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 consistent 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...
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