Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Halvard Solness rose to his high position as a master builder because of a fire that had destroyed the ancestral estate of his wife’s family. On the site he built new homes that won him fame and assured success in his profession. The fire gave him his chance, but he made his own opportunities, too, by crushing all who got in his way.
Knut Brovik, employed by Solness, had once been a successful architect, but Solness had crushed him, too, and then used him as he had many others. Ragnar, Brovik’s son, is a draftsman in Solness’s office, and it is Brovik’s only wish that before his own death his son should have a chance to design something of lasting value. Although Ragnar has drawn plans for a villa that Solness does not wish to bother with, the builder will not give him permission to take the assignment. Ragnar is engaged to Kaia Fosli, Solness’s bookkeeper, and he cannot marry her until he has established himself. Ragnar does not know that Kaia has come under the spell of the master, as had so many other young women. Solness pretends to Kaia that he cannot help Ragnar because to do so would mean losing her; in reality, he needs Ragnar’s brain and talent and cannot risk having the young man as a competitor.
Solness’s physician, Doctor Herdal, and his wife fear that the builder is going mad. He spends much time in retrospection and also seems to have morbid fears that the younger generation is going to ruin him. Not all of the...
(The entire section is 1148 words.)
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The play opens in a workroom in Halvard Solness’s house where his assistant, Knut Brovik, and his son Ragnar are working on blueprints, and Kaja Fosli is tending the books. Knut, who is having difficulty breathing, declares, ‘‘I can’t go on much longer,’’ noting that his health is quickly deteriorating. His son shows great concern over his father’s condition. Knut refuses to go home and rest until he has tried to convince Solness to recognize his son’s drafting abilities and to allow him to head a project. Solness, however, insists that Ragnar is not yet talented enough to work independently. Knut admits that Ragnar drew up plans for one of Solness’s clients who considered them new and modern, an assessment that angers Solness.
Solness accuses Kaja of being behind Knut’s request, so that she and Ragnar could marry. Kaja, however, insists she has had no part in it, although Ragnar and her uncle have been pressuring her to marry soon. She admits that she has fallen deeply in love with Solness. The master builder pretends to return her affections in an effort to make sure she, and thus Ragnar, does not leave.
During a visit, Dr. Herdal, the family doctor, tells Solness that his wife, Aline, suspects that he has feelings for Kaja. Solness admits that Kaja has fallen in love with him but insists that he wants her to stay only to keep Ragnar, whose work is valuable to him. He recognizes the fact that he is...
(The entire section is 1238 words.)