The Wild Duck
(Classic Books on Cassettes Collection)
By Henrik Ibsen
Audio Book Contractors, Inc., (2002)
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - July 12, 2010
Werle is a successful merchant. His previous partner Ekdal was found guilty of a crime, although it becomes clear in Ibsen's play that Werle committed it. Ekdal served time in prison for Werle's crime and is now, after his release, a broken man. Werle eases his conscience by giving him some copying work to do, so that he has pocket money.
When Ekdal went to prison, Werle also gave Ekdal's son, Hialmar, money to start a photography business on a small scale, a business that Hialmar does not like very much. And he gave him his mistress as a wife without telling him of his relationship with her.
Hialmar's wife has a daughter with an eye disease. She is now fourteen years old. Hialmar has been married for under fifteen years. Ekdal lives with his son and his family and raises some animals in the garret, including a wild duck that Werle shot but did not kill because he has an eye disease. The duck was snatched and bitten by one of Werle's dogs and is slightly lame. It tried to hide in water and is hurt for being there too long. Werle told one of his men to kill the duck, but Ekdal rescued it.
Werle has a son, Gregers, who considers himself a friend of Hialmar. Gregers is bothered by his involvement in the nefarious deeds of his father. He believes in the ennobling value of truth, sincerity, and the ideal. He feels that he must reveal all the things that Hialmar does not know about his wife. He is misguidedly convinced that that the revelation of the truth will make Hialmar's marriage ideal.
The wounded wild duck is obviously a symbol. Gregers thinks that Ekdal and his son have "something of the wild duck" in them. Are they the only ones? Is everyone in the play a wounded wild duck? How can a wounded duck be cured?
After Gregers reveals Hialmar's wife's past to Hialmar and Hialmar is distraught, Hialmar's doctor tells Gregers that he will heal Hialmar by "cultivating the life-illusion in him." The Norwegian word literally means "the life-lie." The doctor says, "Rob the average man of his life-illusion, and you rob him of his happiness at the same stroke." The doctor is clearly saying that the average person needs "the life-lie" in order to live, and cannot survive happily with the truth or the ideal.
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Rabbi Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes daily samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.