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MonkeyNotes-The Wild Duck by Henrik Ibsen
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PLOT (Synopsis)

Gregers Werle has returned to the house of his wealthy and
realistic father, Hakon Werle, after an absence of almost seventeen
years; the two of them have always felt hostile towards each other.
When he learns that his father is going to marry the housekeeper,
Ms. Sorby, Gregers is very upset. He turns on Werle and accuses
him of making his sick mother's life miserable and of hastening her
early death because of his philandering ways.

After Gregers has a talk with his friend, Hialmar Ekdal, he realizes
that Werle has also arranged for his former mistress, Gina, to
marry Hialmar, wanting her out of the way. Now Gina and
Hialmar have a daughter, named Hedvig, and Werle has financially
helped the family to start a photography business. Gregers is
convinced that none of his father's motives are good. Hialmar's
father, Lieutenant Ekdal, had been Werle's former business
partner; he was sent to prison for unlawfully cutting down timber
on public land. Although Werle was certain to have been involved
in the scheme, nothing was proved against him. The elder Ekdal is
now out of jail and living with Hialmar and his wife. Werle gives
him some jobs to do, obviously trying to assuage his conscience.

Gregers, a total idealist, is bothered that Hialmar is ignorant about
the facts concerning his wife and Werle's "generosity"; therefore,
he believes that he should tell his friend the truth and present "the
claim of the ideal." Gregers believes that if he explains to Hialmar
that his marriage is based on lies, the marriage will become
stronger, more open, more honest, and more ideal. Gregers
obviously misjudges the capacity of his friend.

In truth, Hialmar is a vain, pampered dreamer and romantic, who
believes that he is a delicate, high-souled man. He demands that
Gina and Hedvig wait on him and do the work in the photography
studio while he dawdles his life away in dreams; he has convinced
himself that in the future he will make some great photographic
invention that will redeem the Ekdal name and save his father's
reputation. In spite of his lack of effort, Gina, his wife, and
Hedvig, his daughter, believe in Hialmar and love him dearly.

Old Ekdal is a broken man. He drinks whenever possible and
spends all of his time in the attic above the studio, which has been
transformed into a forest-like setting. While there, he pretends that
he is in the Hoidal Forests, shooting wildlife. The wild duck, which
had been wounded by Werle, is allowed to make its home in the
attic and is given special attention by Old Ekdal, Hialmar, and
Hedvig. Hialmar makes special contraptions for the duck and
Hedvig identifies with it completely. Gina is the only family
member who does not enter into the mystery of the wild duck and
spend time in the attic. She is much too practical to be a dreamer or
romantic; she must spend her time cooking, washing, cleaning, and
running the photography studio. She never complains, however,
about the time and attention that the other three give to the wild

The Eckdals have two lodgers, who stay downstairs: Dr. Relling
and Molvik. Relling, although a realist, believes in the "life
illusion," in contrast to Gregers' "claim of the ideal;" he thinks that
Hialmar needs his illusions to help him cope with real life. Molvik,
the clergyman, is a drunkard. Relling maintains his drinking fits
are an illusion to hide that he is "demonic." Relling is convinced
that everyone needs an illusion about himself. Certainly, Hialmar
and Hedvig do.

When Gregers comes to visit Hialmar, he reveals the truth about
Gina. Gregers is not trying to be cruel; he ideally believes that
Gregers will appreciate the information and forge a better
relationship with his wife because of it. Hialmar, however, is much
too weak to accept the truth nobly. He cannot bring himself to
forgive Gina for her past and even rejects Hedvig because he
suspects that she is Werle's daughter. Unable to bear the rejection
and doubt of her beloved father, Hedvig shoots herself, trying to
prove her love. She has obviously taken Gregers' idealistic talk
about the duty and beauty of self-sacrifice literally.

Hedvig's suicide devastates Hialmar and makes him see he was
wrong to treat Hedvig so poorly; but it is too late to do anything
about it. Gregers is also affected by her death and decides that
people cannot be liberated from any outside agency; true liberation
must come from within. He now accepts that his destiny is to be
"the thirteenth at table," the one not wanted or listened to.

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MonkeyNotes-The Wild Duck by Henrik Ibsen

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