The Wild Duck

Hjalmar Ekdal’s Subconscious Feelings in Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck

In Henrik Ibsen’s famous yet controversial play The Wild Duck, most of the significant events are mental and psychological. Specifically, it is the subconscious thoughts of Hjalmar Ekdal that construct the play. As the protagonist of the play, Hjalmar Ekdal is seemingly living a lie. He does not know about his wife’s affair along with the illegitimacy of his daughter until the end of the play. Although Ibsen subtly hints throughout the play that he might know the truth, Hjalmar never reveals it through fear that it might be true. Hjalmar is also subconsciously trying to revenge himself upon Old Werle through his daughter Hedvig. Even though at times it seems as though he truly loves her, he never treats her as if he really does. Hjalmar is a very complex character and, by understanding him, the audience can understand the play. Through Hjalmar’s awakening and his final acceptance of his subconscious thoughts and feelings, Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck unfolds and provides for the audience a sense of excitement, suspense, and climax.

Through clever use of dramatic irony, Ibsen informs the audience of knowledge that Hjalmar himself is not aware of. For one, the audience knows of the affair that Hjalmar’s wife Gina had while she...

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