But then they should at least choose the real mother, the real woman, before whom, no matter how strong his spirit, man will always bow when she appears with her life-giving attributes.
But the younger generation had pronounced contempt for the mother, and in her place had set up the loathsome, sterile, degenerate amazon—the blue-stocking! Earnestly pondering these matters, Strindberg at length decided to write a book about woman, a subject, he declares, which up to this time he had not wanted to think about, as he himself "lived in a happy erotic state, ennobled and beautified by the rejuvenating and expiatory arrival of children.
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Regarding the mother as down-trodden, he wanted to think out a means for her deliverance. To obtain a clear vision he chose as a method the delineation of as large a number as possible of marriage cases that he had seen—and he had seen many, as most of his contemporary friends were married. Of these he chose twelve, the most characteristic, and then he went to work.
When he had written about half that number, he stopped and reviewed the collection. The result was entirely different from what he had expected. Then chance came to his aid, for in the pension where he was living, thirty women were stopping. He saw them at all meals, between meals, and all about, idle, gossiping, pretentious, longing for pleasure. An elderly man passed by, who, although himself a brisk walker, was now leading his sickly wife step by step, his hand supporting her back when making an ascent; he carried her shawls, chair, and other little necessities, reverently, lovingly, as if he had become her son when she had ceased to be his wife.
And there sat King Lear with his daughter,—it was terrible to see. He was over sixty, had had eight children, six of whom were daughters, and who, in his days of affluence, he had allowed to manage his house and, no doubt, the economy thereof. Now he was poor, had nothing, and they had all deserted him except one daughter who had inherited a small income from an aunt. And the former giant, who had been able to work for a household of twelve, crushed by the disgrace of bankruptcy, was forced to feel the humiliation of accepting support from his daughter, who went about with her twenty-nine women friends, receiving their comfort and condolence, weeping over her fate, and sometimes actually wishing the life out of her father.
The immediate result of all this observation and consequent analysis was the collection of short stories in two volumes called "Marriages," the first of which, published in , gave rise to Strindberg's reputation of being a pessimist, and the second, two years later, to that of woman-hater, which became confirmed by the portrayals of women in his realistic dramas that soon followed, notably that of Laura in "The Father. And that his analytical labors and personal experiences, far from bringing about an acquired aversion for woman, never even let him be warned, is attested by the fact of his having founded three families.
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One is forced to suspect that instead of being a woman-hater, he was rather a disguised and indefatigable lover of woman, and that his wars on woman and his fruitless endeavors to get into harmony with the other half of the race were, fundamentally, a warring within himself of his own many-sided, rich nature. He said of himself that he had been sentenced by his nature to be the faultfinder, to see the other side of things. He hated the Don Juans among men as intensely as he did the lazy parasites among women—the rich and spoiled ones who declaimed loudest about woman's holy duties as wife and mother, but whose time was given up to being hysterical and thinking out foolish acts,—these women enraged him.
However, the psychology of woman represents but one phase of Strindberg. In a book called "The Author," styled by him "a self-evolutionary history," which was written during the germinating period of the realistic dramas, but was not given out for publication until , there is a foreword which contains the following significant avowal from the Strindberg of the last years: "The author had not arrived in ; perhaps only came into being then. The book presented herewith is consequently only of secondary interest as constituting a fragment; and the reader should bear in mind that it was written over twenty years ago.
The personality of the author is consequently as unfamiliar to me as to the reader—and as unsympathetic. As he no longer exists, I can no longer assume any responsibility for him, and as I took part in his execution  I believe I have the right to regard the past as expiated and stricken out of the Big Book. The play, "Easter," included in the present collection, belongs to this period; it is a strange mingling of symbolism and realism, bearing the spiritual message of the resurrection.
It was the most popular play produced at the Intimate Theatre in Stockholm, having been given there over two hundred times; and in Germany, also, it has been one of the plays most appreciated. That "Easter" is representative of the last phase, spiritually, of the great man is evidenced by the closing incident of his life. His favorite daughter, Kirtlin, was in the room as death approached. Strindberg called to her, and asked for the Bible; receiving the book, he opened it, and placing it across his breast, said, "This is the best book of all," and then, with his last breath, "Now everything personal is obliterated.
At back of scene a large window and door to hall. On the walls hang studies, canvases, weapons, costumes and plaster casts. To right there is a door leading to Axel's room; to left a door leading to Bertha's room. There is a model stand left center. To right an easel and painting materials.
A large sofa, a large store through the doors of which one sees a hot coal fire. There is a hanging-lamp from ceiling. Everything gathers here as the center of the world; and so you are married—and happy?
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So, so! But you see one must compromise, and we compromised to the end. No, I would never have thought that. Look here, don't you believe in woman, eh?
We have arranged a sort of comradeship, you see, and friendship is higher and more enduring than love. We were good friends in the old days, she and I,—that is, we always quarreled a little. It is Carl and his wife! AXEL [Rising]. And Bertha isn't at home! Well, well, we certainly meet here from all corners of the world!
How do you do, Mrs. You're looking well after your journey. Thanks, dear Axel, we have certainly had a delightful trip. But where is Bertha? She's out at the studio, but she'll be home at any moment now. But won't you sit down? We were passing by and thought we would just look in to see how you are. But we shall be on hand, of course, for your invitation for Saturday, the first of May.
Yes, we received it while we were in Hamburg. Well, what is Bertha doing nowadays?
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Oh, she paints, as I do. In fact, we're expecting her model, and as he may come at any moment, perhaps I can't risk you to sit down after all, if I'm going to be honest. A man? The devil!
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Alone with a naked man! I can't deny that it, is not altogether to my taste, but as long as I must have a woman model—. Yes, it is another matter—although it resembles the other, it is not the same. Come in. Madame hasn't returned yet. Is that so? It's too bad, but—h'm—something must have detained her at the studio.
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How much do I owe you? Axel alone, draws and whistles. Bertha comes in after a moment. Perhaps it's so, then, but anyway the professor wouldn't let us leave and you know how nervous one gets in the last hours. You're not angry with me, Axel? But this is the second time, and he gets his five francs for nothing, nevertheless. Can I help it if the professor keeps us? Why must you always pick on me? Yes, yes, yes! I picked on you—forgive me—forgive me—for thinking that it was your fault. Come on, then, and I'll put it down, for the sake of order. It's your money, so of course you can dispose of it as you please, but as you wish me to take care of the accounts—[Writes] fifteen francs in, five francs out, model.
Come on, then. I have a model.