The Master Builder - Ibsen

Initial Thoughts

I initially hesitated to read “The Master Builder” mainly because it is a play.  I feel less comfortable with plays and even less comfortable with poetry.  That being said, the reading plan in this program will increase my comfort and enjoyment with both.  The Master Builder was easy to read and follow.  Whereas the scenes do not change much, the dialogue is fast-paced, and the overall complexity is low.  All in all I enjoyed reading “The Master Builder” and would recommend it to anyone even for general enjoyment.  Do I think this is one of the “Great Books of the Western World?” maybe not; however, it was good for me to read as a primer for more advanced plays in this cannon.  

Themes

Generational qualities: old and young

Manipulation

Relationships, lust, sexual desire

Psychology of attachment and ego

Going against the will of God

Characters

Halvard Solness, master builder

Aline Solness, his wife

Doctor Herdal, physician

Knut Brovik, formerly an architect, now in Solness’s employment

Ragnar Brovik, Knut Brovik’s son, a draftsman

Kaia Fosli, a book-keeper

Hilda Wangel

Some Thoughts

In Act 1, Solness appears to be in a romantic relationship with Fosli despite his being married to Aline.  It is later revealed that Solness is manipulating Fosli, who is significantly younger, in order to keep Ragnar under his employment.  Solness is concerned that the younger generation (Ragnar) will overtake him in his profession.  While Solness is known as a “Master Builder” Ragnar threatens, as the new upcoming generation, to overtake him in ability and fame.  

Solness has a belief that he is blessed with the ability to will things into action.  Early in his career, Solness built churches, but after a house fire that killed two of his children, he no longer builds churches but houses.  Solness does this in part to spite God. 

Midway through the play Wangel appears and begins to manipulate Solness with her charm, youth, and in a romantic/teasing fashion.  Solness eventually caves to Wangel and promises her a kingdom.  In a dialogue between Solness and Aline, Aline reveals she is okay with her children’s death, what bothers her most was the destruction of her property, namely some dolls which nobody else cared for.  Simultaneously dialogue between Solness and Wangel reveals Solness is upset about his children’s death, and believes his wife feels the same.  

The play ultimately reveals that Solness is afraid of heights; however, Wangel manipulates him into placing a wreath on top of a large spire.  Solness says when he climbs the spire, he will tell God, “Hear me, Mighty Lord—thou may’st judge me as seems best to thee. But hereafter I will build nothing but the loveliest thing in the world.”  Solness then falls and dies.  The play ends with Wangel exclaiming “My master builder!” which reminded me of the ending to Brothers Karamazov “hurray for karamazov.”

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