Dalrymple contrasts Ibsen's vision with that of Samuel Johnson:
Johnson saw human existence as inseparable from dissatisfaction. It is man’s nature to suffer from incompatible desires simultaneously—for example, wanting both security and excitement. When he has one, he longs for the other, so that contentment is rarely unalloyed and never lasting.
However, most people find it more comforting to believe in perfectibility than in imperfectibility—an example of what Dr. Johnson called the triumph of hope over experience. The notion of imperfectibility not only fans existential anxieties, but also—by precluding simple solutions to all human problems—places much tougher intellectual demands upon us than utopianism does. Not every question can be answered by reference to a few simple abstract principles that, if followed with sufficient rigor, will supposedly lead to perfection—which is why conservatism is so much more difficult to reduce to slogans than its much more abstract competitors.
I never cared for Ibsen: Too much gnashing of teeth and Scandanavian gloom for my taste.