The wild Duck (1885) is one of the most famous plays of Henrik Ibsen. It seemed to contradict one of the principal doctrines, which Ibsen had been preaching: the importance of ideals and the sin of compromise.
The major theme of the play is realism vs. idealism. From the very first act, the antagonism between the two concepts is established. Hakon Werle, the father, is a realist about life, love, and business. He has allowed Old Ekdal to take all the blame and go to prison for their scheme to cut down timber from public lands. He has encouraged Hialmar to marry Gina, Werle's mistress, so that he can extricate himself from the relationship. He is also able to see the worth in Ms. Sorby, his housekeeper, who is equally as realistic and truthful about life as he is.
In contrast to his father, Gregers is a total idealist. He has romantic, pre-conceived notions about how life, love, and business should be, and he believes that his father has broken all the rules. He is horrified that Hialmar, his friend, is married to Gina without knowing the truth. Wanting him to have a more ideal marriage, Gregers decides to tell Hialmar the truth about Gina; but Hialmar did not want to know the truth. He is not noble enough to forgive Gina for her past and even turns against Hedvig, convinced that she is Werle's daughter.
Relling, an ironic realist in the play, knows that people need their illusions to cope with the world. Hialmar has to believe that Gina is the perfect wife; Molvik's illusion is that he is a drunk in order to hide the fact that he is really a demon; Hedvig must have the illusion that her father, whom she adores, is a worthy dreamer who will produce great things in the future. Relling knows that if these illusions are taken away, the person behind them will be destroyed by the truth.
The play distributes competing doctrines between the rivals Relling and Gregers, two "spiritual doctors" in conflict over Hialmar's...