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Gullestad, S.E. (1994). Fear of Falling: Some unconscious factors in Ibsen's play “The Master Builder”. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 17(1):27-39.

(1994). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 17(1):27-39

Fear of Falling: Some unconscious factors in Ibsen's play “The Master Builder”

Siri Erika Gullestad, Dr, philos

A master builder, suffering from vertigo, falls down from the scaffolding and dies, while a young woman calls out in “wild intensity”: “My—My master builder!” This is the final scene of Ibsen's play “The Master Builder”. The drama poses a riddle: Why this exultation at the moment of death? The riddle can only be solved by exploring both the dizziness and the fall itself. This very fall marks the termination of a peculiar relationship between the master builder and the young woman. Exactly what kind of relationship presented? What kind of reality do these two people share?

In the first act of the play, Ibsen portrays master builder Solness as no longer young, weighed down by guilt. Suddenly, a young woman, Hilde Wangel, “sparkingly” enters his life. A dialogue begins. In my opinion, this very dialogue furnishes a key to a psychological understanding of the fall as well as the dizziness.

A complete analysis of a relationship requires an analysis of both parties. My perspective in this article is, however, limited to elucidating the psychology of the master builder and the relationship as seen from his point of view. What does the Hilde-figure represent for him?

The drama is one of Ibsen's most enigmatic. In spite of a comprehensive literature, the dialogue per se has not been analysed. In the introduction to the centenary edition of Ibsen's collected works, Seip (1972) conveys a dominant conception of the drama as Ibsen's “poetic confession” (p. 223). “The Master Builder” expresses “the tragedy of an artist” picturing “an artist who brutally exploits life for his aesthetic purpose” (ibid., p.

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