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"One day the younger generation will come knocking.",
This review is from: The Master Builder (Dover Thrift) (Paperback)
Written in 1892, when Ibsen was a mature playwright, this tension-filled play focuses on an older man's fear that he will be replaced by the younger generation before he has been able to reconcile his professional success with his personal sacrifices. Halvard Solness is a Master Builder who once built churches and towers but who now builds only houses. Arrogant, manipulative, and often paranoid, there is little he will not do to control outcomes.
When Hilde Wangel suddenly knocks on his door, the younger generation arrives. Exuberant and flirtatious, Hilde reminds Halvard that exactly ten years ago, when she was the twelve-year-old daughter of a client, he called her his little princess and promised to buy her a kingdom. Ingratiating herself with Halvard, Hilde listens as he unburdens himself of his accumulated guilt, his fear of godly retribution, and his simultaneous belief that he is one of the "special people" who can bring his desires to fruition through the summoning of demons, "called 'luck' by others." Hilde, believing she can free him creatively, urges the acrophobic Halvard to place a wreath at the top of the tower on the house he has built for his wife--a symbolic celebration of a new kind of life through Hilde, building castles in the air.
The characters, though full of passion, are not always realistic. Their psychological grounding seems uncertain, and their behavior does not seem to flow out of a sense of personal unity. Halvard believes that certain people can make direct connections with him and read his mind. He also believes that that his success has occurred because years ago he made a bargain with demons which resulted in the loss of everything he and his wife held dear--he is successful, but guilty. Though he has rejected religion, he is tormented by the need for retribution. Hilde, for her part, became obsessed with Halvard at the age of twelve, and she believes that now, after ten years, they can build castles together.
Ibsen's dark vision, unrelieved by any humor, combines classical tragedy with a belief in the Nordic spirit world and in the newly evolving psychoscience of Freud. Often considered Ibsen's masterpiece, the play is powerful to watch, but eerie and unsettling--its pessimistic message equivocal--and one concludes the play not knowing how much free will Ibsen believes men really have and what kind of spirit world he thinks may control it. (5 stars for its period, 4 stars for its relevance to the present) n Mary Whipple