Tears, remorse and reparation in Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt


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Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review;37(2)


Taylor & Francis

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For more than 100 years, Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt has been interpreted in the light of Søren Kierkegaard. With a problematic self as an essence of the play, one has emphasized a Kierkegaardian choice, necessary for Peer to become an integrated person. This paper challenges these interpretations by focusing on mourning as a way to develop the self in Peer Gynt. The reading reveals a striking correspondence, concerning structure and dynamics, between Peer’s way of dealing with feelings like sadness, guilt and remorse and Klein’s model of paranoid-schizoid and depressive position. Peer is facing painful feelings throughout the play. He identifies them quite easily, but is not able to tolerate the pain and avoids them with omnipotent fantasies, manic manoeuvres and denial. Hence, no reparation through mourning takes place, his development is arrested and he is unable to form a genuine love relationship with Solveig. The reading demonstrates an impressively profound complexity in Ibsen’s representation of Peer’s character, and a striking richness in detail in how it corresponds to Klein’s anthropology.



This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Aalen, M. (2014). Tears, remorse and reparation in Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt: A reading inspired by Melanie Klein. The Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 37(2), 1-12. [copyright Taylor & Francis], available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/01062301.2014.962323.

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  • http://hdl.handle.net/10642/2344