Setting and its influence on the female characters in Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen, and Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman.

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English World Literature                 Rory Dunnett

English Standard Level World Literature Assignment

Setting and it’s influence on the female characters in Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen, and Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman.

Candidate Name:                Rory Dunnett

Candidate Number                0102 - 061

Session:                        May 2010

Word Count:                        1539

Setting plays a significant role in Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden, as through both the physical setting itself, and the invasion of the setting by other characters in the plays, the female characters - Hedda Gabler and Paulina Escobar, go through a deterioration of character – they become increasingly mentally unstable, and their actions increasingly irrational, which leads to their isolation and in Hedda’s case, her suicide. Through setting, Ibsen and Dorfman both show imprisonment, and the effect that this has on the actions and character of Hedda and Paulina.

Hedda is stuck in a marriage that bores her. She does not leave the confines of one room throughout the whole play, and is therefore constantly submerged in a place in which she is miserable. This is ironic, as like their marriage, her bridegroom Jorgen Tesman purchased the house on misconceptions and miscommunications, thinking that it was “the home [she] dreamed of, swooned over.” However later on when Hedda is talking to Brack, we find out that she only said this because once when they were walking past it, Tesman had “run out of conversation.” Hedda is a strong-willed woman, who is forced by social norms to act like a proper wife - deferring to her husband’s authority and forbidden to sit alone with another man without a chaperone, therefore she has nothing to occupy herself with, and exclaims, “ What else am I to do, in Heavens name?” in reference to playing with her guns.

Similarly in ‘Death and the Maiden’, Paulina has spent years in a state of mental entrapment, having suffered physical abuse and rape during the Chilean dictatorship of Pinochet. However on hearing the voice of a guest of her husband, she thinks him to be perpetrator of these crimes, Paulina uses the setting of her own home to imprison him. Paulina ties and gags the suspect, a Doctor called Roberto Miranda, trapping him in a chair in a dark room in their home, so that she can try him for the crimes she thinks he committed – saying to Gerardo “We’re going to put him on trial, Gerardo, this Doctor. Right here. Today. You and me.”  The reason that Paulina is imprisoning Miranda is because as Gerardo says, she is hoping that in doing so she will be able to forgive him, and therefore gain emotional freedom - “You’re still a prisoner,” Gerardo tells Paulina, “you stayed behind with them, locked in that basement.”

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Hedda’s confinement to one room is made worse by the free movement of other characters in and out of the room. The first scene of the play describes how Aunt Julia comes into the house early on the first morning Hedda spends at the house, and then remarks disapprovingly, “They aren’t up yet!” This first line of the play signifies the start of the suffocation of Hedda in the room, as Aunt Julia is uninvited and the two do not get on, and yet Hedda is indebted to her, as Aunt Julia “gave security for the furniture, the carpets” of her new ...

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