Monday, 11 September 2017

The Father by August Strindberg.

The Father (Fadren) is the first Strindberg play I've read. It was written in 1887, and like many of his Norwegian contemporary Ibsen's, Strindberg's play is a Naturalistic tragedy.

The play tells the story of what is essentially a marital disagreement: Captain Adolph wishes his daughter Bertha to study in the town and train to be a teacher, but her mother, Captain Adolph's wife Laura, wishes her to remain at home and become an artist. The matter is not settled amicably; far from it, this discord becomes amplified to the proportions of a Greek tragedy: by law, it is entirely up to Captain Adolph how his daughter is educated, the rights of the wife and mother are forgone at the point of marriage. Laura however asserts that he has no rights by convincing the local doctor Captain Adolph is insane. This is based on his discovery of life, microbes in fact, on meteorites (the study of extraterrestrial life was perhaps in vogue with various studies being conducted, coupled with the beginnings of science fiction such as  Jules Verne's Around the Moon in 1870). To make her case stronger, she says she has in her possession a letter from Captain Adolph saying he fears he may lose his mind. Captain Adolph's frustration and anger at Laura's games ironically solidifies Laura's case, and the more he argues his sanity the madder he appears until at last, like something penned by Shakespeare, he does in fact go mad.

I really did enjoy this play: it combined some of my favourite elements of literature - the Greeks with it's drama, Shakespeare with Laura as Iago and Captain Adolph as Othello, and also Émile Zola for its Naturalistic approach. It was, I do believe, an excellent introduction to Strindberg.

And that was my 37th title for the Deal Me In Challenge. Next week a welcome return to George Orwell: Books vs. Cigarettes.

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