This is a very short yet profound play,indeed! At only 40 pages, one can read it in a sitting. And, though profound,
it is also straightforward and does not require deep analysis to understand. This edition has an introductory note and extensive biographical information
about Strindberg, which is well worth reading, because the frustrations of his own life are revealed in this play.
And this particular frustration would be the relationship between man and woman, and Strindberg's expression of women being domineering, deceitful, conniving, and even hateful, though in this case the woman is hateful only to her husband. It also expresses the theme of women seizing control of the household, and claiming the right to make decisions about the raising of children, all roles traditionally assumed by the man.
It takes place in the home of a retired military Captain and respected scientist, who wishes their daughter, Bertha, to be educated outside the home, preferably as a teacher, so she may support herself if she chooses not to marry, and will have the means to educate her children, if she does choose to marry.
His wife, Laura, however, insists that Bertha must study art, even though the Captain had her work critiqued by a master, who did not recognize any particular giftedness.
In order to have her own way, Laura orchestrates the downfall of her husband by planting the idea into the heads of others, such as the Doctor and Pastor (her brother), that the Captain is insane. She also intercepts important letters at the post office concerning his scientific research. In the end, perhaps afraid she might be losing the battle, she suggests to her husband the Bertha is not even his daughter. The Captain knows he has been defeated, because, as he points out, the father can never know for sure if the child is his, but the mother always knows.
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