Annotated Bibliography of Criticism
Foster, V. A. “Ibsen’s Tragicomedy: The Wild Duck.” Modern Drama 38 (1995): 287-97. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/mdr.1995.0004
Verna A. Foster’s article Ibsen’s Tragicomedy: The Wild Duck published by University of Toronto Press discusses the complexity of the tragicomedy genre and how it can have multifaceted variables. It describes The Wild Duck to be the first tragicomedy; the play works through the character of Hjalmar to demonstrate tragic instances while containing a comic flare throughout. Foster goes on to describe Hjalmar as a comical character who experiences tragic events. Foster also adds that the tragicomedy genre can dip in the melodrama territory by displaying comical reactions from the characters even at the direst times. Hedvig’s death for instance, is a melodramatic scene in which Hjalmar says right before the off stage shot is heard “Hedvig, are you willing to give up life for me?” Foster goes on to say that, although Hedvig’s death is in no way comical, it serves shows its absurdity through the initial reactions of the central characters. Hjalmar’s ironic line, Gina mournfully yelling “Oh, my child, my child!,” and Relling’s stoic and emotionless expression compared to Hjalmar’s emotional grief share a comical melodrama that juxtaposes with the tragedy of the situation. Foster concludes that although The Wild Duck is the first modern tragicomedy, it is the bleakest of its genre due to the tragic death of Hedvig. Ibsen weaves comical elements throughout the tragic circumstances of the melodramatic play.
Lorentzen, Jørgen. “Ibsen and Fatherhood.” New Literary History, 37 (2006): 817–36. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20057980.
Jørgen Lorentzen explores the roles that fathers take and how men are impacted by their relationship to their father in Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck. Showing the underlying theme of fatherhood within the scenes, Lorentzen explains that the father-son relationship between Werle and Gregers mirrors the father-son relationship between Ekdal and Hjalmar because both sons’ lives were affected by their father’s parenting. Lorentzen explains three forms of fatherhood: the patriarchal father, that old Werle represents; the fallen father, that Ekdal exemplifies; and the loving but helpless father, that Hjalmar embodies. Old Werle was willing to do anything that benefitted him, including putting all the blame on Ekdal and abandoning his son for 15 years, with only business being the topic of conversation. By the end of the play, however, he changes his attitude toward his son and the truth, and is open within his new marriage, but his son Gregers ruins a loving family while attempting to restore his father’s morale. Ekdal attempted to kill himself when he lost everything and never restored his masculinity, though his son Hjalmar attempts to restore his honor. Hjalmar likes to be perceived as the father of his home but doesn’t act like it and never takes responsibility. He also is easily influenced by others’ suggestions, which in turn dictates his life, although he does express his love for Hedvig by the end of the play. Lorentzen makes the point that the two families are now extinct and with no heir.
Moi, Toril. “‘It Was as If He Meant Something Different from What He Said: All the Time’: Language, Metaphysics, and the Everyday in ‘The Wild Duck.’” New Literary History 33 (2002): 655–86. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/20057750.
In “It Was As If He Meant Something Different,” Toril Moi goes into the symbolism of the wild duck in Ibsen’s play of that name and what the use of the duck can mean further. Moi points out several critiques of The Wild Duck and just how people felt about the use of the duck throughout. Some critics utterly didn’t enjoy the use of the duck and had a hard time understanding what it could possibly symbolize, or really its importance at all. Francisque Sarcey said “Oh! That wild duck, absolutely nobody ever, no, nobody, neither you who have seen the play…no one will ever know what that wild duck is, neither what it’s doing in the play, nor what it means.” Durbach on the other hand argues that Ibsen was a symbolist and that the duck symbolized Gregers. Moi extends Durbach’s point and interprets the duck to symbolize not only Gregers but humanity. “There are people in this world who plunge to the bottom when they get a couple of shots in the body, and then they never come up again,” emphasizing the strength and will power in the duck for fighting and living, like Old Ekdal did after being released from prison and living with his ruined reputation in the community, as well as Hjalmar as his son in this very “in the know” community. We also see everyone in the Ekdal home strive through their struggles. We see a lot of fight in Gina and Hedvig, especially through their hard work and persistence in making money, staying within a budget and working with whatever they had in their poverty.
Reinert, Otto. “Sight Imagery in The Wild Duck” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 55 (1956): 457-62. Print.
The overall main point about this journal article is about the imagery of sight in The Wilde Duck, but it also demonstrates that blindness is also portrayed throughout this play. Reinert expresses that throughout the play that Old Werle and Hedvig’s sight leads up to Werle’s blindness but it doesn’t stop him from doing what he does. Reinert explains that the characters are blind to see the truth but the characters do not stop from achieving things that they get done. He uses the symbol of blindness to show that you need to see reality for what it is and open your eyes. There are a lot of examples when it comes to the imagery of sight because they don’t want to face the facts that they are going to see all darkness, but also Hedvig, Hjalmar’s daughter, is blind as well and she can’t do everyday things but it just means that she is devoted more to her father and she does not want to let him down. This article shows that just because you have a disability that should not stop you from doing what you want to do in life and achieving your goals. It just makes you want to keep going, stay positive and be happy. He explains in this article that even though you are blind you have senses and could use your imagination to the fullest.