The Lady from the Sea

by Henrik Ibsen

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

That isn't true. It's like the happiness we feel on a long late summer's day—we can sense the dark winter days ahead.

Ellida says this in response to the idea that people, in general, lead happy and fulfilled lives. A complex character, she shows in this quote that she sees the difficulties for any person in being happy in an uncertain world. We all have to navigate a dangerous path that, especially for women, pits individual needs against societal duty.

Now you can choose your own path in perfect—perfect freedom.

Ellida has described to her husband how she lives in his house with their children in a rootless way, passively, with no sense of belonging. Nothing draws her or binds her as it should to her home. She also notes that Wangel has the power to force her to be with him. However, Wangel, as he says above, is giving her back her freedom. This is a pivotal moment: Ellida is so impressed being freed by her husband that she chooses to stay.

Wangel. And the unknown?—It no longer lures you?

Ellida. Neither lures nor frightens me. I could have seen it—gone out into it, if only I myself had willed it. I could have chosen it. And that is why I could also renounce it.

Wangel. I begin to understand little by little. You think and conceive in pictures—in visible figures. Your longing and aching for the sea, your attraction towards this strange man, these were the expression of an awakening and growing desire for freedom; nothing else.

Ellida. I don't know about that. But you have been a good physician for me. You found, and you dared to use the right remedy—the only one that could help me.

In the above passage, Ellida explains to Wangel why she has stayed with him rather than going off with the Stranger. Her husband might not yet fully understand her, but in giving her her freedom, he has found the way to cure her discontent.

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