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MonkeyNotes-The Wild Duck by Henrik Ibsen

Key Literary Elements


The play is set in Ibsen's native Norway. The first act specifically
takes place in the home of a wealthy businessman by the name of
Werle. When the curtain rises, Werle is throwing a party
supposedly in honor of his prodigal son Gregers, who has come
home after an absence of almost seventeen years. The toast,
however, is raised not for Gregers, but in honor of Mrs. Sorby,
whom Werle plans to marry.

The remaining acts take place at the studio of Hialmar Ekdal, a
photographer and a dreamer. The attic behind his studio is very
important throughout the play because it houses the wild duck.
Hialmar constantly makes improvements to the attic for the bird. It
is also in the attic that Hedvig commits suicide.

Table of Contents


Major Characters

Hialmar Ekdal - the protagonist of the play, though a terribly
flawed one. He is a lazy, idle dreamer who lets Gina, his wife, and
Hedvig, his daughter, do all the work, including the tasks to be
performed in his photography studio. He naively nurtures a dream
of redeeming his father's name through a great photographic
invention. When Gregers reveals the truth about his wife and
daughter to him, he does not have the nobility of spirit to face the
truth and forgive Gina; instead, he demands to know whether
Hedvig is his daughter or Werle's. When he does not get a definite
answer, he starts doubting Hedvig's love for him and demands that
she give up her life as proof of her love. In answer to his demands,
the devoted Hedvig commits suicide, an act that shatters Hialmar.

Gregers Werle - a wealthy and unattractive young man whose
philosophy is a "claim of the ideal." Disgusted with his father, the
realist, he leaves home for a period of seventeen years to work in
the family mining business. When he finally returns home, Gregers
confronts his father about sending his mother to an early grave and
about his many affairs. When he learns that his father has
discarded one of his mistresses, Gina, by encouraging Hialmar to
marry her, Gregers is furious that his friend has been duped. He
goes to Hialmar's house to tell his friend the truth about his wife
and daughter. Hialmar cannot accept the truth and destroys his
daughter in the process. Gregers is partially responsible for
Hedvig's death.

Hedvig - the fourteen year old daughter of Gina and Hialmar,
whose eyesight is failing. Like her mother, she adores and pampers
her father. When he questions whether or not she is really his
daughter and rejects her love, she is totally distressed, for there is
no way to prove whether Hialmar or Werle is her father. When
Gregers goads her into sacrificing the wild duck, with which she
identifies herself completely, she also sacrifices herself, trying to
prove her love to her father. Her suicide disturbs all the major
characters in the play.

Table of Contents
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MonkeyNotes-The Wild Duck by Henrik Ibsen

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