About The Wild Duck


The Wild Duck represents an investigation of a problem that Ibsen wrestled with throughout his life. Always concerned with "the claim of the ideal" and proselytizing this claim to others, Ibsen, on the other hand, found in himself qualities of material indulgence and a weakness for worldly recognition. He suspected that he himself, like Gregers, substituted a missionary zeal to reform others for a failure to actively fight for the reforms he desired.

Thus The Wild Duck represents a personal compromise for Ibsen. From the problems of self-fulfillment he considered in A Doll's House and Ghosts, to the cult of the lone strong-willed individual in Enemy of the People (produced two years before The Wild Duck), Ibsen confronted the logical outcome of a situation where an idealist carries his message as an intrusion on the normal world of mediocrity and hollowness of soul. The Wild Duck, in a sense, solved Ibsen's own moral dilemma as he struggled between a militant idealism (as in Brand and Enemy of the People) and his own worldly temperament. With a pragmatic, anti-romantic viewpoint, this drama presents a continuum between the opposing values of the Ideal and the Real.

By including many symbols in the play that refer to his personal memories, Ibsen provides further evidence that proves The Wild Duck is an outcome of his personal struggles. Hedvig, who stands between Gregers' idealism and Hialmar's romantic self-deceptions, is the name of Ibsen's favorite sister. Providing Ibsen with his only family contact, she was deeply religious and tried to imbue her brother with her mystic beliefs. Hedvig, who tells Gregers she reads from an old picture book called The History of London, represents Ibsen's mysticism. As a small child he too was fascinated by this same book mentioned in the play, whose illustrations of castles and churches and sailboats bore his thoughts to romantic far off places. Hedvig says the book was left by an old sea captain whom they call "the Flying Dutchman," and this too is true of the book Ibsen had as a child. The "captain," a native of the town of Risor, had been first enslaved in the Barbary states and then imprisoned in England. He died the year Ibsen was born, and the author invested all his romantic dreams in this unknown tragic figure.