Essay on Character Analysis of Hedda in Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler

Essay on Character Analysis of Hedda in Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler

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Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler introduces its audience to a paradoxical protagonist, Hedda Tesman. Ibsen’s delineation of Hedda presents her as a petty and frivolous woman whose sole motivation is to seek her own amusement with no regard to those around her. If some tragedy had befallen Hedda in her formative years and thus shaped her into the cold, callous woman she would become, Ibsen purposely omits this from this play: whatever judgment the audience might make of Hedda as a character must derive almost exclusively from the behaviors she exhibits in each of the work’s four acts. Ibsen does not intend for his audience to readily sympathize with Hedda. By not endearing Hedda to his audience, the subject of her suicide in the final act is made all the more baffling, surprising, and, incidentally, more interesting. By limiting the audience’s access to Hedda’s emotional development as a character, Ibsen is able to create a character infinitely more complex than one who merely succumbs to the overwhelming agony of a perpetually sorrowful life. Ibsen meant for the question as to why Hedda saw suicide as her only viable option to burn in the collective mind of his audience. To a less astute observer, Hedda’s suicide might be perceived as a senseless end to a senseless existence. A careful, thoughtful analysis of the play, however, reveals that a perfect storm of circumstances coalesce to create a climate in which Hedda is driven to her final act of desperation.
Throughout the play, Hedda exhibits a general dissatisfaction with life. By marrying a man whom she finds almost unbearably dull, Hedda resigns herself to a life of excruciating boredom. Her status as a general’s daughter had perhaps afforded her certain opportunities in her earl...


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...sadist. Hedda’s behavior toward Loevborg, who did nothing to deserve Hedda’s fatal influence, easily classifies as monstrous. Moreover, her vindictiveness toward Tesman, Thea, and even Miss Juliana as well as her harsh treatment of Bertha all serve to create a persona easily dismissed as wholly evil. Nevertheless, despite her trespasses against those around her, one must also consider the overwhelming powerlessness Hedda endured. Regardless of her gifts of keen perception and deft social maneuvering, the general’s daughter could hope to do little better for herself than marry an uninteresting scholar and embrace the role of motherhood whether she desired to be a mother or not. Lastly, the fact that the only moment of Hedda’s life in which she felt genuinely in control of her own destiny also sadly marked her final moment warrants at least some measure of compassion.

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