46 pages 1 hour read

Henrik Ibsen

Peer Gynt

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1867

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Character Analysis

Peer Gynt

The titular character is portrayed at three ages: twenty, middle-aged, and elderly, and the journey of the play spans nearly his entire life. As a young man, Peer is imaginative and impulsive. He gets into physical altercations, lies compulsively, and recklessly seduces women. Peer’s shame in his youth, however, is that he is not so foolish that he doesn’t realize that he is the laughingstock of the town. He dreams of rising to greatness to the point that he doesn’t seem to know where his experience ends and the folklore he grew up internalizing begins. Over and over, Peer questions his own identity and what it means to be true to oneself. Born in Norway, a Christian nation, Peer struggles to determine how self and autonomy can be reconciled with the stringency of his religious upbringing. As a middle-aged man, Peer has stepped outside of the small Christian universe of his homeland, just as Ibsen did in real life as he travelled Italy while writing the play. His sense of self and morality shifts in order to accommodate his ambition. In his third phase, the elderly Peer Gynt returns home. While attempting to stall death, he reflects upon the self he created, determined to preserve that self at all costs.