Hedda Gabler close analysis

Thanks to former VCE student. Dussy K, for sharing her VCE English and VCE Literature notes with our community. If you want to share your resources with the VCE help community check out the guidelines here.

Hedda Gabler- Close analysis 2008 exam

Ibsen uncovers the tragedy of society’s conventions, condemning the constant struggle for power in a world of superficiality. Hedda and Brack, representing the battle for superiority, obsess over the archetype Alpha, Beta relationship, reflecting Ibsen’s carping tone and loss of faith in the veracity of human existence. Hedda Gabler dramatises the seductive appeal for power, challenging social norms through the weakness of Ibsen’s minor characters who conform, and the conflicting strength of the antagonist who does not.

Immediately accentuating the frivolous features of society, Ibsen showcases the floundering Jorgen Tesman as the typical common man, epitomising the cowardice of his personality. The first extract repetitively presents a host of questions, depicting Tesman as an insecure wreck, enforced by his apologetic phrase ‘Eh?.’ The author firmly depicts Tesman’s desperation, arranging the character’s language in a consistent fearful tone, not only bombarding the passage with frantic queries about his perceived competition, Ejlert Lovborg; but also permeating a sense of fear, already lionising Hedda as the ‘loveliest thing of all’ even before her entrance into the play. Both Miss Tesman and Jorgen attempt to reassure one another in an urgent bid to relieve their subservient dread that their ‘domestic’ class is not good enough for Tesman’s new ‘charming’ life. The writer creates a strong image of the mundane man, illuminated by Tesman’s obvious inferiority and pathetic idolisation of those above him, supporting Ibsen’s stance that the traditional values of society undermine human existence. Tesman’s language is arranged to provoke the reader to question his relationship with Hedda as he obsessively paints her in an angelic light, supported in the stage direction which implies Tesman to be constantly ‘looking towards the centre doorway’ apprehensively waiting for his new wife’s entrance. The author leaves the audience with the lasting impression of Tesman’s servile behaviour, declaring the flaws in conformity as a rejection of self preservation and dignity.

It is important to understand however, Ibsen’s change from a highly judgemental tone in the first extract, to a reflective tone in the second. The writer reveals Lovborg’s desire for Hedda’s appreciation, calling the central character by her first name, implying his affection; however Ibsen also portrays Lovborg as a stronger man than Tesman, depicting him to match Hedda in her vicious game of control. While Tesman simply adores Hedda, Lovborg attempts to sever her ‘steel grey’ facade, repetitively asking ‘wasn’t it?’ referring to their past relationship and reminding Hedda of her weakness. Ibesn’s established notion that one spends a large part of life grasping for control, is supported by Lovborg and Hedda’s battle to gain the upper hand in the second passage. Additionally, Hedda’s ultimate rejection of responsibility, remarking that it was Lovborg’s ‘own fault’ demonstrates her engrained fear of being vulnerable at the hands of love, or worse ‘of scandal’. The author’s concern of the destructive nature of power is highlighted in this passage, indicating the impossibility of love between that two, despite their obvious feelings. Ibsen further criticises society’s obsession with controlling other people, declaring that though both characters share the same affection, both are too scared of the ‘imminent danger’ of losing charge. Readers are constantly reminded of the tension between the characters by Ibsen’s descriptive stage direction, imploring Lovborg as a frustrated person ‘clenching his hands’ and similarly revealing a fleeting glimpse of Hedda’s true self as she quickly ‘changes(ing) her tone’ to avoid Lovborg’s questions. The writer showcases the destructive nature of self righteousness, condemning both Lovborg and Hedda’s behaviour as the ‘worst piece of cowardice’ in the pretence of being happy or being in control.

An appropriate illustration of Hedda’s desire for total power wherever she stands, is present in the third extract, as Ibsen clearly demonstrates the virtues of her personality. Stating that Brack forever ‘has a hold over’ her, Hedda immediately conveys her fundamental terror of being left at the mercy of another person. The direction states that Hedda is ‘looking up’ at Brack further highlighting her sudden inferiority for the first time in the play, pivotal in her ultimate loss of sanity. Ibsen positions the deceptive Brack as being completely content with his unexpected prize of having total power of the women he desires, snidely assuring Hedda that ‘he shall not abuse the position.’ The author asserts his belief in the fatal danger of dominance, sending Hedda into a downfall of lunacy and ultimately suicide at the end of the play. This passage is crucial to Hedda’s downfall, as even the obsequious Jorgen ‘turns (ing) his head’ on her, symbolising her failure to gain any power at all, even with Ibsen’s weakest character. The writer suddenly portrays his most tragic personalities in a changed fashion, depicting the submissive Tesman to patronise his beloved wife with superficial retorts such as ‘But Hedda my dearest, don’t.’ Such a drastic difference in attitude further supports Ibsen’s view that power will not achieve happiness.

Through Ibsen’s obvious distaste for the suffocating conventions of societal living, he vividly presents the danger of competitive relationships and the meaninglessness of life itself when lead so destructively. The tyrannous Hedda compounds the complexity of human existence, enforcing the author’s portrayal of each different trait, displayed by the cowardly Tesman, the devoted Lovborg and the conniving Brack.

Contact Us

Please fill out all inquiries below.