Activities for Hedda Gabler

Dr. Diane Thompson, NVCC, ELI

Select the Activity question you wish to respond to. Make a copy of the question to begin your Activity. Post your response to the Blackboard Activity 6: Hedda Gabler Forum. I will comment on your Activity on the Forum, and send your grade to you privately, by email.

Hedda Gabler says, "I often think there's only one thing for which I have any natural talent . . . For boring myself to death. . ." Hedda is completely trapped by her role in society, this role is very boring, and she lacks the courage to break free. Try to imagine what it was like to be a woman of high social standing in Hedda's society, and explain why she was afraid to break free. What price would she have to pay? Use examples from the text to support your ideas. 
Mrs. Elvsted does have the courage to break free. Contrast her behavior to Hedda's. Why do you think she was able to defy the iron rules of convention? How is she different from Hedda? Support your observations with examples from the play.
Both Hedda Gabler and Mrs. Elvsted want to shape a man's destiny. Compare the way each of them goes about it. Use examples from the text to support your ideas. 
From about the middle of the 19th century, the dominant scientific outlook affected literature and the arts: the writer sought to observe and explain human beings and their behavior much as a natural scientist would observe and explain the behavior of other natural phenomena. This literary movement was called "realism" because it attempted to objectively describe the "real" world.

Look at Ibsen's careful regard for "factual" details and his interest in social systems and the causes and consequences of behavior. Is Ibsen studying Hedda as if he were a scientist? Can you find any indication of Ibsen's "scientific" approach to life in Hedda's social circle? Give examples from the play to support your observations.

Some critics have claimed that Hedda Gabler was evil, as evil as Iago in Shakespeare's Othello, which is pretty darned evil. Others see her as a neurotic woman trapped in a narrow, unforgiving bourgeois society where she cannot develop her true potential or find any real happiness. How do you see her? Evil or neurotic, or perhaps a bit of both? Explain using examples from the play to support your position. 
Compare/contrast George Tesman and Eilert Loevborg. Look at how they behave, what they study, and what they are writing, as well as the women they are involved with. Can you explain why Hedda is able to precipitate Loevborg's death, but she can scarcely affect Tesman? Support your ideas with examples from the play.
Do you agree with Erich Auerbach that Ibsen's "problems have lost their timeliness," because the bourgeois world has changed so much since World War I? Be sure to support your position with specific examples from the text and from your own knowledge of our current personal and social problems. 
Hedda Gabler and Elmire (Orgon's wife in Tartuffe) are both society women who move in fairly restricted environments, where men exercise a great deal of control. However, these two women deal very differently with that control. Elmire is able to manipulate her relationships to get what she wants, but Hedda is not.  Explain why you think this is so, looking at the characters of the two women, their social backgrounds, and the kinds of families they live in. Support your points with specific examples from the two plays. 
Hedda desperately wanted Loevborg to be heroic, to be able to drink if he pleased, to be able to act as he pleased, to be able to die beautifully. Yet, despite her mean spirit, she is more heroic than Loevborg in death, if not in life. What do you think of this transfer of the role of heroic death from the man to the woman? Do you think it foreshadows 20th century upheavals in gender roles and such? Support your ideas with examples from the play, and from the 20th century. 


(c) Diane Thompson: 8/1/1998; updated: 08/11/2005