The play Hedda Gabler is an intense little bit of literature about the life of the protagonist Hedda. She is imprisoned by societal norms and dares not risk a fight with society by doing something eccentric such as marrying the disgraceful Mr. Lovborg. Instead she married George Tesman, who represents security and respectability. This life of orthodoxy without faith leads Hedda to monotony and emotional sterility. Finally, the play ends vividly with Hedda's suicide liberating her from the life she so loathed.
One of the considerable and perhaps most significant stylistic features Ibsen uses is his ability to introduce secondary characters into the play. Although it is a significant challenge, these secondary characters enter the play for a concise time and then leave, never reemerging. Their utility in the play is to reveal some significant aspect of the main character Hedda in a manner that is striking and appealing, By seeing Hedda significantly portrayed through minor characters, Ibsen permits his audience to gain a far greater comprehension and we learn far more about the protagonist character and the Norwegian societal expectations.
In this essay I will be exploring a few of these peripheral characters within the play and exactly how they contribute to something greater in the storyline and knowledge of Hedda and also the techniques Ibsen employs to make the audience understand Hedda as a character profoundly.
The play starts with Aunt Julie and Berta (the house-maid) entering George Tesman's Villa. Berta says to Aunt Julie 'Gracious. . . all the things the young mistress wanted unpacked' following the brief conversation between Aunt Julie and Berta the audience gets a feel of what things to expect from Hedda who hasn't yet appeared on stage. We condition a rough image of Hedda giving the impression that she is high class with regards to the quantity of luggage which needed to be unpacked, but also from the tone in which the Aunt and Berta converse. Because of Hedda's class great effort is put by everyone around Hedda to please her, just like Berta is anxious she'll never meet Hedda's expectations. Along with the play Ibsen intends to make the dialogue as realistic as is possible, and through naturalistic language and diction suitable for the period and characters this is achieved perfectly. For instance, Berta responds to Hedda in very simplistic language than Hedda would address Berta. Instead Hedda uses classy and courteous language which would be likely of her at that time frame.
We learn that the majority of men and women who are exposed to Hedda Gabler are intimidated by her; in the same way Berta who's persuaded she'll be considered a 'terrible ground' in her way. Also Aunt Julie feels that is predictable because at the end of your day, she is the General's daughter which is habituated to a particular life-style. Because of Hedda's emotional repression she invests much of life in material items, the amount of luggage Berta mentions displays her expensive habits but also reveals a fixation with the external rather than the internal.
The conversation between Aunt Julie and Hedda reveals significant information about Hedda's character - we notice Hedda adopts an attitude of icy formality with her. She also adopts an attitude of apathy whenever George Tesman discusses his Aunts. Hedda rejects George's attempts to bring her closer to the Tesman family. She won't call Aunt Julia by her first name avoiding any closeness this might signify and also threatens to dismiss Berta the faithful family house maid; trying to hightail it and reject everything her husband wishes for her to be close to.
Ibsen uses Aunt Julia as an chance to explore Hedda's treatment towards others around her especially those close to her husband, which in turns shows having less love and respect she has on her behalf husband and this shocks the audience. Hedda does not think on embarrassing Aunt Julie about the bonnet, when Aunt Julia claims that the hat is her own and not the maids, Hedda will not apologize for her insult (even though she agrees to down the road invite Aunt Julie to somewhat make up for her insult) which is easy boorishness Hedda assumes with those Tesman loves. Later, however, we find that Hedda in fact created the complete event realizing that the hat was Aunt Julie's all along. This is a frequent theme in the play - Hedda's ability to not merely react in confirmed instant, but to 'design' and plan interaction with other characters in order to achieve a certain goal using her manipulative nature; which is enforced further in Act III.
Ibsen ensures the whole action of the play occurs within the drawing room, through the setting the audience is able to understand Hedda carefully that as the play is fixed to the drawing room, she too is retrained by her acceptance of society's values. Ibsen further uses setting by representing the drawing inner room as a description of Hedda. The area is elegant and of aristocratic refinement. When Aunt Julie is surprised at Hedda having had the chintz furniture covers removed we recognize that she is from classes which take these luxuries for granted.
Aunt Julie serving as a secondary character gives purpose to understanding that Hedda is an unnatural woman. Refusing to surrender her 'freedom', she regards childbearing as repugnant. The portrayal of Miss Julia and Berta unlike Hedda depict women who submit with their socially imposed feminine roles and assign themselves to the unselfish tasks of raising children. Aunt Julia has undertaken this duty insurance agencies raised Hedda's husband to become promising author and academician and also caring for her invalid sister (Aunt Rina). That is an important device employed by Ibsen in Hedda Gabler which is the type foil. By contrasting characters it helps to define their counterparts, providing a heightened sense of each character's personality. Hedda's principal foil: Aunt Julie. This woman is unselfish and at peace with her life, and it is willing to sacrifice herself for others but with Hedda's paralyzing fear of losing respectability stands in sharp disparity.
Hedda is rebellious to accepting that she is pregnant, by accepting this fact it is binding her to societal norms and expectations she longs to hightail it from. Aunt Julie at several instances hints that Hedda is pregnant and that the spare room George didn't know very well what to make use of for will shortly be occupied - again hinting. Typically, one would expect new lease of life to be welcomed with great joy however in this play it is most ironically associated to death and destruction. From the start of the play Hedda dislikes the rich smell of flowers infusing her house; also, when light pours she order for the curtains to be drawn, flowers light etc are symbols of life which Hedda detests in the same way the baby she'll have. The play echoes Hedda's psychological state and the very thought of new lease of life is morbid to her which is the way the motif manifests itself in this story.
Aunt Julie acknowledges her need to have an objective 'It's such an absolute necessity for me to have you to definitely live for'. Aunt Julie finds standard in caring and sacrificing for others and through the attitudes these peripheral characters hold we recognize that Hedda finds Aunt Julie's need to serve incomprehensible.
Overall, these predominantly female 'side-line' characters such as Berta but mostly Aunt Julie offer and present the reader with a deeper, truthful understanding of the complexity of the major character Hedda. They have a definitive appearance, giving the reader something to visualize clearly. The female voices and actions all assist in the knowledge of the male dominated culture that is offered. The nature of any women's role in Norwegian society of the time is clearly established: they are servants, wives or women inspiring males in success; virtually all in service of men. Ibsen makes a clear argument about the dangers of Victorian values and the damage they cause to the average person in this case Hedda. Hedda is miserable and dissatisfied which in result leads to her ends her eventual suicide. Ibsen also throws in 'sardonic humor', again with regard to societal traditions. Therefore, these peripheral characters seem to be more real rather than generic and appearance just a few times. This makes the audience look forward to their occasional appearance. Ibsen is successful in granting even the tiniest characters with the same qualities of humanity that the primary characters obtain. Their purpose is to balance and highlight the main characters, which Ibsen's peripheral characters do. These small details of work make the play, ultimately, powerful.
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