August Strindberg's A Dream Play

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August Strindberg's A Dream Play

August Strindberg wrote A Dream Play in 1901, a time in which women had few rights and a long road yet to travel in the fight to acquire equal rights with men. Given that Strindberg himself was a notorious misogynist, it is interesting to analyze the presentation and evolution of A Dream Play’s principle character: Indra’s Daughter. She travels from “the second world [and into] the third” (147, 17) by accident, but enters with optimism and faith in finding happiness in the human world. As she ventures further and further into the realm of human experience, not only does she not find happiness, but she finds that the tenacious desperation of humans is contagious, and that they have brought her to their own level of misery. Her only available course of action is to rid herself of their gloom and return to the heavens, but Strindberg weaves an ambiguous ending. As a woman, he may have been insinuating that she could not solve the problems of humanity and chose to abandon it instead, behavior which he may have considered to be typical of females. On the other hand, the image of the chrysanthemum blooming on the burning castle could be a symbol of hope, an affirmation that the Daughter has once again achieved her divinity and will come to the aid of the race she has seen suffering so profoundly.

Strindberg added the prologue of the play in 1906, prior to the first production of A Dream Play in 1907. It introduces the characters of Indra and his Daughter in a context that help to explain the consequent action of the play – it is made clear that Indra is a God, and we are shown how his Daughter falls into the lower world. She lacks any knowledge of this world, and in being completel...

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...piness, because it is the fear of happiness. When the Daughter searches for the only two happy people in the resort, she finds the newlyweds, who are “so happy [they] want to die,” (161, 1248) because “’There lives within the very flame of love a kind of wick or snuff that will abate it.’” (161, 1250-1251) What Strindberg ends up blaming for all the inequality and unhappiness, through the mouth of the Lawyer, is society. “Something’s wrong. Anyone can see that. People aren’t so bad. It’s just that- (…) The system. The organization.” (164, 1494-1497) The Daughter recognizes the Poet as being a force with the potential to work to change society, and their association with each other from that point on marks both the fact that she has given up on the majority of mankind, but also that she has found the one element of humanity in which she finds the most value.

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