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Comparing Borkman And When We Dead Awaken

3136 words - 13 pages

John Gabriel Borkman, Synopsis:John Gabriel Borkman is a former bank-manager who, sixteen years before the play begins, has been imprisoned for financial fraud. He believes he was innocent. He had used the customers' money to invest in an industrial empire, and before he could pay back all the loans, he was reported by his friend Hinkel, who was in love with Ella Rentheim, Borkman's sweetheart in youth. Since being released from prison eight years ago, Borkman has been living on the upper floor of Ella's property. His wife Gunhild, Ella's twin sister, lives on the floor below, but the two of them have no contact with each other. Their son, Erhart, now in his twenties, is a student in the city. Borkman never goes out, but is occasionally visited by Vilhelm Foldal, one of those who lost everything as a result of Borkman's financial speculations. Foldal encourages him in his conviction that one day the staff of the bank will come and ask him to return to his old position as bank-manager. As a young man Borkman deserted his great love Ella, and instead married her twin, Gunhild, "in return for" the post as bank-manager. When he was imprisoned, Ella took care of Erhart, and became closely attached to him, but he has now become acquainted with a divorcee, Fanny Wilton, and goes abroad with her and Foldal's daughter, Frida. At the beginning of the play Ella has come to ask that Erhart may live with her and take her name. She has just found out that she is suffering from a mortal disease. Borkman agrees, but his wife Gunhild refuses to allow her twin Ella, with whom she has had no contact all these years, to take over her son. There is a bitter reckoning between the two sisters. Erhart turns up and says that he cannot live for either of them, or for his father. John Gabriel Borkman leaves the house and goes out into the winter night with Ella, and dies.The imagery of the text:John Gabriel Borkman demonstrates Ibsen's essential realist method: the small ensemble of characters forming an intricate lattice of urgently conflicting interrelationships. The conflicts stand for a collision of forces, of fundamentally opposing ideas of life, where characters take on the intensity and scale of archetypal presences, dividing into two trios, an elder and a younger. Each trio consists of two women 'flanking' a male figure. The younger group of Mrs. Wilton, Erhart and Frida will contest and supplant the elder one of Gunhild, Borkman and Ella.The trajectory of the elder trio, consistent with these last four plays, is 'vertical': an abrupt shattering of its tragic, frozen fixity to ascend to die. The movement of the younger generation, by contrast, is 'horizontal', to the alternative, 'green world' glimpsed briefly in Act OneWhen We Dead Awaken, the characters inhabit already devastated worlds on which they long have brooded. A spiritual dimension increasingly replaces the material world so that the characters seem prepared to occupy another plane of existence that...

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