‘Children of Paradise’: Alf, Hedvig and Eyolf as ‘Conceptions of Immortality’

  • Errol Durbach


Ibsen’s gloomy genius would seem, in my account of it so far, to inhere almost exclusively in the anguished cry of the awakened dead against the loss of life’s creative possibilities — rather like the blind ascribing values to colours never seen. This is typical. Osvald cries out for life’s gladness, Hedda for life’s passion, Rebekka for life’s joy: but, in a dramatic world that so ruthlessly represses sexuality and that can envision ‘life’ only in ecstatic dreams, there seems no living substance to these visions. But the gloom of the late Ibsen is not by any means impervious to life at its most dramatically real and vital. Irene, awakening from the dead, knows precisely the cause of Rubek’s living death, just as she knows the nature of her own self-annihilating collaboration in their denial of life. Together, as artist and muse, they have created the perfect symbol of transcendent innocence — the resurrected soul awakening from the toils of mortality into eternal life. They call it their ‘child’ — a cold and marmoreal celebration of immortality, pure spirit freed from all entanglement with the ugliness and the dirt of existence, and immaculate in every aspect of its conception.


Eternal Life Wild Duck Christmas Tree Romantic Child Moral Conscience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Muriel Bradbrook, Ibsen the Norwegian, new ed (Hamden, Conn., 1966 ) p. 10.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    James Hurt, Catiline’s Dream: An Essay on Ibsen’s Plays ( Urbana, Ill., 1972 ).Google Scholar
  3. 15.
    W. B. Yeats, ‘Among School Children’, in Collected Poems (London, 1958 ) p. 244.Google Scholar
  4. 18.
    Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling trs. Robert Payne (London, 1939) p. 23. All subsequent quotations are from this edition.Google Scholar
  5. 20.
    Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus’ and Other Essays trs. Justin O’Brien (New York, 1955) p. 5.Google Scholar
  6. 21.
    J. B. Halstead, Romanticism (New York, 1969 ) p. 23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 22.
    William Wordsworth, The Prelude xiii. 441–5 (1850 text).Google Scholar
  8. 23.
    Mary McCarthy, ‘The Will and Testament of Ibsen’, Partisan Review 1956; repr. in McFarlane, Ibsen: A Critical Anthology p. 278.Google Scholar
  9. 24.
    Pinter, quoted in Martin Esslin, The Theatre of the Absurd (New York, 1961) p. 206.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Errol Durbach 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Errol Durbach

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations