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Examine the tragic elements in the characterization of Hedda Gabler

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Introduction

Examine the tragic elements in the characterization of Hedda Gabler The question most commonly asked about this play is, why does Hedda behave as she does? This question assumes that Ibsen has given her adequate motivation. Not everyone accepts this assumption, for I believe Hedda Gabler is unusual in having no motivation whatsoever. If Hedda's behavior is unmotivated or insufficiently motivated, then she would seem to be an adult Bad Seed. Hedda's lack of motivation is such significanct theme in the play, which revolves around her, that it is one of the most significant reasons which leads to her ultimate downfall. "I often think there is only one thing in the world I have turn for... boring myself to death!" Most audiences and readers though, see Hedda as propelled by an internal conflict, though they may disagree about the nature of the conflict. Is Hedda torn between her social self and her essential self? Is her conflict an unspoken rebellion against the restrictions her society placed on women? ...read more.

Middle

Through Mrs Elvsted it is revealed that Hedda has been manipulative and vicious all her life, as even at school she had threatened to burn Mrs Elvsteds hair. Her hair is symbolic in the play as they are juxtaposed to one another; Heddas is flat, plain and lacks interest or life whereas Mrs Elvsteds is big, curly and full of life and bounce, both of which reflects character and the threat shows Heddas jealously of her. The constant theme throughout the play, which is imminent from the start, is the sense of tragedy. Tragedy usually focuses on figures of stature whose fall implicates others; a family, an entire group, or even a whole society, and typically the tragic protagonist becomes isolated from his or her society, and often ends with death. This is exactly the case with Hedda. It fits well with Aristotle's quote on tragedy, they 'fall not through device or depravity' but in the 'error of judgment'. The effect of tragedy on the audience provokes fear, pity or pathos. ...read more.

Conclusion

Against the tragic protagonist, Hedda, are the powers that be, which are in her case human, governed outside of her limitations. The more elevated, apparently secure and privileged the character's initial situation, the greater is our sense of the fall, and the greater our sense of his or her suffering. Hedda Gabler is an act of self renunciation, in a dark and ironic sense, through which Hedda rings down her life; she does not die for another person, and she does not live for another person, she dies for herself as she had lived for herself. In that she dies, she proves herself to be among those free born, untamed creatures; for in the necessity of her death, there first is revealed the whole tragedy of the uncanny contradiction of Hedda Gabler: the tragic aspect is that Hedda may only prove to herself the true existence of her inner freedom by cancelling herself out. She extinguishes the life of the tame and false Hedda, caught in the meshes of her own weakness, who while still living would not have found bearable the verdict now intoned by Counselor Brack over the deceased: "People don't do such things!" ...read more.

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