The Wild Duck Essay Research Paper The

The Wild Duck Essay, Research Paper

The Wild Duck

In the Wild Duck, Henrik Ibsen begins his play by emphasizing the

value of color and light. He uses the theme of light to contrast Old

Werle, a stingy rich man, with Old Ekdal, a poor helpless man. Ibsen

connects the color green with the loss of eyesight of Old Werle. A

possible affair between Old Werle and Gina, Hedvig’s mother, may

suggest the cause of Hedvig’s loss of sight. By using sun and moon,

Ibsen establishes the atmosphere of the scene. The story line

deteriorates from peaceful to tragic. Similarly, does the setting in

the last four acts. In the Wild Duck, Henrik Ibsen employs the image

of light to portray certain characteristics in order to construct the

plot and to adjust the mood of the scene.

F.L. Lucas analyzes the opening arrangement and writes “In the

outer room the lamps are dimmed, with green shades, in contrast to the

brilliance of the room behind”(190). We understand that this meant

that the outer room, lit with soft and shaded light, implies poverty,

where as the inner room, illuminated with bright candles, expresses

wealth. The darkened room, insinuating poverty, is the office in which

the poor Old Ekdal ‘does some extra copying,’ and in return receives a

small income. The inside room, representing wealth, is Old Werle’s

dining room where he was hosting a party. The distinctions of these

two lit rooms contrast Old Ekdal and Old Werle.

“In contrast to Werle’s party, the lighting is of comparative

poverty ‘on the table a lighted lamp’”(190), explains critic, F.L.

Lucas. Unlike Old Werle’s expensive and exquisite illumination, a

small inexpensive lamp lights the Ekdals home, displaying poverty.

This dissimilarity shows another significant distinction between Old

Werle and Old Ekdal.

The distinctions of the light between Old Ekdal’s and Old Werle’s

homes is illustrated in the following incident.It is brought to the

reader’s attention that in the following quotation Old Werle and Old

Ekdal were partners in crime. “[Old Werle] escaped by the skin of his

teeth,” while they sentenced Old Ekdal to prison. This incident

resulted in extreme hatred toward Old Werle for his poor aid to Old

Ekdal. Being that Werle had a vast amount of money, Old Ekdal,

Hjalmar, and Werle’s son, Gregers felt tremendous feelings of

animosity. Gregers recognized the miserable support his father has

given to the Ekdals. As a result Gregers moves in with the Ekdals and

attempts to enrich the marriage of Gina and Hjalmir, due to the fact

that his parents didn’t get along. Gregers takes the approach of truth

to improve the marriage, which is another major theme of the Wild

duck. “A time to keep silence, and a time to speak,” was wisely stated

by Ecclesiastes. Unfortunately, here it was ‘a time to keep silence’

and Gregers did not.

F.L. Lucas examines the color green. “Why green shades? Because

Old Werle is beginning to lose his sight. And that eye trouble links

him significantly, by hereditary with little Hedvig, likewise

threatened by blindness”(190). He also explains that green is known to

be the most helpful colored shade to prevent blindness. This lighting

early in the Wild Duck hints that ‘[Old Werle] is going blind’ which

relates him to Hedvig, where ‘there is every probability that she will

lose her eyesight.’ “Further, green is the color of romantic

unreality-the world of the Wild Duck caught in the seaweed below the

waters of the fjord”(190), adds Lucas. The color green, a symbol of

fantasy, is comparable to the world of the wild duck, which the

characters use to “diverge themselves” from reality. The shade green

is a link of two plots of the Wild Duck. One understanding of the

color green hints to the loss of sight which suggests an affair

between Old Werle and Hedvig’s mother, Gina. Another explanation of

the green display is to correlate fantasy with the wild duck. The

latter understanding involves Old Ekdal who is an angry man living in

the past on the hunting grounds of the duck. The first explanation of

green results in Hedvig commiting suicide because of her anger.

Hjalmir finding out that Hedvig is not his daughter, disregards

Hedvig; this provokes her suicide. Green, symbolizing anger, hints two

separate plots which end in fury.

In the last four acts Ibsen uses natural light to set the mood of

the play. In each scene the light conditions decrease, as does the

plot. In the first of these four acts, the gorgeous moon illuminates

the stage and in the following scene the sun rises and reality of

the affair nears. However, in the fourth act of the Wild Duck the sun

declines as does the story line. The last scene of the play describes

a cold snowy day, in which the suicide of Hedvig occurs.

Lucas depicts act two as follows: “The wild duck’s garret is

opened ‘clear moonbeams shine in on some parts of the great room’:

Note great not poky. This happy hunting ground of illusion is vast and

shadowy; and lit by the beguiling magic of moonshine”(191). The

majestic glow of the moon illuminates this setting. Though the room is

small, in terms of space, he refers to it as ‘great’ because of the

fantasy and illusion of the attic. The moon which symbolizes illusion

lights the attic where the wild duck helps fullfill the escape to

fantasy. Old Ekdal’s hunting ground fantasy is also satisfied by the

illuminating illusion of the moon. Not only are the settings of this

scene significant, so are the contents of this act. He introduces the

wild duck in this scene and so is the story of the ‘clever dog’ that

‘went down and got the duck up’ from ‘the grasses and roots and

weeds.’ This is an example of how Henrik Ibsen sets the mood of the

scene and expresses primary themes through the display of light.

” ‘The daylight falls through the large windows in the slanting

roof.’ Cold reality approaches”(191). Lucas’ explanation of this

quotation is simply that ‘cold reality’ occurs during the daytime. The

moon and sun differ, in that at night dreams are dreamed and at

daytime they are reality. This contrasts the previous scene from the

present scene, by means of setting and contents. During this scene

Gregers tells his father that he has his father to ‘thank for the fact

that [he is] being haunted and driven by a guilty conscience.’

Immediately after this scene, Gregers alerts Hjalmir of the affair

between Old Werle and Gina. These examples of ‘cold reality’ also show

Ibsens consistency of parallel scenery and content.

“Afternoon light; the sun is going down; a little later the scene

begins to grow dark”(192), delineates Lucas. The sun, established to

represent reality, was setting, but the moon, symbolizing fantasy,

illusion, and dreams, was not yet shining; rather there was no source

of light, the setting was dim and shaded, as the mood of the play

deteriorated. Gina admitted her affair with Old Werle and explained

that ‘[Old Werle] didn’t give up till he had his way.’ As the setting

darkens, the plot follows, exhibiting Ibsen’s flow of decline

throughout the play.

The last scene of the play is a ‘cold gray morning light. Wet

snow lies on the big panes of the skylight.’ The sunshine is grey

rather than yellow, foreshadowing tragedy. The snow and cold weather

add to the day’s gloom. This ugly illustrated setting is parallel to

the grotesque suicide of Hedvig. The fact that this day was Hedvig’s

birthday may suggest that she was the perfect person, living an exact

number of years. Why did she die at such ayoung age then? It was the

fate of her father, Hjalmir, being ‘the thirteenth man at the table’

at Old werle’s party.

Through the different types of illumination, the reader is able

to contrast Old Ekdal from Old Werle, in order to begin the story.

Ibsen carefully uses the color green, to enable two plots to form. One

implication of the color green, is the affair between Old Werle and

Gina, through eye trouble. The second, is the sad life of ld Ekdal

living in his past. In the last four acts Ibsen makes the setting

correspond to the contents, the moon with happiness and daylight

parallel to reality. The lack of light is analogous to darkness in the

scene. Finally, grey sunlight, along with coldness and snow,

correspond to Hedvig’s death. In the Wild Duck, Henrik Ibsen applies

the image of light to express certain attributes in order to assemble

the story and to alter the mood of the play.



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