Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews March 4, 2024
February 26, 2024
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.
The play distributes these competing doctrines between the rivals Relling and Gregers, two "spiritual doctors" in conflict over Hialmar's destiny. Gregers's claim of the ideal relies on his belief that the soul must bring itself into the light and attain truth at all costs. Thus Greger preaches forgiveness, exaltation, redemption, martyrdom, confession, absolution, and sacrifice in spite of the ruin he brings to the Ekdal household.
In contrast, Relling speaks in terms of pathology, replacing Gregers's spiritual diagnoses Gregers with quasi-medical/psychological ones. This turn to psychology is one of the defining aspects of Ibsen's drama. Hialmar is not in spiritual tumult but suffers from illness. Gregers himself suffers from an "integrity- fever" and a "delirium of hero-worship." His "claim of the ideal" becomes a disorder rather than a moral or spiritual imperative. 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. What is imperative for Relling then is not the soul's attainment to truth but the treatment of mental disorder. Both men require a remedy, the "stimulating principle" of illusion. Hialmar can dream of his invention and sustain the faith of his family and the mirage of his happy household, and Ekdal can hunt in the garret.
In The Wild Duck, the romantic hero—who finds his comic double in the fickle, melodramatic Hialmar—is most explicitly demystified in the exchange between Relling and Gregers in Act V. Hialmar's handsomeness, "superficially emotional temperament," "sympathetic voice," and talent for declaiming the verses and thoughts of others have always made him appear the "great light of the future" within his personal circles. The play debunks this fantasy of idolatry throughout. The play also critiques the romantic hero by parodying his notions of creation and creativity. Though Hialmar cannot explain his invention at the moment, he is certain it will come. He only awaits inspiration.
Ibsen also unmasks the romantic hero by underling the everyday affairs of his household. The ever-practical Gina, who runs the household affairs, will methodically tabulate the day's expenses; Gina and Ekdal will fret about the rental of the spare room; and much of the action will revolve around domestic comforts, such as the serving of food. Such moments of domesticity function to ironize the lofty, romantic figure Hialmar would cut.
The struggle with the figure of the father propels the action of the play. First, an almost mythically enigmatic crime committed by its two patriarchs, Werle and Ekdal, lurks in the backdrop, mysteriously establishing the relations between the two families. Thus Ekdal describes the tragedy that ultimately ensues as the woods revenge for this unspoken crime.
Within the fantasies of the sons, Werle figures as the "bad daddy" and Ekdal the good one. In fantasy, and Gregers's fantasy above all, Werle is a primal father, perverse and tyrannical, who intervenes freely into the sons' household. Thus the shadow of Werle supplants Hialmar as father and provider. Moreover, this fantasy Werle is guilty for ruining the rival patriarch, the good and, importantly, idealized Ekdal. Retrospectively Ekdal appears the brave lieutenant and stalwart hunter; undoubtedly his ruin makes this idealization all the more possible.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Wild Duck!