Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Halvard Solness, the master builder. Although he is no longer young, he is evidently attractive to women: His wife, Aline, his bookkeeper, Kaia Fosli, and Hilda Wangel, a young woman from a nearby village who had seen him only once ten years earlier, are all in love with him. Solness became successful after a tragedy, the death of his infant twin sons, caused him to turn from building churches to building houses. He has achieved success through working for Knut Brovik, whom he surpassed, put down, and now employs. He has two fears: fear of the younger generation, which will treat him as he has treated Brovik, and fear of heights. The fear of heights interferes with his hanging a wreath on the tower of each new building, a task he now delegates to a workman. When vivacious Hilda Wangel appears to collect “the kingdom” that he promised her ten years earlier after he had hung his last wreath on the church tower in her village, Solness is at last overpowered by her stronger personality. Through Hilda’s influence, he approves plans designed by the young architect Ragnar Brovik and climbs a scaffolding to place a wreath on a new house. Both courses mean oblivion for him. He falls into a quarry and is crushed.
Hilda Wangel, a fanciful young woman from the village of Lysanger. Little more than a child at the time, Hilda had fallen in love with Solness when he hung a wreath on the church...
(The entire section is 700 words.)
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Formerly an architect, Knut Brovik is now an assistant to Solness. At the beginning of the play, his deteriorating health prompts him to confront Solness over the lack of support Solness has shown Ragnar. He admits that his confidence in his son has been shaken by the fact that Solness has never appreciated his son’s work. Calling on the little strength he has left, Knut demands that Solness evaluate and appreciate Ragnar’s drawings. Solness responds too late, however, and Knut falls into a coma before he reads his employer’s comments.
Knut’s son Ragnar works as a draftsman for Solness. He appears stooped in the play, which reflects his inability to stand up to his boss and demand recognition. When his resentment over Solness’s refusal to recognize his talent prompts him to confront the older man, he quickly backs down when he is told his drawings are worthless. Yet, he becomes for Solness the symbol of youth— everything of which Solness is afraid.
Ragnar’s lack of perception surfaces when he determines that Solness has not allowed his father or himself any measure of independence because Solness wanted to keep Kaja close to him. His bitterness emerges in the final scene when he comes to the celebration of Solness’s new home so that he can see his employer fail in his attempt to climb the tower. Ragnar notes ‘‘how horrible’’ Solness’s fall is, yet his final words in...
(The entire section is 1316 words.)