow Ekdal to be found solely guilty for crimes in which both men were involved. He also
attacks his father for his ulterior motives in having Hialmar and Gina married, for the
death of his wife, and for his intended marriage to Mrs. Sorby. On the other hand, Old
Werle defends himself by pointing out the good things that he has done for the family and
he constantly keeps his ideas about his life realistic.

In the following scene, Gregers confronts Hialmar and begins to rescue his friend from a
life of self-indelusion. Here is where Ibsen introduces the wild duck to the play. In the
first place the wild duck represents the world of fantasy through which Hialmar and his
father compensate for the drabness and mediocrity of their lives. The wild duck is the
final touch, which brings their hunting ground in the garret to a state of perfection.
Gregers, however, has a different interpretation of the wild duck myth. He believes that
the bird symbolizes the entire Ekdal family who will drown in the ooze of fantasy and
self-delusion. He feels that it is his mission to rescue the Ekdals from these dangerous
depths, just as his father's dog retrieved the duck from the suffocating seaweed.

In the play, Act III represents the antagonism between the realist Relling and young
Werle, while Act IV exposes the paradox between Gregers' principles and the impossibility
of realizing them. Dr. Relling, the realist, first explains his friend Molvik's
drunkenness as part of him being a "demoniac." He also talks down on Gregers idealism and
wonders if he is still as idealistic as he once was. When Gregers and Relling confront
each other you see there conflicting views on the Hialmar household. Relling comments on
the happy family, but gregers calls it a "poisonous atmosphere." Both men feel responsible
for the lives of others, but Relling's mission is contrary to that of Gregers. Ibsen shows
that the realist is the one who encourages self-deception as a technique of facing life's
disappointments while the idealist encourages truthfulness as a way to self-fulfillment.

The final act begins with a discussion between Relling and Gregers. Relling's happens to
be the dominant force in this one. He explains his methods, telling the reader that "all
the world is sick," and the usual treatment is "trying to keep up the make-believe of life
in him." This gives the reader an insight to Relling's realistic character in that he
believes that most people need some sort of self-delusion in order to be happy. In the
final scene, the duality becomes rationalized with Hedvig's suicide indicating the failure
of applying pure principles to inappropriate situations. Despite the sadness of the event
Gregers believes that it has cured Hialmar, for he announces how much he loved her and
seemed to see the truth. Relling, however, argues that this will pass in a few months, and
a delusion will be created for Hialmar once again. The play ends with Gregers deciding to
go off and continue the rest of his life as the "thirteenth table." At the conclusion of
this play it is unclear which side Ibsen wishes the reader to take. Gregers possesses
righteous ideals of the truth, while Relling encourages a fantasy world. Under Relling's
guidance Hialmar is happy but he quickly falls into a depression when Gregers shows him
the truth about his life. Yet after Hedvig's sacrifice both men offer arguments, which
further illustrate their views.



An Enemy of the People is a play about a doctor who discovered that the town he lives in,
has become a cesspool. After discovering the town's beloved bath, which is supposedly
helps people get better and is the main reason the town has visitors from across the
county come visit it, has become polluted with bacteria that is caused from the water
pipes underground. This resulted in visitors going away from the town with Typhoid and
other sicknesses. Dr. Stockmann, which is the discoverer of the pollution, tries to tell
the townspeople that they need to fix the water pipes and bath. He faced a large amount of
resistance from his brother the mayor, Hovstad the newspaper editor, and many of the
townspeople. This resulted in Dr. Stockmann lashing out at the whole town for its
ignorance. He complains that the town is built on lies. This causes Dr. Stockmann to
become an enemy of the people and to be out cast from the town that he loves. To present
the problem in this play Ibsen creates an idealist in the person of Dr.Stockman and has
him opposed by his own brother who is the man of extreme practicality. In other words, Dr.
Continues for 4 more pages >>




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