Old Akers uses drinking and hunting in the attic as his escapes from the fact that he is poor. He used to be friends with Mr. Worley until the incident, and after that he was sent to jail while Worley became rich. Harold uses his invention as an escape from any unpleasantness in his life. He refuses to hear any unpalatable news in his house. If he does have to suffer listening to some, he occupies his mind with his invention so he doesn't have to deal with things that make him stressed out. Hallie uses books and the wild duck as her escapes from her boring everyday life, and later to deal with her parents' fighting and her father's attitude towards her.
In The Wild Duck, Harold gives too much attention to his invention and not enough attention to what is going on about him. He may not have had such an outrageous reaction if he had realized that not all news is good news. Finding out his wife had an affair before their marriage with a married man, Hallie was possibly not his daughter, and finally that Hallie had killed herself was all just too much for Harold to handle.
People need to give their minds a break from the stresses and problems of their monotonous lives. It is unhealthy if someone becomes so involved in disregarding his problems that he ceases to acknowledge them. On the other hand, if someone doesn't have any escapes, he will very easily become overwhelmed with stress. We need to find a happy medium between escaping and dealing with our problems.