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Killingmo, B. (1994). Ibsen's “The Wild Duck” A case of undifferentiated self-object representations. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 17(2):145-158.

(1994). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 17(2):145-158

Ibsen's “The Wild Duck” A case of undifferentiated self-object representations

Bjørn Killingmo

In Act V of Henrik Ibsen's play The Wild Duck (1884), photographer Hjalmar Ekdal and his old friend Gregers Werle are together in Hjalmar's studio. Hjalmar believes that his daughter Hedvig is in her own room, but we, the audience, know that actually she has gone into the attic, determined to shoot what is dearest to her, the wild duck, in order to prove her affection for her father. It is in this very situation that Hjalmar utters the unfortunate lines:

If I then asked her: “Hedvig, are you willing to give up this life for my sake? (laughs scornfully). Oh, yes! I must say. You would soon hear the sort of answer I would get!

The words are hardly out of his mouth, when a pistol shot is heard behind him in the loft. The delight in this sacrifice of love is suddenly turned into tragedy when Hjalmar flings the door open and finds Hedvig lying on the floor with a pistol clenched in her right hand. Hedvig has shot herself, and not the wild duck.

In a school edition of The Wild Duck, the Norwegian professor of literature, Else Høst, (1990) comments: “The very scene of Hedvig's death needs further commentary, as disagreement about how it is to be interpreted exists even among Ibsen scholars. It seems natural to ask what is the immediate cause for shooting herself and not the wild duck, as was her intention when she slipped into the attic.

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