Along with the finding meaning in death, the stages of mourning and healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms is represented through the characters Alfred, Rita, and Asta’s reactions to death. For example, Alfred experiences a stage of denial in the second act when he states “Is it really true then, Asta? Or have I gone completely mad? Or am I only dreaming…”(38). At this point in the play, Alfred expresses confusion and shock since he has not yet created meaning in Eyolf’s death. The effects of Alfred not being able to compartmentalize why Eyolf died causes Alfred to obsess over his absence. Alfred’s obsession is shown when he sits by the fiord, near where Eyolf died, to torment himself in his attempts to focus solely on Eyolf. Furthermore, when talking to Asta, Alfred’s struggle to find answers from a greater force is apparent when he states that “there must be a meaning in [Eyolf’s death]. Life, existence – destiny, cannot be so utterly meaningless”(39). Grasping at a religious or spiritual reason for Eyolf’s death shows Alfred’s desperation and need to make sense of his loss. It also shows the existential crisis that Alfred experiences as a result of Eyolf’s death as he questions the meaning of life.
Also to make sense of Eyolf’s death, Alfred blames others, consequentially distracting him from his inner guilt. First, Alfred blames the Rat Catcher when he is by the fiord speaking with Asta, saying that “[h]ere is Eyolf, just entering upon conscious life: full of such infinite possibilities – splendid possibilities perhaps: he would have filled my life with pride and gladness. And then a crazy old woman has only come this way”(40). Alfred reasons that the Rat Catcher caused Eyolf to be entranced by her dangerous rat catching...
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... comforts Rita and Alfred to let go of their initial feeling of despair. Acquiring a life purpose also allows Rita and Alfred to move forward with their lives in the hopes of recovery from their pain. Likewise, Alfred decides to help Rita with her new life purpose for the same reason. Though their new shared goal, Rita and Alfred ultimately are able to find a way to create meaning in their lives in addition to rekindling their relationship. The effects of creating meaning is seen at the end of the play when Alfred hoists the flag to the top of the flagstaff rather than have it be at half-mast and he states that they “have a heavy day of work” ahead of them (88). Alfred hoisting the flag to the top is symbolic of them being able to move past their initial stages of grief as they now have assigned meaning to Eyolf’s death by creating order and direction in their lives.
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