46 pages 1 hour read

Henrik Ibsen

Peer Gynt

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1867

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Important Quotes

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“Must everything happen only once?”

(Part 1, Page 36)

In response to his mother’s accusation that his story about riding a reindeer is a lie rehashed from a Norwegian folktale, Peer reminds Åse that if it happened once it could happen again to him. He opens himself up to the events of the rest of the story, in which he will encounter beings from folklore and endure the trials of fairytale characters. Peer also refers to the cyclical nature of being, which is illustrated by the Button Molder, who melts down souls so that they can be reshaped again.

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“I wasn’t born for drowning.”

(Part 1, Page 41)

Peer’s assertion that he is meant for greatness serves as an imagined shield, a belief in his own invincibility. As the play bears out, he was not born for drowning. He doesn’t drown with the reindeer. He does not sink and drown with his exploding yacht. When the ship returning to Norway wrecks on an ice floe, he again escapes drowning. 

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“Ah! You don’t understand. That’s our custom, here in the mountains. Nothing is what it seems. For example, when you come to my father’s palace, you probably won’t recognize it. You’ll think it’s a rubble-heap.”

(Part 1, Page 78)

The woman in green responds to Peer’s suggestion that the clothing she wears, which she calls gold, is only grass and hay. She introduces the motif that will repeat throughout the play in which things may not be what they seem, but they are what you call them.