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The play Hedda Gabler revolves around the main character for who the play is named and involves a few different characters, male and female, that create tension and drama in the play. The author, Henrik Ibsen, creates two different types of women in the characters of Hedda and Mrs. Elvsted; one a self-centered and manipulative woman who would do anything to get her way, and the other a meek, innocent young woman who is devoted to those that she loves. These two types of women are the basis of the drama that unfolds in this play, with each of them playing a pivotal role in keeping the action of the play moving along.

When the characters of Mrs. Elvsted and Hedda meet in the play, we see the hesitance on the part of Mrs. Elvsted to accept the false kindness from Hedda, saying, “Yes, but you were in the class above me. Oh, how dreadfully afraid of you I was then! (Ibsen, Act I)” Mrs. Elvsted is quiet, subdued, and exactly the type of woman that Ibsen’s society valued. The character of Hedda, on the other hand, is intelligent, manipulative and cunning, but also full of rage because she is smothered by the society in which she lives.

Her rage only comes out in private moments, as in this scene when she burns the manuscript that Lovborg and Elvsted worked on together: “[Throws one of the quires into the fire and whispers to herself. ] Now I am burning your child, Thea! –Burning it, curly-locks! [Throwing one or two more quires into the stove. ] Your child and Eilert Lovborg’s. [Throws the rest in. ] I am burning–I am burning your child” (Ibsen, Act III). The author’s intentions by creating two very different female characters is to show the vast difference between the two, one being accepted by the society of his time and the other being hated by the society of his time.

The strength of Hedda and the weakness of Mrs. Elvsted come through in the lines and the action of the play. A third female character, Aunt Juliane, represents the motherly, matronly type who is kind, considerate and always trying to guide Hedda to be more acceptable as Tesman’s wife. The dialogue between herself and the other characters shows this, with lines like, “Even in your sorrow you must rejoice, as I do–rejoice that she is at rest (Ibsen, Act IV). Even at a death, she is able to bring her sweetness to Tesman.

The title of the play, however, gives us a clue as to how Hedda feels because it does not use her married name, showing that Hedda is desperate to remain independent despite the norms of society. Each of these characters serves an important thematic purpose because without the differences amongst them there wouldn’t be a possibility of the play moving along at a steady pace. The characters represent the types of women in Ibsen’s society and he uses them as vehicles to make his point about what the society does to an intelligent, independent woman like Hedda.

In the end, she kills herself, her personality coming through in her final statement, “[Speaking loud and clear. ] Yes, don’t you flatter yourself we will, Judge Brack? Now that you are the one cock in the basket— (Ibsen, Act IV). The theme of the play is how woman are perceived and how they perceive themselves based on the society in which they live, and no character shows this as dramatically and as tragically as Hedda Gabler.

Works Cited

Ibsen, Henrik. Hedda Gabler. eNotes. 5 Feb. 2007 <http://www. enotes. com/hedda-gabler-text/80300>.

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