Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Bernick’s house

Bernick’s house. Home of Karsten Bernick, the leading citizen of the unnamed coastal Norwegian town in which the play is set. The house is the location for all the onstage action of the play. Its opulence suggests the status of its owner, and the irony of Karsten Bernick’s situation is highlighted by the physical surroundings. Unfortunately, his good fortune, both at home and in business, is built on a lie.

Shipyard

Shipyard. Although no action is set in the town’s shipyard, the yard dominates the drama because of its significance to both plot and theme. Bernick’s profitable shipping business has made him one of the town’s leading citizens. As the story unfolds, however, readers learn that Bernick has had to commit crimes, vilify his exiled stepbrother, and use others in his family to preserve his good name and keep his unsavory actions from being discovered. While he struggles to keep his business profitable, he treats workers as commodities, replaceable by more efficient machines—showing repeatedly that he puts his own well-being ahead of the interests of the community he claims to love dearly. Ibsen uses a key incident to vivify his indictment of Bernick: In an effort to please a client, Bernick demands that a ship be repaired and set to sea immediately, even though he knows the work done will be inferior and that the ship may sink.