Can you describe the assumption on which the Helmers’ marriage is founded? What do each of them expect from each other? How conventional would these assumptions have been in 1879?
How does Torvald treat Nora? How does she treat him? What is the significance of the type of information each conceals from the other?
Can you describe Torvald’s character—what types of things does he value most? What seems to be the basis of his sexual attraction toward his wife?
What are some qualities of Nora’s character revealed early in the play? What gestures and preferences seem to define Nora’s real interests? What are her hidden fantasies?
How favorably do you think we are expected to view her? What are some of her limitations, and how responsible is she for them?
What is the purpose of introducing Mrs. Linde? Krogstad? What do we learn about Nora from her treatment of her friend? What important choices from the past does she reveal to Kristine?
What do Mrs. Linde’s statements reveal about her character and intentions? What light do they cast on the Helmers’ marriage?
Does Torvald seem very fond of his children? What seems to be the nature of Nora’s relationship with them? What attitudes does she reveal in her conversation with Krogstad?
What is Torvald’s attitude toward Mrs. Linda and Krogstad? Toward Nora’s father?
How does Torvald’s response to Krogstad’s crime affect Nora?
What aree the implications of Nora’s request that Torvald should choose her costume for her? What ironies are implicit in his speech in response, and what effect does it have on her?
At the end of Act I, what are your predictions about the future? What do you see as dominant traits of the society the play is dissecting?
How are we supposed to respond to Torvald’s behavior toward his dying friend, Dr. Rank?
What do you think of the ending? Is it the best possible from a dramatic point of view? The best possible way for Ibsen to make his points?
In particular, what effect is created by Nora’s departure? By her statement that perhaps in the future—after she has learned what she is--she and her husband might be able to begin anew? Would this play be improved by a happy ending?
How does the play treat the issue of child-rearing? What laws would have constrained Nora’s ability to take her children with her?
Why do you think this play was so controversial on its appearance in 1879 that it couldn’t be performed without alterations to the plot? Can you surmise what these alternations might have been?
What were some of the features of marriage laws at the time in Britain and the United States?
What were some incidents/experiences in Ibsen’s life which may be associated with his writing of this play?
What other literary works of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century address similar themes? Do they do so with equal force?
Even in a society in which egalitarian relationships and marriage are more common, does this play have any lessons for a contemporary audience?
The Wild Duck, 1884
At the time of publication, The Wild Duck was attacked as morbid or depressing; what do you think might have caused this response? Do you think it was a valid one?
What might have seemed unconventional features of the play in the context of other works of the time?
If you have read other Ibsen plays, do you recognize similar themes and characters? How has Ibsen altered his treatment of "truthtelling" and the discovery of secrets of the past since Ghosts and The Enemy of the People?
How does the title of The Wild Duck indicate its central themes? Are there several interpretations of this image, and do these change throughout the play? Does the image have a final, identifiable meaning?
How would our sense of the play differ had it been titled after one of the central characters?
How does the audience's view of Gregers change or develop as the play progresses? Of Hjalmar? Of Gina?
What are some events which have occurred before the opening of the play? In particular, what actions have caused the disgrace of Lt. Ekdal?
What truths does Gregers seem to perceive? From what misperceptions does Gregers sufffer? How are his views undercut or resisted by others in the play? By the plot?
How do Gregers' views differ from those of Relling, and what do you think is Ibsen's attitude toward each? Does either man perceive an entire truth?
Does either man have a central or successful role in society?
What do you make of the fact that Mrs. Sorby advocates truth in marriage, exactly as does Gregers, but with far different results? Of the fact that Gina had disliked Gregers' mother?
Does The Wild Duck provide any conscious political or social commentary, for example, on Norwegian bourgeois society or family life?
How motifs of sight and blindness introduced in the play? What symbolism is inherent in the repetition of such motifs? Who, for example, are the most blind, and who (if any) most gifted with sight?
What roles do women play in The Wild Duck? Are these gender-stereotyped? Central to the play's final meaning?
Are there senses in which Ibsen could be described as a proto-feminist in his protrayal of Gina or Mrs. Sorby?
Ibsen himself had a child with a servant, while still an adolescent. How may this experience have influenced his portrayal of servant-employer sexual relationships?
What is the reader expected to make of Hjalmar as a family man and an inventor, and of Gregers' determination that he should cast off association with Mr. Werle?
How do you interpret Mr. Werle's offers of money to Gregers and Hedwig? Are these attempts to make amends, to interfere, or both? Is it significant that these offers are to no avail?
What importance is granted the character of Hedvig? Is she the "wild duck"? What causes her death? Does she too suffer from the "life-lie," or from despair?
How do you interpret Lt. Ekdal's remark, "the forest's revenge"?
What role is played by religion in this play? Does it provide any comfort to the participants?
Would you describe The Wild Duck as a tragedy, and on what grounds? If so, how does it differ from most previous tragedy? (Ibsen himself called it a tragi-comedy. It seems to be a tragedy in the sense of presenting the inability of human beings to live up to ideals, or to accept the conditions of their existence with grace, and a comedy in emphasizing the ironies and self-deceptions which make this so.)
Does the play suffer from its lack of a single protagonist? Are there advantages to this feature of organization?
One critic, Robert M. Adams, has asserted that The Wild Duck ends "in total impase, on an unresolved and ironic discord." How would you interpret the play's final scene to defend or refute Adam's statement?
What do you think will be the fate of the man condemned to be the thirteenth at the table? May Ibsen be commenting rather bitterly on the role of the dramatist, condemned to see and point out the flaws of his fellow human beings, but not to better their lives?
Do you find the ending satisfying? Powerful? Sad? Ambiguous? Realistic? Does it resemble that of other plays you have read?