Places Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 195

*North Country

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*North Country. Four of the five acts of the play are set in various locations in the far north, presumably Norway and surrounding regions. Ibsen is intentionally vague about setting, however, in order to suggest the fairy-tale quality of his drama. Farms, towns, and woodlands serve a dual purpose. They are realistic locations in which much of the action takes place, but they are simultaneously places where Peer Gynt’s imaginative life is realized. Trolls, elves, and other fantastic creatures populate these regions. Thus, setting comes to symbolize the state of mind of the hero as he strives to become successful, respected, and powerful.

*North Africa

*North Africa. The fourth act of Peer Gynt is set principally in Morocco and Egypt, where the hero’s wanderings take him and give him opportunity to interact with other tycoons and attempt to solve the modern riddle of the Sphinx on the meaning of life. Gynt’s astute answer to that riddle lands him in a Cairo madhouse. Through this radical shift in locale, Ibsen further suggests the epic nature of his play, emphasizing the foolish dreams of his hero to become emperor of the world.

Historical Context

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 584

Legend has it that when Mark Twain visited London during the Diamond Jubilee celebration of Queen Victoria, he observed that British history had advanced more in the sixty years of her reign than in all of the two thousand years that preceded it. This was certainly true of the whole of Europe, which saw dramatic change occur within the 19th century. With just one invention, the steam engine, the industrial revolution began. Improvements in the steam engine led to faster ships and the easier transport of goods, which led to increased trade, improved economic conditions, and better availability of goods. But the improvements in steam power also led to faster railroad transportation, superior manufacturing looms, more efficient printing presses, and automated farming and agricultural equipment, such as the combine. But industry was not the only area to undergo dramatic change. Education, especially the development of compulsory primary and secondary education, was spreading around throughout the world. At the same time, universities and colleges were spreading quickly, and there was a new emphasis on learning. Meanwhile, newspapers were being founded in major cities around the world, encyclopaedias were being published, and the World Almanac was printed for the first time.

The introduction of the telegraph and the inter-continental cable quickly linked the world and made communications easier, as did the invention of the telephone. Other developments also occurred, such as photography, which improved quickly, especially with the ease in which pictures could be taken and developed. Improvements in canning make it easier to process, preserve, and transport previously perishable foods. In addition, the invention of refrigerated rail cars made shipping of food and meat safer and easier. In science, the new study of ecology was invented to describe environmental balance, and the followers of Charles Darwin begin to study the evolution of man. Advances in medicine identified many of the bacteria that spread disease, while the weapons of war also changed with the invention of the Gatling gun, which made it easier to kill people.

The influence of Darwin in the midst of all this scientific and industrial progress cannot be ignored or underestimated. His books, especially The Origins of Species, fed a growing debate about the role of man and religion. Darwin questioned longstanding assumptions about humanity and man's role in the world. His next book, The Descent of Man , only continued to fuel the fire. Religious leaders, who...

(The entire section contains 2519 words.)

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