Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 700
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 tower in Lysanger. He has remained her hero. She is a charming young woman, filled with a quality the playwright calls “joy in life.” When Solness falls into the quarry, Hilda is exalted. She cries, “But he mounted right to the top. And I heard harps in the air. . . . My—my Master Builder!”
Aline Solness, Halvard’s wife, a quiet, hopeless woman, once beautiful. Aline’s life purpose ended because of a fire that destroyed her family home, in which she and Halvard lived, because her twin baby boys died soon afterward. Through a sense of duty, she insisted on nursing the babies when she was ill from the excitement of the fire, and they died as a result. Halvard says that Aline had a talent “for building up children’s souls in perfect balance, and in noble and beautiful forms.” She keeps three nurseries in their present house, and their new home is to contain three empty nurseries. Aline is naturally jealous of Kaia and Hilda, although she and Hilda come to like each other. Knowing her husband’s fear of heights, she tries to prevent his fatal climb. She faints when he falls at the conclusion of the play.
Knut Brovik, formerly an independent architect, now employed in Solness’ office. Old, ill, and dying, Brovik lives only for his son, an aspiring architect. His one wish is that he might see Ragnar a success. Because Solness never approves anything that Ragnar does, Brovik has come to doubt his son’s talent. He pleads with Solness to let Ragnar have the commission for a villa, plans for which he has already drawn. Although Brovik gave Solness his start in architecture, Solness, knowing Ragnar’s talent, will not give Brovik any encouragement. Brovik is dead when Hilda finally persuades Solness to approve Ragnar’s plans for the villa.
Kaia Fosli, Knut Brovik’s niece, Solness’ bookkeeper, engaged to marry Ragnar. Kaia is a quiet girl in love with Solness. Solness employs her to keep Ragnar, who is very much in love with her, in his employ, and hence in subjection.
Ragnar Brovik, a talented young man employed by Solness as a draftsman. Ragnar represents the younger generation that Solness fears will displace him. Ragnar does not realize his ability until he learns from Hilda that Solness employs Kaia not because he cares for her at all but because he fears Ragnar’s talent and wants...
(The entire section contains 2016 words.)
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