Wild Duck

by: Henrik Ibsen

Important Quotations Explained

GREGERS: Oh, indeed! Hialmar Ekdal is sick too, is he!

RELLING: Most people are, worse luck.

GREGERS: And what remedy are you applying in Hialmar's case?

RELLING: My usual one. I am cultivating the life-illusion* in him. ("Livslognen," literally "the life-lie.")

GREGERS: Life-illusion? I didn't catch what you said.

RELLING: Yes, I said illusion. For illusion, you know, is the stimulating principle.

This dialogue toward the beginning of Act V introduces the motif of the "Livslognen" or "life-illusion." It takes place between the play's rival "doctors," two men in conflict over the Ekdals's fate. Relling opposes Gregers's continuous appeals to the "claim of the ideal" with a quasi- medical or psychological discourse. This turn to a discourse of psychology is one of the defining aspects of Ibsen's drama. For Relling, Hialmar suffers not from spiritual tumult but illness. He requires a remedy; the "stimulating principle" of illusion. The ideal does not figure as some moral or spiritual imperative but is yet another pathology, as closely related to the lie as typhus is to putrid fever. The "life-lie" is an "inoculation" against the pathological effects of these delusions, an illusion that makes the patient's survival possible.