The Wild Duck Themes

The Wild Duck Themes


The most important theme in the play is based on the lies on which the character’s lives are built on. This theme emerges from the first scene, when Gregers Werle comes home after a long period of time to find that his friend, Hjalmar Ekdal, married a girl who was a servant in his father’s house and who was rumored to be at one point his father’s mistress. Gregers is shocked to see his old friend married to a woman who was promiscuous and take care of a child who may not even be his own. But as the play progresses, more details are revealed and more lies surface. The Ekdal family surrounded themselves with lies and lived as if everything was normal; they refused to let Hedvig know that she may not be Hjalmar’s daughter and they hid her illness from her, keeping her isolated from the outside world. Senior Ekdal also 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 glorious past.


Another theme is sickness both a literal one and a metaphorical one. In the play, there are two characters that have an eye illness; Hedvig and Håkon Werle. The illness is a progressive one and both Hedvig and Werle were affected by their illness that forced them to be confined to their homes. The theme of sickness is often found in literary naturalism and it is also a theme commonly found in Ibsen’s plays. But the illness is also a metaphorical one and it implies that Hedvig and Werle can’t see clearly the world around them. Hedvig is too innocent to be able to see the bad in people while Werle is too blinded by his desire to acquire wealth to notice anything else. They are both sick because they can’t fit in and they are always different from those around them.

Honor and Courage

When Ibsen wrote The Wild duck, it is said that he based his play on a poem written by another 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 action, the duck would avoid being caught and being forced to live its live in captivity. In some way, Senior Werle and Hedvig are just like the wild duck in the poem, in the sense that they both have been hurt. Senior Werle suffered after he was betrayed by his business partner and lost everything he had. It is hinted in the play that some believed that Senior Werle should have killed himself to avoid living humiliated and without honor but Senior Werle choose to live. Hedvig is also ‘’injured’’, sick and imprisoned in her own home, without knowing whether she will be able to live a normal life or not. Hedvig is more like the wild duck in the poem than Senior Werle because unlike her grandfather, Hedvig kills herself at the end of the play, freeing herself from an unfulfilling life.

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