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Henrik Ibsen Commentary Essay

1496 words - 6 pages

In the essay Ibsen, Anatol Lunacharsky argues that Henrik Ibsen, despite protests in his plays, did not know what he protested since he could not embrace, yet could not condemn the actions and follies of the middle class people, his subjects, nor predict a bright future for them. Moreover, the author makes a second point that Ibsen, a petty bourgeois himself, recognized the many vices of the middle class and therefore, resented his peers deeply. Thus, the reader will disagree with the first point due to fallacies such as begging the question and generalization, prevalent in the author's argument, and agree with the second point because of the author's analyzation of Ibsen's plays, as well as his interpretation of Ibsen's poetry. To understand the fallacies present in Lunacharsky's argument, one must consider the socialist viewpoint of this critic. Lunacharsky, who served as Minister of Education under both V.I. Lenin, and Yosef Stalin during the heyday of communism, approaches the justification of his first point somewhat idealistically and naively. To undermine the values of the petty bourgeoisie and show weaknesses in Ibsen's dramas, Lunacharsky over generalizes, conforming to the criteria imposed by a communist work. For example, Lunacharsky states, "It is obvious that the prophets of this petty bourgeoisie had to exalt individualism, strong and fearless personality, indomitable will; these were not merely the basic virtues inherited from their ancestors of the golden age of Norwegian peasant-fisherman economics, but constituted as well, valuable support in the bourgeoisie's active resistance to capitalist elements" (2). The sentence begins on a falsely confident note; Lunacharsky assumes that, "it is obvious" to all readers that the modern Norwegian middle class inherited the preceding characteristics from their subsistent peasant forefathers, as a whole. Yet, nowhere does the author note the possibility that many bourgeois Norwegians did not necessarily come from a "peasant-fisherman" background or resist the advances of capitalism. Lunacharsky, an intellectual yet a high-ranking communist, mass-labels the Norwegian middle class to justify his point to a socialist audience. By using this example of generalization, the author hopes to show his readers that the bourgeoisie emerged from generations of peasants who spurned capitalist ideals. Thus, Lunacharsky seems to argue, Ibsen and fellow members of the Norwegian petty bourgeoisie would fare better returning to their roots and denouncing capitalism. However, he notes, this became impossible for Ibsen, who out of obligation could not renounce his identity as a member of the middle class. This argument, he hopes, will appeal to his point that Ibsen has no goal in mind when he protests certain aspects of middle class life in his dramas since he knows without embracing socialism, the middle class will become extinct.The author also uses begging the question when he attacks Henrik...

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