The Wild Duck
In the Wild Duck, Henrik Ibsen begins his play by emphasizing the
value of color and light. He uses the theme of light to contrast Old
Werle, a stingy rich man, with Old Ekdal, a poor helpless man. Ibsen
connects the color green with the loss of eyesight of Old Werle. A
possible affair between Old Werle and Gina, Hedvig's mother, may
suggest the cause of Hedvig's loss of sight. By using sun and moon,
Ibsen establishes the atmosphere of the scene. The story line
deteriorates from peaceful to tragic. Similarly, does the setting in
the last four acts. In the Wild Duck, Henrik Ibsen employs the image
of light to portray certain characteristics in order to construct the
plot and to adjust the mood of the scene.
F.L. Lucas analyzes the opening arrangement and writes "In the
outer room the lamps are dimmed, with green shades, in contrast to the
brilliance of the room behind"(190). We understand that this meant
that the outer room, lit with soft and shaded light, implies poverty,
where as the inner room, illuminated with bright candles, expresses
wealth. The darkened room, insinuating poverty, is the office in which
the poor Old Ekdal 'does some extra copying,' and in return receives a
small income. The inside room, representing wealth, is Old Werle's
dining room where he was hosting a party. The distinctions of these
two lit rooms contrast Old Ekdal and Old Werle.
"In contrast to Werle's party, the lighting is of comparative
poverty 'on the table a lighted lamp'"(190), explains critic, F.L.
Lucas. Unlike Old Werle's expensive and exquisite illumination, a
small inexpensive lamp lights the Ekdals home, displaying poverty.
This dissimilarity shows another significant distinction between Old
Werle and Old Ekdal.
The distinctions of the light between Old Ekdal's and Old Werle's
homes is illustrated in the following incident.It is brought to the
reader's attention that in the following quotation Old Werle and Old
Ekdal were partners in crime. "[Old Werle] escaped by the skin of his
teeth," while they sentenced Old Ekdal to prison. This incident
resulted in extreme hatred toward Old Werle for his poor aid to Old
Ekdal. Being that Werle had a vast amount of money, Old Ekdal,
Hjalmar, and Werle's son, Gregers felt tremendous feelings of
animosity. Gregers recognized the miserable support his father has
given to the Ekdals. As a result Gregers moves in with the Ekdals and
attempts to enrich the marriage of Gina and Hjalmir, due to the fact
that his parents didn't get along. Gregers takes the approach of truth
to improve the marriage, which is another major theme of the Wild
duck. "A time to keep silence, and a time to speak," was wisely stated
by Ecclesiastes. Unfortunately, here it was 'a time to keep silence'
and Gregers did not.
F.L. Lucas examines the color green. "Why green shades? Because
Old Werle is beginning to lose his sight. And that eye trouble links
him significantly, by hereditary with little Hedvig, likewise
threatened by blindness"(190). He also explains that green is known to
be the most helpful colored shade to prevent blindness. This lighting
early in the Wild Duck hints that '[Old Werle] is going blind' which
relates him to Hedvig, where 'there is every probability that she will
lose her eyesight.' "Further, green is the color of romantic
unreality-the world of the Wild Duck caught in the seaweed below the
waters of the fjord"(190), adds Lucas. The color green, a symbol of
fantasy, is comparable to the world of the wild duck, which the
characters use to "diverge themselves" from reality. The shade green
is a link of two plots of the Wild Duck. One understanding of the
color green hints to the loss of sight which suggests an affair
between Old Werle and Hedvig's mother, Gina. Another explanation of
the green display is to correlate fantasy with the wild duck. The
latter understanding involves Old Ekdal who is an angry man living in
the past on the hunting grounds of the duck. The first explanation of
green results in Hedvig commiting suicide because of her anger.
Hjalmir finding out that Hedvig is not his daughter, disregards
Hedvig; this provokes her suicide. Green, symbolizing anger, hints two
separate plots which end in fury.
In the last four acts Ibsen uses natural light to set the mood of
the play. In each scene the light conditions decrease, as does the
plot. In the first of these four acts, the gorgeous moon illuminates
the stage and in the following scene the sun rises and reality of
the affair nears. However, in the fourth