Hedda Gabler Practice Exam

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‘A slave’ to the traditional female role of the 19th century, Hedda is depicted as a rebellious tyrant in Ibsen’s two roomed play. Highlighting her plea for individuality and control, Ibsen pits his antagonist against the constraints of society; enforcing the difficulties of societal expectations and examining the disastrous complications when they are broken.

Immediately referring to her future as ‘so withered’, Ibsen metaphorically infers the unhappiness that Hedda lives through. The first extract portrays the shameless woman as a cold hearted character, rejecting Tesman’s comment that she is ‘part of the family’. Evident in the stage direction, Hedda is ‘disturbed’ and discontent, supporting Ibsen’s stance on the suffocating life enforced upon women in the 1800’s. The playwright depicts Hedda as a controlling maniac, declaring that she could only call Mrs. Tesman ‘Aunt’ for fear that they would become too intimate. Ibsen creates a sense for the audience, of Hedda’s desire for power, writing with a formal expression, exhibiting Hedda’s purposeful emotionless facade as she states that it ‘must be enough’ to be polite to Aunt Julle. Selfishly discounting the problem of money, Hedda declares that she wants ‘another’ piano, pervading a sense that she is never going to be happy as a socialite housewife. Ibsen additionally uses inclusive language when Hedda expectantly tells Tesman of her wishes, rudely declaring ‘we can have’, awarding his writing with a tense overtone and illuminating Hedda’s thoughtlessness.

The alarming scope of control which is held by Hedda in exemplified in the second passage as the stage direction depicts her to be ‘on the sofa, stretching her arms’, metaphorically suggesting her position in relation to the other characters. Ibsen insinuates Hedda’s desire for drama as he exaggeratedly refers to Mrs. Elvsted as ‘precious Thea’, empowering the hysteria of his antagonist’s attempts to free herself from the shackles of the upper class. The unusual positivity of Hedda’s initial tone, as she persistently calls Mrs. Elvsted by her first name, compels the audience to understand the hidden weakness of the main character. Her overbearing kindness to Thea, enforced by Ibsen’s repetitive use of exclamation marks to portray Hedda’s enthusiasm, creates a notion of her jealousy toward Mrs. Elvsted’s ‘comrade[ry]’ with Lovborg. The playwright creates an image of Hedda’s desperation to stop the romantic relationship between Elvsted and Lovborg, as she insists to sitting ‘in the middle’ of the two. The boundaries of her married life are extrapolated as Ibsen creates a parallel between the ‘lovely’ freedom and honesty of Lovborg and Thea with the cold manipulative reality of Hedda’s situation. Momentarily wishing for ‘courage’, Ibsen conveys Hedda’s desire ‘to live at last’, arranging her expression with ephemeral pauses such as ‘ah’ and ‘yes...’, noting her resounding wish to be happy.

In a similar vein, the final extract provokes vulnerability in Hedda that is not previously uncovered in the play. Ibsen portrays a sudden defeat in the destructive woman with stage direction which depicts her as ‘drooping her head’. The writer positions the audience to understand the consequences of disrupting the normal order, contrasting the originally manipulative character with a final resignation to failure, unable to ‘tolerate the inevitable’. Ibsen’s strong use of his direction to enhance Hedda’s shocking inferiority is repeated in the final act as the defeated character is described to be ‘looking up’ at the lecherous Brack. Her admittance of her downfall is propelled as Ibsen repeatedly uses ‘power’ and ‘slave’ to describe Hedda’s subjugated position to the Judge Brack. Signs of her ultimate implosion are illuminated by the madness of her actions, ‘imitating’ Tesman’s beseeching phrase ‘eh?’ and eagerly asking if she can ‘help’ Elvsted and Tesman with Lovborg’s manuscript. Signifying Hedda’s final failure to control the restraints of her suffocating life, Ibsen depicts Tesman as ‘turning his head’ on Hedda, similarly arranging his expression with a careless tone, asking Brack to ‘keep Hedda company’. The final image of Tesman’s rejection of his wife predominantly highlights the dangers of rejecting the natural flow of life. As Ibsen creates a disturbing picture of Hedda’s undoing the description of the ‘wild dance tune’ mirrors her unstable mind, and her inability to conform to the normalcy of her time.

Ibesn’s sympathy for his antagonist and obvious distaste for the patriarchal conventions of the 19th century are empowered by Hedda’s desperate attempt to release herself from the repression of society. The minute setting of two rooms mocks the small mindedness of Hedda’s time, providing an understanding of the hardships when disrupting the traditional values of the period which ultimately costs Hedda her life.

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