The Wild Duck: Theme
The theme of entrapment is used most obviously in the references to the caged animals in Ekdal’s re-created forest in the attic. It also runs through the critiques of marriage, in particular the marriage between Werle and Gregers’ mother and between Gina and Hjalmar. In both instances, the union is depicted as flawed because of the underlying dishonesty and the later suspicions between the husbands and wives. Freedom, it is implied, comes with honesty – as seen with the foundations laid by Werle and Mrs Sörby – but this freedom with the truth comes with a price, as is made evident with the suicide of Hedvig.
Parent and child relationships
The connection between parents and their children is depicted in various ways, and is a core theme of the play. The antagonism between Werle and Gregers contrasts with the amicability between Ekdal and Hjalmar, and this has the effect of highlighting Werle as the villain of the piece. Through him, a criticism of capitalism is also made explicit.
The concept of heredity is also tied into this theme and this is broached most obviously in the similar degenerative eye condition shared by Werle and Hedvig. The significance of the biological relationship, and the father’s insecurity of not knowing if he is a parent or not, is referenced in the way Hjalmar rejects Hedvig when he believes he is not her father.
Truth and idealism
The dangers associated with truth and idealism are expressed through the clumsy attempts made by Gregers to unearth the truth and when he hopes his idealism will improve the relationship between Gina and Hjalmar.
Gregers’ desire for truth is seen to be naïve when Relling disregards his idealism in favor of a pragmatism that also allows for a make-believe world. It is also seen to be unwittingly cruel, as Hedvig the innocent becomes the sacrifice to his and Hjalmar’s ideals.