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Truth and Lies in Ibsen’s Plays

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    Ghosts and The Wild Duck written by Henrik Ibsen provides a strong theme about how a lie or even truth can negatively affect the present. Both of the plays’ theme is based on the lies on which characters are built on. The lies on the Wild Duck starts with Gina Ekdal who lives in a lie that she never reveals to her husband, Hjalmar Ekdal about the real father of her daughter, Hedvig. Similarly in Ghosts, Mrs. Helene Alving never tells Regina and Oswald the truth about their father. Mrs. Alving also hides the illness of her husband from Oswald without realizing that it could affect him in a long term. Ibsen’s suggestion about how truth is attached to the ideals is unclear, he does explain that people lie to maintain their social status and extreme amount of lies can hurt you or someone you adore.

    The theme that Ibsen gives in Ghosts is complicated. It starts when Mrs. Alving thinks that she can hide her lies by playing nice to everyone, pretending to believe in God, and opening the orphanage. She also sends Oswald to the orphanage so that no one will ever find out that she is not generous about it. Mrs. Alving does admit that she wasn’t completely pure about her husband’s reputation and does take the blame for betraying her son. Mrs. Alving: “I ought never to have concealed the facts of Alving’s life. But at that time I dared not do anything else-I was afraid, partly on my account. I was such a coward”. But when her son returns home to her, he is covered in sickness due to the lies his mother told him. Therefore Mrs. Alving ends up telling the truth about her husband to Oswald and Regina.

    Ibsen also has a meaningful theme about people lying to maintain their social status within the play Ghosts and how it leads to people making terrible choices. As the play itself suggests that if you have a higher social status, you are more likely to be miserable. For example, making painful sacrifices and marrying someone you don’t love just like Mrs. Alving and the only way you can keep up with your status is by showing everyone how perfect your life is at all times. Ibsen also tries to show that some of the most liberal people in the play are working-class people. In the book, “Four Great Plays” by Ibsen himself, he also explains how people take advantage of higher class people. Engstrand: “Ay, ay; you’ve picked up some learning out here; and that may come in useful now, Regina.” Furthermore, social status seems to have a vogue impact on ways that characters lie in the whole play just to use them to higher their own status.

    Additionally, with truth and lies, Ibsen also gives a strong theme about consequences that they follow. When Mrs. Alving was young, her mother and two aunts thought that Captain Alving’s money was a major reason for the marriage. Though she admits she was never allowed to follow her dreams and never listened to herself, she also admitted that she lived in a society where women were considered as someone who would gain materials. The consequences of her marriages turned out to be self-denial and tragic and chooses duty as a wife over ‘her’ happiness. “ Yes, that is true. Those three cast up the account for me. Oh, it’s marvellous how clearly they made out that it would be downright madness to refuse such an offer. If mother could only see me now, and know what all that grandeur has come to!” . She stayed with her husband, let his affairs continue yet kept her and her husband’s reputation higher in the society. Captain Alving’s sins eventually showed up when his mistress gave a birth to Regina.

    His mistakes led his son, Oswald to commit a suicide for blaming himself for what happened to his father, and it also took his wife, Mrs. Alving’s happiness. The consequences of the actions by Captain Alving continued to haunt characters. In conclusion to the ghosts, the battle between truth and lies overall represents itself powerfully in the Alving family. Living in a provincial town, they are limited to their own future. As Mrs. Alving created her world in a community, she became too ashamed to expose her husband, not willing her endurance to the community; her lies begin arduous for her to keep inside herself. As for her and her family escaping the form the truth, Oswald created his end with disease to escape with death.

    Regina has no way out except for possible prostitution. Pastor Manders also is in a huge chaos unless he lets himself be blackmailed by Engstrand. Mrs. Alving herself had no choice except for possibly killing herself. In our community, the more we lie to ourselves and people around us, the more devastated we are likely to be. However, when truth plays its part, we also have no escape as people around us could get hurt due to our words. The truth and lied in the Wild Duck is complicatedly stated. The play starts when Gregers Werle comes home after a long period to his friend, Hjalmar Ekdal who married a girl that was once servant of his father’s house and even his father’s mistress. As the play progresses, it is almost clear that Ekdal family surrounded themselves with lies pretending that everything was normal.

    They refuse to let Hedvig know that she might not have been Hjelmar’s daughter and hid her illness from her and kept her isolated from the outside world. Senior Ekdal himself lives in a lie, spending most of his time inside an attic transformed into a fake forest where Senior Ekdal can live inside an illusion and reminiscence his past. Another scene of this play involves Gregars Werle who knows the truth about Hedvig and under the hopes of ‘his’ freedom and happiness, he chose to reveal the truth about Hjelmar Ekdal about his daughter, Hedvig. However his hopes turn into a nightmare when Gregars’ life of lies destroys the happiness of the entire family causing Hedvig to commit suicide. Gregars: Hedvig has not died in vain. Did you not see how sorrow set free what is noble in him? Relling: Most people are ennoble by the actual presence of death. But how long do you suppose this nobility will last in him?

    The play also distributes a theme between the rivals Relling and Gregers with “spiritual doctors” in conflict over Hjelmar’s destiny. Gregars’s claim about his belief is that the soul must bring itself into the light and truth should come out under any conditions. Gregars ends up preaching for forgiveness, exaltation, confession, and sacrifice to ruin the Ekdal family. However Relling speaks on the sense of pathos replacing Greger’s diagnosis with the psychological ones. Gregars soon suffers from “integrity-fever” and “delirium of hero-worship.” His claim of deal becomes a disorder instead of imperative. Both of them require an specific remedy so Hjelmar can dream of his invention and Ekdal can hunt in the garret.

    There is also an specific theme about honor and courage that the characters maintain in the Wild duck. It is said that when Ibsen wrote “The Wild Duck”, it is based on the poem by Nordic writer, a poem about a duck that was shot and dove into the water to cling to the rocks at the bottom and die. Through this, the duck avoided being caught and being forced to live upto his potential. In some way, Senior Werle and Hedvig are like the wild duck in the poem in the sense when they both get hurt. Senior Werle should have killed himself to avoid being humiliated and without honor but he chose to live. Hedvig also claims to be sick and imprisoned at her own house. She is more like the Wild Duck in the poem than Senior Werle because unlike her grandfather, Hedvig kills herself at the end freeing herself from and unfulfilling life.

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