Hedda Gabler

133

The Concept of Goodness in Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

According to Albert Einstein’s research, there is no such thing as cold. Cold is simply the absence of warmth. The same is true for darkness. Darkness is simply the absence of light, and like that, death is only the absence of life. In a continuation of his revelation, it could be inferred that evil, is only the absence of good. History shows that there are varying degrees of goodness in people. Mother Theresa is generally seen as someone who contains almost only goodness, whereas Hitler would be recognized as being almost if not completely vacant of all good. Similar to historical figures, fictional characters in literature can be looked at and judged by their goodness. Henrik Ibsen, author of Hedda Gabler, wrote his famous piece displaying characters with personalities that contrast each other greatly. Miss Tesman and Berte are two very kind characters that live to please and help others, while Hedda is a character with an atrocious personality, containing perhaps only a little more goodness in her than Hitler had in him. George Bernard Shaw commented on how difficult it would to play Hedda. Usually the protagonist is a person that the audience is inclined to build empathetic connections with. But whoever played Hedda was forced to carry her in a way that would attract scorn. Hedda’s character attracts only scorn. In the beginning of the play, Hedda seems rude and obstinate, as the play continued, a deeper look into her wickedness was given, until finally in the end, the reader is shown what a truly wicked and demented person Hedda is.

In the beginning scene Tesman, and Aunt Julle is talking. Tesman is finally home from a long honeymoon with his wife, Hedda. Hedda is accustomed to only the best things in life. In order to keep Hedda content, Tesman is forced into debt, and his two aunts, that raised him, are forced into taking some major financial risks. Hedda is not even appreciative. Miss Tesman buys an expensive bonnet so that Hedda will not be embarrassed to be seen with her. Tesman takes his aunt’s bonnet and lays it on the chair. When Hedda comes out from her room, she insults the hat, seeming to mistake it for the servant. She says: “[Pointing.] Look there! She has left her old bonnet lying about on a chair” (Hedda Gabler, Act 1.) Aunt Julle is more sad than offended. This reveals that Hedda’s is very particular about things. It reveals that she does not hesitate to be rude. But Hedda does appear to try to redeem herself by explaining that she didn’t look at it very closely. However, Hedda reveals her true feelings later in a conversation with Brack: “Oh, it was a little episode with Miss Tesman this morning. She had laid down her bonnet on the chair there—[Looks at him and smiles.]—and I pretended to think it was the servant’s” (Act 2.) Hedda begins to display her true wicked colors to the audience. This is only the beginning. Hedda continues to reveal her inner insanity to the audience, making it more difficult to connect with such a wicked person.

Purposely making an elderly lady feel bad is an awful thing to do. But Hedda continues to deeds much more despicable. Hedda pretends to befriend a poor naïve lady named Mrs. Elvisted. Mrs. Elvisted runs away from her husband who neglects her, to be with a man named Mr. Lovborg. Mrs. Elvisted and Mr. Lovborg write a book together. By a series of unfortunate evens, the only copy of the book falls into Hedda’s hands. Hedda, understanding how much the book means to both Mrs. Elvisted and Mr. Lovborg, throws it in her fireplace page by page. Mr. Lovoborg is knows Mrs. Elvisted is going to be heart broken. He cannot bear to tell her he lost it; so rather, he tells her he ripped it into a thousand pieces. He breaks off their relationship in shame. Mrs. Elvisted then leaves the scene, and Hedda and Loveborg are alone together. Further proving her cruel insanity, Hedda tells him that he should commit suicide. She gives him her pistol and tells him to kill himself beautifully. Loveborg goes in search of his book, and somehow gets shot. Ibsen did not make it clear who shot him though. Brack is able to trace the pistol back to Hedda. He promises Hedda that her wicked secret is safe. But she cannot bear the thought of being in the hands of someone else, and she too kills herself. Her evil mind drives her to ruin. It is almost impossible to feel sympathy for her.

Hedda is a person with very little good in her. None of her actions within the drama show any good. In the beginning Hedda is rude and arrogant. Her behavior continues to decline as the play continues. Hedda is a person who insults elderly women for enjoyment. That despicable act alone is evidence enough that she is not a good person. But more evilness is revealed when she burns the precious belonging of two people she pretendes to befriend. Finally she encourages her former friend into committing suicide. She tells him to do it beautifully. Her desire for his “beautiful” suicide is proof that she is obviously demented and sadistic. She finally takes her own life. She reveals how completely vacant of good she is, and she pulls herself away from any sympathy her audience would have normally given to a protagonist. Hedda was her own antagonist.

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128

Image of Woman in Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

In the 19th century, common people were considered inferior in society and they were not wealth to be part of literature except for Kings. In “Hedda Gabler” by Henrik Ibsen paint a realistic picture of gender, power, battle between rich and poor, where the Hedda’s action represent the social determinism in society. Although Hedda Gabler was written in the 19th century, nevertheless it portrays the reality of an average person in 21st century fight for freedom.

Ibsen’s usage of social determinism in the story as one of the reasons why Hedda committed suicide. Hedda is a daughter of a general form the upper class family which make her superior over others. “Tesman My old morning-shoes! … Tesman Yes, I missed them terribly.Now you shall see them, Hedda! Hedda. Going towards the stove. Thanks, I really don’t care about it” . Hedda shows her upper class personality by being disgusting her husband’s favorite embroidered slippers us useless and not wealth glance with her see. She even called Miss Tesman the aunty of George her husband new hat old. “Hedda, Look there! She has left her old bonnet lying about on a chair. Hedda Just fancy, if any one should come in and see it! Miss Tesman Yes, indeed it’s mine. And, what’s more, it’s not old, Madam Hedda” (Ibsen 860). Hedda was embrace about Miss Tesman hat being seen by other because in her opinion the new hat looks like a rack not suited for her living room. Hedda sees Miss Tesman and even her own husband as inferior because of their rank in wealth.

Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler portrays the role of gender and power as a female during the 19th century. Hedda is an example a few female characters who refutes the unconventional ways a woman should live. Since George isn’t able to a political figure for Hedda to gain power, she found pleasure in controlling other people’s lives. “Hedda Yes, I have. I want for once in my life to have power to shape a human destiny. Mrs. Elevsted Have you not the power? Hedda I have not and have never had it” . Hedda desire to control every individual and take part in the role of men. She enjoys the manipulating other people live like Lovborg and even her husband. Lovborg lost his life due to Hedda’s advice yet she would not stand Judge Brack exercising power over her she could not stand it. Hedda said “I am in your power nonetheless. Subject to your will and your demands. A slave, a slave then! No, I cannot endure the thought of that! Never”! Since Hedda’s father taught her how to ride and shoot although she was a woman.

During the 1890’s, women were not allowed to hold pistols because it was muscular. Hedda rebel against famine stereotypes that women can be more than getting married, caring for the children and doing domestic chores at home. Although Hedda was married, the title of the play is Hedda Gabler which in my understanding refers to unmarried women since she still carries her maiden name and is not willing to submit to her husband as the head of the family but as equals. And like Hedda, some women today refuse to change their maiden names to their husbands because they don’t want to lose their individualism or identity as their own person.

There story “Hedda Gabler” can be study as realism because Hedda represented upper class people and women in general for power to prove that they can exercise power like men do. In terms of upper class people Hedda portray the idea of middle class not being able to please his wife financial although I believe if she wanted an upper class for marriage she would have gotten one. Just as lower class people pay more taxes than the upper class even though they make the most money and still feed off the poor. Although we are not in the 19th century when this piece was written, nevertheless it touches on all the issues are happening now in the 21st century; where lower class are looked down upon, women fighting for equality which is impossible, and man wanting more power to rule over each other. That’s why this story has been the reality of that and it’s still a reality even today.

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190

The Study Of Women in Hedda Gabler

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

During the time where Hedda Gabler was written, which was in the 19th century, women did not have the same equal rights as men. Women were not able to work, pursue an education, or anything that a man could do. The women during this time period were known to just be a housewife and mother. Women had to be fully dependent on the men in the household which mean they had no independence at all. Some women were at peace with depending on their men and others wanted their own independence, but different viewpoints from females were shown in this play about them being secondary to the males. Emptiness and unhappiness are the only two things in this play that the women have in common. The women in this play all seek to resolve one basic problem which is what to do with their lives.

Thea Elvsted was shown to be an easily controlled woman, but as the play kept going it was shown that she was fierce behind her own aspirations. In this play, Thea told Hedda how unhappy she was with her marriage and that she was leaving her husband. “I just can’t stand being with him. We don’t have a single thing in common” (Ibsen, 866). Thea was really leaving her husband because she found happiness in Loyborg, so she felt like that’s who she needed to be with. This shows that she will do anything to fulfill her own needs in life and make sure she is happy. This also shows despite her shyness she was truly a bold woman that would do anything for her own happiness no matter what no one else thought or had to say. After Lovborg died, Mrs. Elvsted was back on the search for love and happiness in the best way possible.

Juliane Tesman life was full of boredom, but she was a very caring person. Juliane was George Tesman’s aunt and after George’s parents died she continued to raise him. Aunt Julie used her caring for others to fill the void of being lonely in her life. Caring for people and making sure everyone around her was doing good seemed like the only thing Aunt Julie was living for. She would do anything for George even in the play she mentioned she would do anything for her dearest boy. She loved George as if he was truly her own son. Julianne Always put everyone needs and desires before her own. She was truly a good person at heart. The other women in the play thought more of themselves and what they felt was good for them but not Aunt Julie. She distracted herself from thinking about all the opportunities life could have had for her by always trying to care for someone or help someone consistently showed that she puts other people’s needs above her own. This is why she did not have time to think about things such as her own independence like the other women in the play done. She knew that tending to others was a great distraction for herself, and it also helped to keep her mind off all the possibilities of life that freedom could bring. Even after everything that happened, Julie just resumed to live her life caring for others and continued putting herself below everyone else.

Hedda Tesman, is George’s newly wedded wife, that is very unhappy with herself period. Hedda only married George thinking she would get some type of happiness in life, but it did not work out for her as planned. Hedda was more of a woman who cared about her freedom, but she knew her limitations as being a woman. She wanted to live this fantasy lifestyle that was full of fairy tales, but George really was fine with how he was living. Hedda wanted to be free so bad, but she just did not take the extra steps to accommodate her dreams. She knew she wanted to do something because was very bored and unhappy in her life and marriage. She tells Judge Brack that “I often think I have one talent in the world…boring the life right out of me” (Ibsen, 878). Tesman was a good husband and did everything he thought he could to please his wife, but nothing seemed to work. She was a desperate, manipulative woman. She only seemed happy with making others feel down. It seems that she wanted people to bow down and do things exactly how she wanted to do them. Hedda wanted more than just freedom because of the simple fact that she felt so happy manipulating other people. She wanted to be the ruler over everyone’s life. For one, it seemed that she wanted to be the president or ruler. She would not accept the fact she was pregnant, she hated the fact she was married, and she hated working. Hedda father could have had a lot to do with why she wanted so much freedom as a female because she was not taught like most females. Hedda was not a typical girl growing up playing with baby dolls and such but more of a shooting gun type of girl. Hedda was mean toward men and women. She saw no gender when it came to manipulating others for her own joy and pleasure. She tried to drive Loyborg crazy and make him kill himself, she used Mrs. Elvested sorrows against her, and she made both George and his aunt feel like they were not good enough to be in her presence or the same place as her. All them but one person she could not manipulate at all was Judge Brack because he had something he could use against her. He knew that Hedda played a part in Lovborg’s death. Hedda showed that she would rather kill herself than let someone have anything over her head. So she basically could not take in what she dished out to other people.

Hedda Gabler definitely showed how many women in the 19th century was trying to fill so many voids in their life. This play showed how unhappy women really were with their lives and still did much of nothing to make a difference. The different women in their life chose to live in the way they thought was good enough for them to get by regardless of the barriers they faced. Mrs. Elvested has done something many women were afraid to do during this period of time which was pursued her own happiness and desire despite what anyone else had to say. Juliane Tesman’s found joy in her life by doing what most women did not and still do not do and that’s showing care for other people, and putting other people needs above hers. Hedda’s desire for freedom and to be in a marriage showed how manipulative of a person she really was. Her life showed how a person that is unhappy really can be. This play showed how many women do not accept their place in society the way it is, but still chooses to live life in the best way they feel is possible.

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276

Something Illusory and Contraversive in the play “Hedda Gabler”

October 23, 2020 by Essay Writer

Henrik Ibsen depicts Hedda Gabler as a woman who is trapped in her own life. Hedda has a thirst for life which she has not satisfied. She prefers a life filled with excitement, thrills and courageous situations: “There was something really beautiful and fascinating – and daring, it seems to me – about our secret closeness” (265). However, Hedda is reluctant to step outside her boundaries and experience the world the way she desperately wants to. Fantasy is the only way for Hedda to escape the realities of her life: “Of this beautiful illusion” 298). Ibsen uses Hedda as a vehicle to show that people need something in life to live for. Hedda Gabler’s “beautiful illusion” is a life where the mind and body can be set free to live a life which is meaningful, exciting, and distinct.

Hedda Gabler wants a meaning to her life. In her present situation, Hedda is not satisfied with her life: “I often think I have talent for only one thing in life… boring myself to death” (257). She is desperately searching for something that has meaning in her life, something to live for. Hedda discovers Mrs. Elvsted and Lovborg share a “child” between one another, something that is significant to the both of them. Even though Hedda and Tesman may have a child of their own, she does not see it as meaningful. Hedda is jealous of Mrs. Elvsted and Lovborg’s “child” because it is meaningful to the both of them. Mrs. Elvsted and Lovborg both live for their “child”. Hedda’s jealousy deprives them of their “child”: “Now I’m burning – I’m burning the child” (288). Hedda’s rash actions show that she has no meaning in her life. These actions show Hedda is willing to commit deeds that hurt and offend people, in an attempt to excite herself by seeing their reactions. This is Hedda’s way of creating a momentary situation to live for.

Hedda’s “beautiful illusion consists of a life with significance and meaning. However, she has no reality to base it on: “What you do is jump out – and stretch yourself a little” (252). Hedda believes she has no meaning in her life: “And the train goes on” (252). Her “beautiful illusion” is a way for her to free her mind, and give her hope that someday she may find a meaning in her life.

Hedda wants to live a life full of excitement. She wants to experience a life that is fun and intriguing. Hedda is unable to do this because she is afraid of being close to anything: “Oh-! Let me go” (231). She is even unwilling to be close to her own feelings: “Love? You are absurd!” (264). She is a coward who has to feel excitement through other people: “And the confessions I used to make – telling you things about myself that no one else knew of then” (265). Seeing other individuals live exciting lives is apart of her “beautiful illusion”. It gives her hope that one day she may also be able to live an exciting life, one that is on her own terms. The illusion of Lovborg dancing around with vine leaves in his hair is a major part of Hedda’s “beautiful illusion”. This illusion portrays Lovborg as living similar to the Greek god Dionysus. It shows Lovborg living a life full of excitement and without any restraints: “With vine leaves in his hair – fiery and bold” (271). This is the kind of life Hedda has a thirst for. Hedda’s illusion of Lovborg ties into her “beautiful illusion” of life because it shows an individual living a daring life full of excitement.

Hedda’s “beautiful illusion” consists of a unique path in life. Something that is out of the ordinary and has distinction. Hedda thinks her perfect life will always have something unique to talk about: “And can talk about all kinds of lively things” (252). Ibsen portrays Tesman as being a dull individual. In the play, Hedda ponders a unique career for her husband: “I was thinking – if I could get Tesman to go into politics” (256). The contrast of Tesman’s actual boring career with Hedda’s ideal career show Hedda’s “beautiful illusion” only has unique and exciting events within it. Events that are bold and distinct play a major part in Hedda’s “beautiful illusion”. Hedda likes things that stand out, and are distinct: “In the chest you say… Not the temple?” (296). Bold and unique events make Hedda’s “beautiful illusion” tick: “Of a world that – that she’s forbidden to know anything about” (265). The reason Hedda Gabler kills herself is because she realizes her “beautiful illusion” will never become a reality. Judge Brack deprives her of a unique and distinct life: “So I’m in your power, Judge. You have your hold over me from now on” (302). This deprivation proves that Hedda’s “beautiful illusion” must have distinction to it, because she is no longer willing to live a life that has no hope of being unique and not free.

Henrik Ibsen proves Hedda Gabler’s “beautiful illusion” consists of excitement, distinction and a will to have meaning in life. Hedda wants excitement and freedom in her illusion, this was shown by the way she was drawn towards Eilert Lovborg’s fascinating adventures: “And the confessions I used to make – telling you things about myself that no one else knew” (265). Hedda’s desire for something that is distinct and stands out was shown by the way she committed suicide: “Shot herself in the temple!… People don’t do such things!” (304). Ibsen shows Hedda Gabler’s “beautiful illusion” consists of a life with meaning, this was shown by Hedda’s search for something she could live for: “Is there nothing the two of you could use me for here?” (303). The purpose of the “beautiful illusion” enables Hedda to experience life the way she wants to: “It was the hunger for life in you!” (266).

Works Cited

Ibsen, Henrik. “Hedda Gabler.” Four Major Plays: Volume I. Translated with forward by Rolf Fjelde. Signet Classic: New York, 1965

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242

Why the Sounds of Piano Are Crucial to the Play “Hedda Gabler”

October 23, 2020 by Essay Writer

In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Lady Russell convinces Anne not to marry Frederick Wentworth as she finds him unworthy of Anne. Similarly, in Hedda Gabler, Hedda herself conceals her knowledge of and destroys Eilert’s manuscript in order to end his and Thea’s relationship. Involving oneself in other’s affairs can satisfy one’s desire for control. However, this behavior is often symptomatic of a disconnect between one’s personal consciousness and one’s personal and collective unconscious self. Henrik Ibsen masterfully uses the Tesman’s piano to symbolize Hedda’s personal and collective unconscious desire for control while acting as a vehicle to show her reconciliation with the two at the end.

Ibsen’s play, and particularly its symbolism, can be understood through reference to the psychology of Carl Jung, who divides the psyche into three major areas of analysis: the personal conscious, personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious. Jung credits the personal conscious with the creation of the “persona”. The persona envelops the constructed, outward appearance one shows the world. Whereas Jung only acknowledges one consciousness (the personal), he differentiates unconsciousness between the personal and collective. The personal unconscious differs within individuals, whereas the collective unconscious remains the same for every person due to the uniformity of the human psyche. The personal unconscious holds the “shadow.” The shadow encompasses the darker and more shameful urges one personally feels yet does not consciously acknowledge. The collective unconscious houses the “animus/anima” archetype. The animus refers to masculine traits in women that can either balance their femininity or overpower it. The anima refers to feminine traits in men. Jung believes to reach individuation one must reconcile the persona with the shadow and acknowledge one’s archetype. Individuation is the process of acknowledging one’s unconscious nature and incorporating it into the consciousness.

The appearance of the piano at the beginning of Act 1 shows the pressure others put on Hedda to lessen her masculine desire for control which she attempts to yield to but ultimately fails at. Although not explicitly dictated to her, Hedda feels immense pressure from society and familially to have a child. The expectation remains clear when Aunt Juliana quips with Tesman that he will “find some use for them [two empty rooms]—in the course of time.” (Ibsen 24). The pressure manifests physically upon the piano when Berta places Aunt Juliana’s bouquet on the piano and Hedda removes it. However, Hedda succumbs to softening her unconscious willfulness in certain situations, such as when she agrees to refer to Aunt Juliana by “Aunt” to appease Tesman. (38). She shows a degree of compromise when she states, “I’m only looking at my old piano. It doesn’t go at all well with all the other things…Suppose we put it there in the inner room…” (39). By placing the piano, the symbol for her masculine urge for control, deeper into the house, she represses the feeling rather than relinquishes it.

Hedda’s piano playing at the beginning of Act IV reveals how her control over Eilert has satisfied her desire for control for the time period. After the dramatic end of Act III Hedda plays the piano for the first time in the play, which the stage directions describe as “a few chords.”(174). At this point in the play, Hedda has effectively destroyed Eilert and Thea’s relationship by concealing her knowledge of the manuscript and then incinerating it. Hedda has felt control by acting as a catalyst for Eilert’s descent back into ill repute, but more importantly by intentionally inflicting pain upon Thea. Thea acts as an object of loathing and jealousy for Hedda, as well as a foil for her. Whereas Hedda’s allure lies in her assertive seductiveness, Thea’s depends on her ability to inspire creativity in and hold power over men through her meek femininity.

The leap from the meandering chords Hedda plays on the piano at the beginning of Act IV to the rousing song at the end shows Hedda’s use of individuation to take final control over her life. At the end of Act V after being blackmailed by Judge Brack, Hedda runs her fingers through Thea’s hair and retreats to the back room to play a “wild dance” on the piano before committing suicide. (207). The “wild dance” acts as her epitome or signaling of reaching individuation. The two major events that happen before Hedda’s exit allow Hedda to become aware of her personal and collective unconscious need for control and then act upon the knowledge. Judge Brack’s blackmail causes Hedda to weigh the value of life without control. She acknowledges her personal unconscious desire for control when stripped away from her explicitly and harshly.

Rather than experiencing subtle pressures exerting control, Hedda is faced wth a figure who lessens her, Hedda’s, control over the world of the play. Thea’s ability to use her overt femininity to gain control over Hedda’s husband causes Hedda to acknowledge her collective unconscious failing by her rule by her animus. Seeing no way to regain the control that has been recently stripped of her and no way to channel archetypal femininity, Hedda makes the decision to take her own life. The piano, thus, acts not only as an object physically affected by the world, like Hedda, but as a vehicle for the acknowledgment of her integral need for control.

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376

Monstrous Characters in Frankenstein and Hedda Gabler

June 10, 2019 by Essay Writer

In Whale’s classic motion picture interpretation of Frankenstein, the Creature is nothing but a monster, a blight to humanity, from the moment of his creation. The inherently evil nature depicted in the movie comes as a direct result of the damaged condition of the Creature’s brain, representing the common theory of time that promoted the correlation between the brain structure and personality. Thus, the basic theme Whale exalts in the work is that monsters, and criminals in everyday society, are born, not made. The novel Frankenstein and the play Hedda Gabler also portray monstrous characters, though the origin of their malevolence deviates from Whale’s early twentieth century thought dramatically. Ibsen and Shelley both illustrate that monstrosity develops after one’s exalted ideal of humanity is disappointed, ultimately causing monsters to resort to self destruction. Hedda Gabler and Frankenstein’s Creature are both portrayed as monsters in that they deviate from standard human behavior toward excessive wickedness and cruelty. Hedda’s actions reveal a deep-seated hatred for her fellow man. In one instance, she lashes out intentionally against Aunt Julie, insulting her poor socioeconomic status. Hedda explains to Brack, “I pretended I thought [her hat] was the maid’s” (Ibsen 254). Aunt Julie, a mother-figure in the story, has no outstanding quarrel with Hedda, yet seems to live in fear of her. She mentions that the very hat which Hedda insulted she bought for the express purpose of pleasing her new niece-in-law, so that Hedda, “wouldn’t feel ashamed of [her]” (Ibsen 224). In a way, their new familial relationship adds to the power that Hedda holds over Aunt Julie; she certainly takes advantage of it at the same time that Julie feels greater need to shield herself from it. It is important to note that Hedda has no ulterior motive here other than to simply destroy Aunt Julie’s humanity in the same way she figuratively destroys the humanity of Mrs. Elvsted and Lovborg in burning the manuscript. As Hedda throws the pages into the stove, she says, “Now I’m burning your child, Thea! You, with your curly hair. Your child and Eilert Lovborg’s” (Ibsen 288). The manuscript is representative of both its ‘parents’ just as a human child is created from the flesh of both father and mother. Thus, in one fell act, Hedda destroys a part of both Mrs. Elvsted and Lovborg. The Creature of Frankenstein also seeks to attack humanity, specifically his creator, by aiming his malice at his family. The Creature tells Frankenstein directly that “your sufferings will satisfy my everlasting hatred,” and the surest way to bring about his suffering is to attack those he loves (Shelley 254). He kills William, but while this murder may seem obviously monstrous, the true monstrosity of the act comes not from the act itself, but from the intention behind it. The Creature himself says, “I gazed on my victim, and my heart swelled with exaltation and hellish triumph” (Shelley 170). Just like Hedda, his intention here is to bring about human misery, the true mission of a monster.Hedda and the Creature direct their cruelty toward humanity because society failed to live up to the ideal which they held it to. Hedda expresses her disappointment in the world, saying, “I want to be free of everything ugly” (Ibsen 279). Hedda expects beauty, excitement, honesty and romance from humanity. She anticipates Lovborg to return with ‘vine-leaves’ on his head, symbolizing an ideal human society where men and women are free to indulge in the goodness which the world has to offer. It is not physical ugliness from which Hedda seeks to disentangle herself, but the deformed and unsightly society which she nonetheless finds herself in. Her marriage to Tesman and her pregnancy bind her forever to participate fully in the humanity which so disgusts her. When asked by Brack why she consented to marriage, Hedda responds that, “it was certainly more than my other admirers were willing to do for me” (Ibsen 251). Hedda waited until the last possible, acceptable moment to be married by the standards of her time; the stage directions mention that she is very near thirty. She held out for beauty as long as she could, but in the end she realized that humanity would never live up to her ideal. This brutal realization causes the scathing viciousness of Hedda’s personality and prompts her to destructive action against her fellow man. As Hedda laments the loss of her former hope for happiness, she remarks to Tesman, “well, at least I have one thing left to amuse myself with…my pistols” (Ibsen 247). Hedda’s pistols not only symbolize her volatile personality, but also the monstrosity which she has resorted to. She speaks of this violence as if it is all she has left to comfort her in a world without joy. Not only will Hedda strike out against society, but it will ‘amuse’ her; it will bring her a sort of grim satisfaction to crush those who have disappointed her vision of beauty. Hedda shares this destructive ecstasy with the Creature of Frankenstein, who was born with and initially reveled in a glorious opinion of man. After he has observed the DeLacey family for a time, the Creature remarks, “as yet I looked upon crime as a distant evil; benevolence and generosity were ever present before me, inciting within me a desire to become an actor in the busy scene where so many admirable qualities were called forth and displayed” (Shelley 150). The excellent behavior and relationships exhibited by the DeLacey family inspire in the Creature a triumphant and honorable conception of humanity. Although he reads about murder, crime and pain in books, he cannot believe they exist when such an example of beauty is his only real experience. The Creature becomes dependent on this ideal, and when it fails to hold true, he resorts to violence for compensation. He says, “feelings of revenge and hatred filled my bosom, and I did not strive to control them; but allowing myself to be borne away by the stream, I bent my mind toward injury and death” (Shelley 164). The Creature has put all of his faith in the DeLacey family and in the exalted picture of humanity that they gave him; consequently, when they cruelly spurn him, he has nowhere to direct his anger but back at humanity. With no one to turn to in his despair and anger, the only option is to allow his hatred to dictate what would become a series of monstrous actions, for he says, “I will revenge my injuries; if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear” (Shelley 173). It is his determination that if humanity cannot accept his love, if it cannot live up to the ideal which the DeLacey’s laid out, then it deserves nothing more than his derision and hatred. With the realization that humanity cannot be changed, Hedda and the Creature seek to remove themselves from it. After Hedda’s final attempt to manifest her ideal in the real world with the death of Eilert Lovborg fails, she realizes that nothing she ever does will be enough to overcome the gross society which surrounds her. Upon hearing of the sordid details of his death, she exclaims, “what is it, this – this curse – that everything I touch turns ridiculous and vile?” (Ibsen 299). The anguish which stems from her disappointment in humanity knows no bounds, and her monstrous tirade against it can in no way serve as sufficient compensation. Brack makes the hopelessness of her situation abundantly clear, to which Hedda proudly proclaims, “I’d rather die” (Ibsen 301). Since she cannot stomach a ‘ridiculous and vile’ society, the only choice that remains to Hedda is to remove herself from it completely. Her last act is a slap in the face of ugliness, for she performs her suicide just as she envisioned Eilert Lovborg’s: beautifully. Hedda had come to rely on monstrosity as a source of comfort in a disappointing world, and when even that proved ineffectual, when society continued to win, the only out left to her was death. The Creature shared this poignant sentiment; he expresses that “there was but one means to overcome the sensation of pain, and that was death” (Shelley 141). Like Hedda, the Creature can only find temporary solace in his monstrosity, quickly realizing that nothing he does will ever change the way humanity acts towards him. He speaks of his decision to die, saying, “I shall no longer feel the agonies which now consume me, or be the prey of feelings yet unsatisfied, yet unquenched” (Shelley 274). Violence failed to satisfy those needs of the Creature which could only be quenched by love, and without the chance of ever fulfilling those needs, he chooses to eradicate them. For both characters, death is the only escape from a world that would never be enough for them. The monsters portrayed in these works of fiction became such out of good intention, wishing only to live at the highest level that man could achieve. It was not this goal that truly drove them to destruction, but rather their utter dependency on it. When it failed, they ultimately had nowhere to turn but toward violence and death. Society cannot be judged on a pass or fail basis; individuals must be willing to help change it by becoming a part of it rather than lashing out monstrously against it.Works CitedFrankenstein. Dir. James Whale. Universal, 1931.Ibsen, Henrik. Four Major Plays: Volume 1. New York: New American Library, 1992. pp 221 – 304.

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Hedda Gabler as Artist of Manipulation

May 3, 2019 by Essay Writer

In the play Hedda Gabler by Isben, Hedda works as a type of artist of life. In an attempt to create a sense of beauty which she obsessively strives for, she creates her art by manipulating the lives and wills of the other characters around her. Through the character of Hedda the play offers a unique perspective on the definition of art, as she works as both the artist and part of the art that we are reading. As a work of art, it both critiques the cultural framework of love, marriage, and femininity, and offers a clear-cut escape from these repressive cultural restraints.Hedda creates beauty as an artist through the medium of manipulation of others. She seems to find joy and a sense of power in being able to control and manipulate those around her. Throughout the drama, she interferes in the lives of other characters, easily bending their wills to meet her own needs. Mrs. Elvsted states, “There’s something behind what you’re doing Heddaâ€?. To which she answers, “Yes there is. For once in my life I want to have power over another human beingâ€? (288). She manipulates others as if they were just puppets in a play that she has created making her both the creator and participant in a work of art.She is surrounded by puppet-like automatic characters who ventriloquize the patriarchal values of their society. Virtually all of these characters are easily manipulated and Hedda takes advantage of this, giving her a sense of control in her own life. Such characters are referred to as specialists. To Hedda, this is a description of these puppet-like characteristics, meaning they think only literally and mechanically without questioning the world around them. By manipulating them, Hedda creates a world outside of the ventriloquilism that they practice and she escapes the social norms and constructs that the other characters are so wrapped up in. This allows her to think independently without regard to the societal constructs that the drama critiques.Hedda refuses to conform to the traditional role of a submissive, domestic female that the characters around her try to impose on her. The aunt, Miss Tesman, reinforces the importance of what Brack calls her, “most solemn responsibilityâ€? (256). She shows the cultural conviction that a woman’s most important role in life is that of motherhood. The aunt reduces Hedda, as a woman, to a mode of producing children by focusing entirely on her stomach when addressing her. She constantly questions Hedda about her weight gain and stares at her stomach, hinting at the fact that she is possibly pregnant.Hedda actually defies the definition of what a woman should be: she is far from submissive, she manipulates all the men in her play for her own power and refuses to take on any domestic or mothering role. When Brack questions her about motherhood she responds, “Be quiet! You’ll never see me like thatâ€? and “I have no talent for such things, Judge. I won’t have responsibilities!â€? (256). She defiantly refuses to ventriloquize the ideas that the other characters are forcing on her. To be free of responsibility is to be free of the role of motherhood and wife. By denying these she essentially no longer fits the definition of a woman and takes on the male role.The varying roles of men are shown in the three male characters in the novel. As Hedda’s husband , Tesman would seem like the representative of the patriarchal society that she is attempting to escape from. Although he diminishes, never seeming to take her too seriously, he is a weak example of the male patriarchal values. He is easily manipulated by his wife and relinquishes control to her in an effort to please her. Although he seems unaware of it, Tesman maintains little power in the relationship, allowing Hedda to seize this power and explore the role of the man in the relationship.The actual personification of patriarchy and social domination of women by men is seen in Brack. His profession as a judge declares all the oppressions of a patriarchal society; he acts as the law, a ruling force of judgment and a figure in a position of power. Hedda describes him in the final scene as “the one cock of the walkâ€? (303) meaning the strong dominant and oppressive male force that has power over women. Finally he gains power over her in the end when he finds out she is involved in Lovborg’s suicide; as a woman she is ultimately unable to escape the societal oppression that Brack comes to represent.Throughout the play Hedda attempts to rebel against representations of the feminine. The figure of Mrs. Elvsted seems to be a representation of the repressive femininity that Hedda attempts to escape from. She reacts to her violently at times, pulling her hair out as a child and deciding, “I think I’ll burn your hair off after allâ€? (272). She physically acts out against the role that others expect her to take by hurting someone who represents this feminine role.The destruction of Lovborg’s paper is also representative of Hedda’s refusal to accept the cultural narrative of what femininity should be. While burning it she says, “Now I’m burning your child, Thea! You, with your curly hair! Your child and Eilert Lovborg’s. Now I’m burning — I’m burning the child.â€? The burning of the book as a representation of their child is Hedda’s method of setting herself free from the role of motherhood. She wants to find a way out of her own pregnancy so that she will not have to face the results that motherhood would have on her as a powerful female. Her jealousy at the relationship between Lovborg and Mrs. Elvsted seems to have led her to the point of near insanity. It is something that she can not control and it is this loss of control that seems to push her over the edge.The drama continually questions and critiques the idea of love and marriage and the position of male and female within this context. Despite this, there seems to be no actual love in the play. The relationship between Hedda and Tesman is one of convenience as they follow the normal narrative of a marriage, but there is clearly something lacking. Her disinterest in his beloved slippers in the first act shows that Hedda seems to care very little about Tesman. It seems as if she is with him for material gain and because he is easily manipulated by her. Tesman tries to keep her happy but treats her more like a possession that he has won than an individual.The play questions if there is such a thing as love in marriage at all. It critiques the idea of true love and marriage as something that is unattainable due to power relationships that exist within a marriage. It seems to suggest that marriage itself is a primitive desire endorsed by the idea of love in which the social domination of women by men is justified.Hedda seeks a marriage in which husband and wife would be equal but seems unable to find it. The social constructs of marriage work so that a male is in the position of power and a woman is submissive to him. Hedda seems to conclude that a true marriage would never exist because of the existence of this social narrative. She imagines a way around it but seems to conclude that it is something that could never exist in reality.The play Hedda Gabler works as art by questioning the cultural framework of femininity, marriage and love. It looks at the primitive motives behind marriage as a construct of a patriachical society. Hedda concludes that a true marriage can never really exist but the character herself finds an escape by the end of the play. She escapes through her suicide, not only because of her death, but because she finally manages to break the cultural narrative through the act itself. In the final line she says, “But good God! People don’t do such things!â€? (304). She has finally managed to escape, to do what people just don’t do.

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223

The duality of Loevborg in performance

March 20, 2019 by Essay Writer

Typical of his work, Henrik Ibsen’s ‘Hedda Gabler’ challenges social convention through deeply flawed and simultaneously, progressive characters. Eilert Loevborg is one of the more unconventional characters in the play, and as a man who has solely managed to capture the imagination of the eccentric Hedda Gabler herself it is important that he is played so that the audience too can feel mystified by, and drawn to, him. Although nineteenth century Norway was a patriarchal society, Loevborg was by no means safe from social expectations and judgement, and Loevborg should thus be presented as flawed but likeable. The same could not be said for the character of Hedda, but given Ibsen’s aims to challenge the audience’s views, it is necessary to still create a likable eccentric so as to make the audience question that which is ‘normal’ and acceptable.

Prospects were bleak for Loevborg, who had become somewhat washed up as a result of alcoholism and his general nonconformity, and yet there is still a small glimmer of hope in his words and actions. Following his entry, which in itself is similar to Hedda’s due to the length of discussion and the creation of mystery leading up to his arrival, Loevborg clearly acts as a foil to the men around him who are far more conventional. While the interaction between him, Tesman, and Brack is important because it will allow the audience to see him as the atypical man he is, his section with Hedda is what really reveals his true character as the removal of the men would prevent him from even contemplating acting in accordance to that which was normal and expected of a male of the time. Arguably, Loevborg is just as calculating but not as cold as Hedda, and thus can be presented as a softly spoken, thoughtful man. It is vital that Loevborg is seen as pleasant, as the audience, regardless of era, should look past what they would typically expect of a man and open their eyes to the possibility that men do not need to put on a front of dominance and suffocating masculinity to be likable.

To further prove this point, an actor playing Loevborg could move with a certain litheness reflecting the movement of Hedda herself, thus creating a sense of equality and connection. While the audience could take on a more Hedda-like view and see this gentleness as evidence that Loevborg is weak – or indeed, Hedda is strong – the movement will ultimately be reflective of Loevborg’s progressive mindset and hopeful attitude. The line “You didn’t love me, then. You just wanted knowledge.” is reflective once more of both Hedda and Loevborg; the lines are now blurred between Hedda’s undying need to understand and manipulate the world around her, and the intensely emotional nature (or now, the lack thereof) of her relationship with Loevborg. Said with great consideration and tentativeness, this line should leave the audience to interpret the extent to which Loevborg truly loves Hedda, or if he is merely interested in a detached way. Loevborg is a man of great duality, conforming neither to the intellectual field (his radical work is never accepted) or the traditionally masculine one, epitomized by Hedda’s father; the actor should thus perform with great subtlety, displaying hints of emotion but ultimately highlighting that they are forever masked by the expectations of masculinity. This level of duality will further open up debate, in terms of both Loevborg’s relationship with Hedda and also, his generally poor relationships with other men.

A huge contrast to this moment is seen in act three, where we really begin to see the darker side of both Hedda and Loevborg. While Loevborg had previously been cool and collected, he is now consumed by his emotion and thus, further confusing the audience’s opinions and expectations of him. Once more, the audience will see the ever-complex Loevborg in a different light, this time through the eyes of the society who shunned him and drove him to this point of desperation in the first place. Given their previous liking of Loevborg, created by his gentle and pleasant demeanor, the audience will be forced to battle their own morality and views,ultimately coming to the conclusion that no man or woman is so simple that they can be pinned down to just one defining characteristic. While Loevborg had previously talked of Hedda killing him with fondness and almost serenity as a result of his perceived connection to and warmth towards her, he will now say the line “You should have used it then” with the cold power and yet, detachment, of a man who has finally given up but still can’t quite let go of his deepest, darkest feelings of passion.

Loevborg is a deeply conflicted man, and even beyond the realm of literature and theatre is a universal symbol of the semi-ethereal presentation of people who do not conform to society. While he, a clearly intelligent man with a sharp mind, could have had it all in the patriarchy of the nineteenth century, it was ultimately the depth of his passion that betrayed and destroyed him, just as it did Hedda Gabler herself. Perhaps ultimately, brokenness does not discriminate and even those with the potential to do great things cannot escape from being swept away by society’s suffocating expectations and prying eyes.

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648

A Symbolic Analysis of the Piano in Hedda Gabler: Using Jung to Understand Ibsen

March 7, 2019 by Essay Writer

In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Lady Russell convinces Anne not to marry Frederick Wentworth as she finds him unworthy of Anne. Similarly, in Hedda Gabler, Hedda herself conceals her knowledge of and destroys Eilert’s manuscript in order to end his and Thea’s relationship. Involving oneself in other’s affairs can satisfy one’s desire for control. However, this behavior is often symptomatic of a disconnect between one’s personal consciousness and one’s personal and collective unconscious self. Henrik Ibsen masterfully uses the Tesman’s piano to symbolize Hedda’s personal and collective unconscious desire for control while acting as a vehicle to show her reconciliation with the two at the end.

Ibsen’s play, and particularly its symbolism, can be understood through reference to the psychology of Carl Jung, who divides the psyche into three major areas of analysis: the personal conscious, personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious. Jung credits the personal conscious with the creation of the “persona”. The persona envelops the constructed, outward appearance one shows the world. Whereas Jung only acknowledges one consciousness (the personal), he differentiates unconsciousness between the personal and collective. The personal unconscious differs within individuals, whereas the collective unconscious remains the same for every person due to the uniformity of the human psyche. The personal unconscious holds the “shadow.” The shadow encompasses the darker and more shameful urges one personally feels yet does not consciously acknowledge. The collective unconscious houses the “animus/anima” archetype. The animus refers to masculine traits in women that can either balance their femininity or overpower it. The anima refers to feminine traits in men. Jung believes to reach individuation one must reconcile the persona with the shadow and acknowledge one’s archetype. Individuation is the process of acknowledging one’s unconscious nature and incorporating it into the consciousness.

The appearance of the piano at the beginning of Act 1 shows the pressure others put on Hedda to lessen her masculine desire for control which she attempts to yield to but ultimately fails at. Although not explicitly dictated to her, Hedda feels immense pressure from society and familially to have a child. The expectation remains clear when Aunt Juliana quips with Tesman that he will “find some use for them [two empty rooms]—in the course of time.” (Ibsen 24). The pressure manifests physically upon the piano when Berta places Aunt Juliana’s bouquet on the piano and Hedda removes it. However, Hedda succumbs to softening her unconscious willfulness in certain situations, such as when she agrees to refer to Aunt Juliana by “Aunt” to appease Tesman. (38). She shows a degree of compromise when she states, “I’m only looking at my old piano. It doesn’t go at all well with all the other things…Suppose we put it there in the inner room…” (39). By placing the piano, the symbol for her masculine urge for control, deeper into the house, she represses the feeling rather than relinquishes it.

Hedda’s piano playing at the beginning of Act IV reveals how her control over Eilert has satisfied her desire for control for the time period. After the dramatic end of Act III Hedda plays the piano for the first time in the play, which the stage directions describe as “a few chords.”(174). At this point in the play, Hedda has effectively destroyed Eilert and Thea’s relationship by concealing her knowledge of the manuscript and then incinerating it. Hedda has felt control by acting as a catalyst for Eilert’s descent back into ill repute, but more importantly by intentionally inflicting pain upon Thea. Thea acts as an object of loathing and jealousy for Hedda, as well as a foil for her. Whereas Hedda’s allure lies in her assertive seductiveness, Thea’s depends on her ability to inspire creativity in and hold power over men through her meek femininity.

The leap from the meandering chords Hedda plays on the piano at the beginning of Act IV to the rousing song at the end shows Hedda’s use of individuation to take final control over her life. At the end of Act V after being blackmailed by Judge Brack, Hedda runs her fingers through Thea’s hair and retreats to the back room to play a “wild dance” on the piano before committing suicide. (207). The “wild dance” acts as her epitome or signaling of reaching individuation. The two major events that happen before Hedda’s exit allow Hedda to become aware of her personal and collective unconscious need for control and then act upon the knowledge. Judge Brack’s blackmail causes Hedda to weigh the value of life without control. She acknowledges her personal unconscious desire for control when stripped away from her explicitly and harshly.

Rather than experiencing subtle pressures exerting control, Hedda is faced wth a figure who lessens her, Hedda’s, control over the world of the play. Thea’s ability to use her overt femininity to gain control over Hedda’s husband causes Hedda to acknowledge her collective unconscious failing by her rule by her animus. Seeing no way to regain the control that has been recently stripped of her and no way to channel archetypal femininity, Hedda makes the decision to take her own life. The piano, thus, acts not only as an object physically affected by the world, like Hedda, but as a vehicle for the acknowledgment of her integral need for control.

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351

Desiderata

February 15, 2019 by Essay Writer

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution came new schools of thought that attempted to define the position of the individual within the society. The Romantic Era that dominated the early part of the 19th century tried to establish the individual as a creature of emotion and experience. Romanticism was eventually succeeded by Realism, which was a movement that strayed from the more figurative, almost idealized, imagery of the previous era to one that focused on the mundane and darker times of men. It was a movement that aimed to represent and recreate everyday life into literature—with all its ebbs and flows. One of the bigger topics of discussion in literary circles in the latter part of the 19th century was that of the correct life, which is very prominent in these two works: The Death of Ivan Ilyich, a novella by Leo Tolstoy, and Hedda Gabler, a play by Henrik Ibsen. Both works tell the stories of the lives and deaths of their respective title characters as they deal with the realities of life in the late 19th century. Both authors utilize the motifs of alienation and satisfaction in similar fashion to propagate the dichotomous relationship of the society and the self, however, within that scope, they take opposing stances on the idea of purpose and how it relates to the overall notion of the “correct life”.

With the backdrop of mass urbanization and industrialization brought about by the aforementioned Industrial Revolution there was a newfound ideal for the individual to find a place in society. And, because of mass urbanization causing a sudden increase in population density, it became much easier for one to grow distant from the world around him, thus the topic of alienation became a social issue in the late 19th century. The title character of The Death of Ivan Ilyich struggles with this problem of loneliness and pushing people away throughout much of the novella. But Tolstoy’s view on this notion goes far beyond saying, “don’t alienate people”. Ivan is very direct and open about whom he chooses to ignore, Tolstoy observes, “… he tried to ignore his wife’s disagreeable moods, continued to live in his usual easy and pleasant way, invited friends to his house for a game of cards, and also tried going out to his club or spending his evenings with friends” (749). He desires to stay away from his family and instead wishes to play bridge with his friends. This is problematic in two ways. Not only is he overlooking some element of love but the people who he associates with ultimately influence his life in negative manner. Ivan never truly lives life for himself; rather, he merely goes through the motions of living a socially acceptable lifestyle. This is reflected in the person he chooses to marry, the schooling and job he undertakes, and even how he spends his money. But things are still more complicated than this. Tolstoy does not simply want to say that one should spend most of the time surrounded by family because that too can be noxious to one’s life.

This is especially true in the case of Ivan and his family, who often make life miserable for each other. The narrator notes, “” Is it our fault?’ Lisa said to her mother. ‘It’s as if we were to blame! I am sorry for papa, but why should we be tortured?’” (775). This passage shows how the illness is putting a burden on the family bonds and how the ailment makes it hard for them to be together. They are simply incompatible and maybe distancing themselves from each other is the best course of action. Ultimately, to understand what Tolstoy has to say about alienation we must examine what happens when the eponymous hero is left alone.

It is interesting to note that most of the thematically rich action takes place after Ivan’s unfortunate injury and when he is bedridden. In his state he begins to not only attempt to rationalize his existence—when discussing Caius—but also make groundbreaking revelations about life and death. These last few weeks of his existence are probably his most profound and important because thoughts and, on the topic of alienation, they are made when he is alone, in a sense. Ivan is never truly alone in his demise because he conjures himself an alter ego of sorts. He begins talking to his consciousness, which signifies Ivan evaluating his own life compared to the society around him. It also interesting to note that this alter ego also depicts a part of Ivan that is not all bad; it has the moral and social qualities that would allow it to be socially acceptable and a good influence on the reader. Through Ivan Ilyich, Tolstoy wants to say something overwhelming, and possibly alien at the time, about this notion of alienation: it is imperative that we do not alienate ourselves, that is, we must find a sense of belonging and individuality that allows the self to conquer the society and stand out.

Henrik Ibsen explores a similar notion in his play Hedda Gabler, albeit from the opposite extreme of the spectrum. Unlike Ivan, the title character of this work is more open about intimately socializing with people. As a matter of fact, the entire focus of this play is on the deep relationships and social interactions between the characters. Hedda herself is a part of multiple love triangles but it is exactly this form of interaction, which poisons her. To elaborate, whenever she is around other people she is forced to abide to the social norms fit for a woman in the 19th century. Similarly to Ivan, the people she associates with are poor influences for her, for example, conversations with Brack or Eilert put strains on her relationship with George. This is reflected in her behavior around her friends and family. That is to say, Henrik Ibsen uses his heroine to explore the facades that people put on when they are so deeply rooted within social circles. That is, characters such as Hedda act outside their nature to appease social standards. Hedda says, “ [Miss Tesman] put her hat down there on the chair [Looks at him smiling] and I pretended I though it was the maid’s” (804). This passage recalls a time where Hedda had to act a certain way outside of what she is used to in order to keep up appearances. But once again it goes much deeper than to say that too much interaction can get stressful because of how society wants us to act. And once again, in order to get a clear message about alienation, we must examine what the characters do when they’re alone. Ibsen does not utilize monologues, soliloquies, or asides in order for the audience to get an insight into a character’s psyche; however, this makes the time when they are alone very special. Hedda Gabbler, is left to her own devices at three key points in the play: when she plays with her pistols prior to Brack’s arrival, when she burns Eilert’s manuscript, and finally when she ends her own life. Very crucial moments of the work and they all carry with them significant weight when it comes to the character development of Hedda. The times when the characters are alone show the reader what the characters are really like. Interestingly enough, Hedda too has a double of sorts. She has an alter ego, that, like Ivan’s, would allow her to be more socially acceptable and instill in her characteristics reminiscent of a morally good person: her unborn child. Additionally, these episodes embody the same message Tolstoy was trying to depict: alienation is not inherently a negative trait, at times it can be imperative to avoid interaction to find some time to think and reflect in silence.

The motif of alienation lends itself to another, larger notion of satisfaction, which dictates both Ivan’s and Hedda’s lives very profoundly. But it is too easy to say that the two characters suffer because they are unhappy. The issue is more complicated because the two almost refuse to believe that they are dissatisfied. For example, Ivan rationalizes saying that because he got a better job and earns a little more money he is somehow better off and happy because he can fill his home with ornaments and things. Similarly, Hedda attempts to convince herself that she is content by filling her home with material possessions. Their flaw lies in their endeavor to appease the social standard of luxury and possession. To that effect they are both in a sense wearing false smiles when around others all the while bottling up more and more depression, which turns out to be fatal for Hedda. Their major flaw lies in the fact that both characters assign deep meanings to objects that inherently do not have one: money, curtains, and manuscripts. Furthermore, they avoid or ignore the simplicity of happiness. Truthfully, it does seem difficult to attribute the era of Realism to joy, as the former was intent on fleshing out the brutalities of the world. It is not entirely the fault of Ivan or Hedda for being unhappy but the authors do agree that an attempt—to smile, to laugh, to enjoy one’s self— at least has to be made in order for the individual to find some sense of satisfaction within a society that has given up on the idea.

The relationship between the self and the society, especially in the context of the “correct life”, comes down to the idea of purpose and fulfillment. And it is on this issue that Tolstoy and Ibsen disagree. The best way to examine the difference of opinion is to consider the physical aspect of death within both works. The Death of Ivan Ilyich is aptly named because of the immense focus on the actual process of death. Within the novella, the period of injury, illness, and suffering is very drawn out to the point where it dominates a majority of the work. Death is very significant to Ivan because gives him the opportunity to reflect on his life to see what went wrong. It is also very important for Tolstoy because it allows him to explore the theme of fulfillment. To elaborate, the author believes that a person cannot be truly meaningful in life and that it is through death that we find a purpose. This is why he puts a lot of emphasis on Ivan’s suffering and not on the fatal blow. He notes, “…that drawing-room where he had fallen and for the sake of which (how bitterly ridiculous it seemed) he had sacrificed his life…” (764). Ivan himself finds humor in his predicament because of how ironic and pedestrian his death really is. His passing is truly a far cry from the protagonists of the past but Tolstoy does not describe it as flawed. The title character’s only fault seems to be that he has no desire to seek meaning or purpose and at first that is why Ivan believes he has not lived society’s idea of the “correct life”, but considering this is also a mistake. Near the end of the novella Ilyich redeems himself, after his aporia and catharsis he has an epiphany about fulfillment, which is reflected in the final meeting between him and his son. He thinks to himself, “’Yes, I am making them wretched,’ he thought. ‘They are sorry, but it will be better for them when I die” (777). Although it is a grim realization to make, Ivan becomes aware through this exchange that the only way he can rectify his mistakes with his family is to die and put them at peace. Another way to interpret this final moment is that in a way Ivan passes down some form of knowledge to his son about how to carry one’s self and how to live correctly. And that, according to Tolstoy, is the true purpose of life; it is not about desiring fulfillment or freedom but making the lives of others easier.

In contrast, Ibsen believes that one’s purpose can only be achieved in life. This is why he chooses to introduce death multiple times, in a less conservative way than Tolstoy. After all, three characters die within the span of 36 hours. But in doing so, and ignoring what suffering may come from a prolonged death, Ibsen turns the focus to the actual instant of death. That is to say, the deaths in Hedda Gabler are more vivid than the one in The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Unlike in the novella, the play does not leave much room to ponder what happens after the heroine dies and instead the emphasis is put on her life, and what a life it is! The purpose of Hedda’s actions is brutally clear: she desires freedom from the social mores and the minutia of her life. And she attempts everything, regardless of how immoral it is. But in the pursuit of her purpose it is revealed how strong a character she really is and how admirable her struggle is. She tries to break the mold of the 19th century woman by bidding to become the author of her own life, which is why she puts so much emphasis on beauty. When speaking to Brack she says, “All I know is that Eilert Løvborg had the courage to live life his own way, and now—his last great act—bathed in beauty” (834). To her, and to Ibsen this idea of beauty or a beautiful death is important, because after all, that’s all there is. But, whether Hedda is crazy or not and why she chose to commit suicide is up for question. To answer it would be to grasp what Ibsen says about purpose. Once again, it is very sad to imagine it this way, but the only way Hedda can achieve her goals is through life—after all she wants personal freedoms. Once she cannot get them, suicide becomes the only option because according to Ibsen there is no opportunity to achieve her goals after death like there is in the novella. The message remains that in order for the self to conquer the society the individual must live with purpose and with reckless abandon of the social norms.

Overall, this question of the correct life really comes down to the individual level and how the self can exist within the society. It is easy to examine themes or motifs such as alienation, satisfaction, or purpose but in the end even those do not paint the full picture. If we consider only those aspects or if we examine them in a particular light then we don’t do justice to the lives of the characters we want to explore. It seems easy to describe Ivan Ilyich or Hedda Gabler as bad characters simply because they don’t fit a very arbitrary blueprint of the perfect life but it would be wrong to do so. Within their settings the two respective title characters exhibit specific idiosyncrasies, which allow them to break anonymity and become known to the world. And in that sense, even with their flaws, they become examples of how to live to become relevant and fulfilled.

—References—

Ibsen, Henrik. (2002). Hedda Gabler. London: Methuen Drama.

Tolstoy, Leo. (1973). The Death of Ivan Ilych. New York: Health Sciences Pub. Corp.

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