Is there a relationship between the play The Wild Duck and its title?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Wild Duck is a challenging play because Henrik Ibsen took a new direction in play writing with The Wild Duck. First, he introduced the modern tragicomedy and, second, he entered a new symbolic phase in his plays. Tragicomedy, with antecedents in the Renaissance, combines the two Aristotelian genres of tragedy and comedy. It is explained as the means by which modern heroes and heroines, taken from the common and low classes who speak in middle or low diction without elevated language, face hardship in real-world scenarios where their flaws are more trivial seeming than the fatal flaws of Oedipus Rex and King Lear.

Ibsen incorporated multilevels of symbology in which, for example, the primary symbol of the wild duck, a beloved pet of fourteen-year-old Hedvig Ekdal, represents many things to several characters instead of one or two things within the play. Early audiences found The Wild Duck confusing and incoherent precisely because of the layered symbolism and the new modern construct of tragicomedy. Therefore, the relationship of the title to the play is like the relationship of a key to a lock: the door doesn't open without the key and, further, the sweep of the room can not be seen with the door unopened.