Literature – Henrik Ibsen
In this essay, Ibsen’s plays, The Wild Duck, and Ghosts are considered in relation to themes of illusions and realities. In both plays, families are held together by illusions, yet torn apart by truths that have been concealed to protect the children. Ibsen’s use of artistic realism is an ironic art form where illusions and realisms are contradicted to reveal the deeper conflicts of ordinary lives. Ibsen presents the complicated realities of ordinary lives and emphasizes the fact that there are always many realities -- just as there are many illusions.
Illusions and Realities in Ibsen’s Plays The Wild Duck and Ghosts
Relling is referring to the ways the Ekdal family is structured on particular deceptions; however, these are designed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. Hedvig, the fourteen year old daughter, represents one of the innocents, and Greger’s father, Old Werle, represents a part of the guilty side. The key to these dualisms of false and truth, innocent and guilty, illusion and reality, lies in Ibsen’s art of realism, which was a staging of the complicated threads that hold ordinary lives together.
Within the ordinary lives of the families in Ghosts and The Wild Duck are tales of infidelity, corruption, greed, lust, disease, and other afflictions that characterize family secrets. For example, in Ghosts, the mother, Mrs. Alving, reveals the ways she has protected her son Oswald from the truths of her unhappy marriage. She tells her friend and priest, Manders, “…Yes, I was always swayed by duty and consideration for others; that was why I lied to my son, year in and year out. Oh, what a coward I have been” (315).
Manders responds, “You have built up a happy illusion in your son’s mind, Mrs. Alving – and that is a thing you certainly ought not to undervalue,” (315) echoing Dr. Relling’s belief that illusions are sometimes more than a question of reality. In both plays, the deeper questions are about whose reality matters, and who may determine another person’s reality.
Relling accuses Greger of having a plague of “…integrity-fever; and then -- what's worse -- you are always in a delirium of hero-worship; you must always have something to adore, outside yourself,” which Greger agrees to, without considering the consequences of this claim (297). In fact, Greger’s certainty about the dangers of illusions provokes the young Hedvig into an emotional despair, and she kills herself.