Annotated Bibliography of Criticism


Crow, Brian. “Romantic Ambivalence in ‘The Master Builder.’” Studies in Romanticism, 2, (1981): 203–23. JSTOR,
Brian Crow analyzes the works of  Henrik Ibsen and his style of structured realism in his plays. It is evident that his works such as the play The Master Builder are psychologically motivated.  Written in 1894, The Master Builder is a representational balance of fantasy and delusion. The main character Solness’s egotism has distorted his judgment in corresponding to his guilt and fear. He feels guilty because of his relationship with his wife and the unfortunate death of their twins caused indirectly by a house fire. To avoid upsetting his wife he is forced to deal with his guilt in isolation. He exhibits a man in crisis who is unable to share his feelings of the traumatic experience and in addition fears losing his reputation as the Master Builder. He is also convinced he has somehow psychologically attracted women in his life that have caused him to act unscrupulously. In addition, he believes his fear of the next generation “knocking on his door” and being equivocal to his downfall is supported by the arrival of Hilda. He describes these events as situations that he has attracted by stating  “I must have willed it…wished it..desired it. Ibsen use of psychology displays the individual characters quest for imagination and self fulfillment.

—Wynesha James


Stokkeland, Jon. “The Poet and the Laws of Life: Narcissism and Object Relatedness in Ibsen’s Late Plays.” American Imago, 73 (2016): 314–17. doi:10.1353/aim.2016.0016.

In this article Stokkeland explores how Mr. and Mrs. Solness in Ibsen’s The Master Builder interact with one another. Stokkeland argues the difference between heroism and madness in both Mr. and Mrs. Solness’s actions, and how their lack of communications contributes to their deteriorating marriage. One of the main points of this section is Stokkeland’s idea that Solness is trying to relieve his guilt towards Mrs. Solness by purposely making her think he’s having an affair and by building her a new home. The author also points out certain areas of the play were the Solness is allowing Aline to falsely accuse him of wrongful actions to relieve his guilt towards her. The author also explains that it is impossible for both characters to heal because of their continuous lack of communication. Solness wants to build a house for Mrs. Solness to rid himself of his guilt, but Stokkeland points out that Mrs. Solness states her lack of interest for the house. There are a few examples of how the couple try to talk about their feelings and the tragic events of their lives, but often the conversations are shut down by either one of them being not willing to talk. Towards the end of the article Stokeland discusses Hilda’s power and importance to Solness. The last paragraph states that Hilda offers Solness a substitute for his guilt by focusing on building a castle in the air. Hilda’s power over Solness is so extreme that he is narcissistically memorialized by the idea of the castle, and he forgets everything else. Stokkeland ends the article by saying that grand projects can be delusions that we can’t rid ourselves of, and Ibsen’s way of capturing this idea is what makes him a great writer.

—Harmony Gilliard


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