The Wild Duck: Metaphors
Both Werle and Hedvig have a degenerative eye condition that will eventually lead to blindness. Hjalmar regards this as suspicious, as their shared affliction is described as hereditary and so it is seen to be all the more possible that Werle is Hedvig’s father. Blindness is a vehicle in this instance for highlighting the bloodline between the (potential) father and daughter.
Although not specified, this eye condition is also suggestive of disease, and specifically of syphilis. In this light, the impending blindness of Werle and Hedvig becomes associated with contagion and sin when interpreted from Hjalmar’s perspective.
This room is a microcosm of the forest that Ekdal used to hunt in and demonstrates how diminished his life has become. The captured birds and rabbits also epitomize the destruction of the forest, as they now live in captivity, and it should be remembered that the illegal cutting down of the forest was a charge made against both Ekdal and Werle.
By bringing the forest into the home, the play also takes on a surreal, dream-like quality and in this light it is a signifier of how modernity is superseding rural life.
The Wild Duck
The eponymous wild duck is at the heart of the play and at different and overlapping times it is a symbol of captivity, love and suicide. It is ironic that it is always referred to as the ‘wild’ duck, but it is kept in the attic and belongs to Hedvig. Simultaneously, the audience and readers do not doubt that Hedvig does love the captured bird and it is as though the miniaturized world of the forest in the attic is seen as being sufficient for the animals and human.
They are protected from the dangers of the outside until Hedvig takes Gregers’ encouragement to make a sacrifice of the duck even further, and commits suicide. This may be read figuratively in parallel with the wild duck’s action when injured: this too tries to kill itself by sinking to the bottom of the lake and holding on the weeds.