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Books Read in 2017-2018 > Hedda Gabler - Spoilers

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message 1: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
Please use this thread to discuss the book freely!


message 2: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments The passage that really stood out to me was the following:

________________________________________________________________________________

TESMAN.

Quite right, quite right. Let me tell you, I have got hold of your new book; but I haven't had time to read it yet.

LOVBORG.

You may spare yourself the trouble.

TESMAN.

Why so?

LOVBORG.

Because there is very little in it.

TESMAN.

Just fancy—how can you say so?

BRACK.

But it has been very much praised, I hear.

LOVBORG.

That was what I wanted; so I put nothing into the book but what every one would agree with.

BRACK.

Very wise of you.

TESMAN.

Well but, my dear Eilert—!

LOVBORG.

For now I mean to win myself a position again—to make a fresh start.

____________________________________________________________________________

For me it read like Ibsen venting his frustration at the backlash that he was receiving by some for producing work that was original for the time.

For example, his play A Doll's House met a lot of criticism, and for the German premier he was pressured to write a new ending more in line with social norms of the time. He supposedly said that the change was a "barbaric outrage."

As A Doll's House came out in 1879 and Hedda Gabler came out in 1890, I think that all the criticism and forced compromises that he made for "Doll's House" and other plays were present in his mind when he wrote the above passage.


message 3: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) For me it read like Ibsen venting his frustration at the backlash that he was receiving by some for producing work that was original for the time. ..."

That's interesting insight - I suppose for the time it was a controversial ending

I finished reading this - and liked it for its earthy qualities and complex main character


message 4: by MJD (last edited Jun 09, 2018 04:31AM) (new)

MJD | 331 comments Inkspill wrote: "For me it read like Ibsen venting his frustration at the backlash that he was receiving by some for producing work that was original for the time. ..."

That's interesting insight - I suppose for t..."


Have you read A Doll's House? I had the feeling after reading this that Henrik Ibsen recycled the same main characters (protagonist and husband, man who poses as threat to the husband, and woman who is friend of the protagonist and likes the threatening man).

While the husband of the protagonist character in both plays seems to have a similar ending in both plays, the other three main characters have very different endings. It's almost like Henrik Ibsen wanted to make a darker, less sentimental version of his earlier play.


message 5: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
MJD wrote: "Inkspill wrote: "For me it read like Ibsen venting his frustration at the backlash that he was receiving by some for producing work that was original for the time. ..."

That's interesting insight ..."


I have read A Doll's House MJD and your thoughts about the play and Hedda Gabler are quite interesting and I'd have to agree that the two plays are similar.


message 6: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) interesting insight MJD, I thought as I read HG there were aspects of Hedda that sounded similar to Nora, especially how they are both grounded / realist.

But there are also differences, Nora's journey is wanting her independence after perceiving how the men in her life (first father then husband) won't let her grow up.

Hedda is already independent, she's is also strong and at times insensitive. She also has had one romantic relationship (so not as innocent as Nora).

as for the men, yeah there are some similarities, which could have something to do with the culture. And like the women, they too have differences.

(continuing in next post...)


message 7: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) (.... I'm back ☺)

I thought Torvald in Doll's House behaved more like Nora's father then husband. Whereas Tesman was almost like a dreamer.

(I'm guessing if Hedda was married to Torvald it works have been a very different play.)

I can understand how the endings can seem similar, both women are bidding for freedom, but they are different types of freedom.

Nora leaves, and leaves her children as well, to work out who she is and discover for herself what she wants.

Whereas, I got the sense Hedda already had a sense of this, so freedom for her had a different reward, not to be owned (by blackmail). I also wondered if her choice of freedom was self-punishment for Lovborg's suicide (which she encouraged) not being 'beautiful' ???

So, yes, there are similarities, but I also thought there were differences.

Were there moments in the play you liked, or thought didn't work?


message 8: by Piyangie (new)

Piyangie | 436 comments This is a very interesting discussion on the play.

I too think Hedda Gabler has some similarities with A Doll's House. In both plays, we find the protagonist seeking something for themselves - freedom. Ibsen wrote these plays at a time that women rights and independence were controlled by a male dominated society. The women's position in society provided a good theme for Ibsen to expose his thinking and writing which of course resulted in controversy.

However the greatness of Ibsen is in his ability to create different stories with the same theme.

In Nora, we find a woman who is naive but committed his family. But sudden turn of events make her realize that there is nothing for her to do as a woman, wife and mother except to be a "Doll" - that is to be petted and admired but nothing more. That is when she makes the controversial decision of walking out of her home.

But Hedda is different. She is strong and controlling. It is true that both Nora and Hedda are victims of social restrictions that are placed on women, but unlike Nora, Hedda rebels against the restrictions in a violent way. Personally I felt that the two plays were Ibsen's attempt to show that how different women reacts to their conditions in life and seek their independence and freedom.

But I also felt that Ibsens's use of a protagonist like Hedda and to create such a passionate and violent story was to increase the dramatic quality of the play, without anything to do with thematic variations.


message 9: by Skye (new)

Skye | 240 comments Ibsen was brilliant and took a giant leap of faith by writing A Doll's House and Hedda Gabler; women in those days were supposed to be docile and retiring, not outspoken or free; this is admirable.

Enemy of the People is equally expository, too.


message 10: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments Inkspill wrote: "(.... I'm back ☺)

I thought Torvald in Doll's House behaved more like Nora's father then husband. Whereas Tesman was almost like a dreamer.

(I'm guessing if Hedda was married to Torvald it works..."


In regards to your question, "Were there moments in the play you liked, or thought didn't work?", for me, I really liked the ending.

I liked how Ibsen set up an earlier death of another character as some sort of romantic-tragic suicide, as Hedda hopes for, only for it to fall apart in a messy matter that may have been an accident. This seemed more in line with Ibsen having a more gritty realism, especially as the audience is not let in on how exactly he did die (much like how the true nature of events in real life can remain elusive from us).

After all that Ibsen kills off a character in a romantic-tragic manner, with the two closing lines being:

Tesman: Shot herself! Shot herself in the temple! Fancy that!

Brack: Good God! - people don't do such things!

For me it was interesting that Ibsen seemed to set up an expectation of a noble suicide to redeem one's honor or something along those lines, only to go against that expectation and end that person's death in a messy way, which sets up an expectation that this is a play where "people don't do such things," only to then go against that expectation and have someone do such a thing. I appreciated this in terms of aesthetics.

______________________________________________________________

I also thought that the ending lined up well with some thoughts in existentialist thinking. That is the remark "people don't do such things" can be a stand-in for society saying that someone (especially a woman in terms of this play) should not do what she has done. While "such things" could just be the manner of suicide, it could also mean "not submitting to social norms", "not submitting to a man", etc.

But, she went ahead doing "such things" throughout the play that her society and peers would and did frown upon, up to and including her final act. This seems to go in line with the idea of not being beholden to what you are expected to be and to create one's own being, which is highly valued in some existentialist literature. I think that the wiki article sums up the existentialist point well, and by extension seems to sum up a possibly message of the play highlighted by the final scene:

"Sartre claimed that a central proposition of Existentialism is
that existence precedes essence, which means that the most
important consideration for individuals is that they are
individuals—independently acting and responsible, conscious
beings ("existence")—rather than what labels, roles, stereotypes,
definitions, or other preconceived categories the individuals fit
("essence"). The actual life of the individuals is what constitutes
what could be called their "true essence" instead of there being
an arbitrarily attributed essence others use to define them.
Thus, human beings, through their own consciousness, create
their own values and determine a meaning to their life."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existen...

[Note: To be clear, I am not saying that I endorse what she actually did in the play, nor would I say that any writer associated with existentialism would either, I'm just saying that the manner in which she did things and the manner in which others expected certain things of her and reacted towards her makes this play seem to embody existential themes.]


message 11: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments {Addition to post #10]

The idea of existentialist themes coming across from a play with feminist themes may sound like a strange pairing at first, but it should be remembered that one of the more influential books in feminist thought is The Second Sex by existentialist writer Simone de Beauvoir, who was a long time partner of Jean-Paul Sartre.


message 12: by Skye (new)

Skye | 240 comments Wonderful comments. MJD, and yes, it was part of the Existential fabric.The Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre said it well: "Hell is other People."


message 13: by Skye (new)

Skye | 240 comments Existentialism embodies the notion that one tries and tries again, and then takes a giant leap of faith--Introduzione a Nietsche opera per opera.


message 14: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) Piyangie wrote (message 8): "This is a very interesting discussion on the play."

Isn't it just - brilliant!!! :))

MJD wrote (message 10): "After all that Ibsen kills off a character in a romantic-tragic manner, with the two closing lines being ..."

Yeah - true - but was Ibsen restricted by audience expectations ??

I remember you saying in another post of how some 
wanted the ending for Doll's House was changed.
For that time, to have a a mother (even a fictional one) to leave
her children, I'm thinking, is like hitting a sore point.


So, what about a woman who plays with other people's fate? Would the audience have been okay there were no consequences for her ???

I'm kind of thinking, for that time, this would have been too controversial for those audience.

But this does not phase Ibsen, right to the end he lets Hedda drive her own fate.

Ok, yeah, it's a sudden ending but it's strong.

And in those couple of lines, I think, volumes are spoken - as it's Hedda who has the last line (not physically but by her action).


message 15: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments Another element of the play that I liked was that the document that Hedda destroyed was about a history of the future.


In context of this consider the following:

By destroying a paper about the future Hedda destroys the future of the one that wrote it. Also, in a way Hedda destroys her own future by destroying a paper about the future.


For me, I admire the craft in setting up and executing these poetic parallels.


message 16: by Skye (new)

Skye | 240 comments I agree.


message 17: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments {Addition to comment 15]

The idea of Hedda burning a academic paper about what the future holds seems to have political/philosophical implications as well.

__________________________________________________________________

One low hanging fruit in terms of reading politics into it would be that that the idea of woman burning what a man decrees what will happen in the future holds obvious feminist implications. This could be seen as a rejection of a patriarchal view of how society functions, especially a rejection of the continuation of such patriarchal narratives.

_________________________________________________________________________

Another way to read into it is that the burning of an academic paper on what the future will hold can be seen as a rejection of being a cog in the wheel, a step in history, an automaton living out a deterministic existence devoid of agency.

In this second form of interpretation I see connections to Notes from Underground and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. While I would recommend reading the whole short book to see where I am coming from, I think that the following excerpt from a wiki article on the book can suffice for people short on time:

" The first part also gives a harsh criticism of determinism and intellectual attempts at dictating human action and behavior by logic which the Underground Man mentions in terms of a simple math problem two times two makes four (see also necessitarianism). He states that despite humanity's attempt to create the "Crystal Palace," a reference to a famous symbol of utopianism in Nikolai Chernyshevsky's What Is to Be Done?, one cannot avoid the simple fact that anyone, at any time, can decide to act in a way that might not be considered to be in self-interest; some will do so simply to validate their existence and to protest and confirm that they exist as individuals. The Underground Man ridicules the type of enlightened self-interest (egoism, selfishness) that Chernyshevsky proposes as the foundation of Utopian society. The concept of cultural and legislative systems relying on this rational egoism is what the protagonist despises. The Underground embraces this ideal in praxis, and he seems to blame it for his current state of unhappiness.[7] This type of rebellion is critical to later works of Dostoevsky as it is used by adolescents to validate their own existence, uniqueness and independence (see Dostoevsky's The Adolescent); rebellion in the face of the dysfunction and disorder of adult experience that one inherits when reaching adulthood under the understanding of tradition and society."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notes_f...


message 18: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
I really enjoyed this play and can't wait to read more by Henrik Ibsen.


message 19: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) MJD wrote: "By destroying a paper about the future Hedda destroys the future of the one that wrote it. Also, in a way Hedda destroys her own future by destroying a paper about the future."

Which she did, and without hesitation, understanding the cost to her, so I thought in the same stroke she also illustrated her strength.

MJD wrote: "For me, I admire the craft in setting up and executing these poetic parallels. "

I see that, and it's done so subtly that it would be easy to miss.

MJD wrote: "Another element of the play that I liked was that the document that Hedda destroyed was about a history of the future."

That's an interesting connection.

MJD wrote: "Another way to read into it is that the burning of an academic paper on what the future will hold can be seen as a rejection of being a cog in the wheel, a step in history, an automaton living out a deterministic existence devoid of agency ..."

Oh, now there's a big topic :)

I've made a note of Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground and will try and read it - a-hem, sometime - but in the meantime I appreciate the summary.


message 20: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments Inkspill wrote: "MJD wrote: "By destroying a paper about the future Hedda destroys the future of the one that wrote it. Also, in a way Hedda destroys her own future by destroying a paper about the future."

Which s..."


Inkspill, what elements of the play did you like the best, be they aesthetically pleasing and/or thought provoking?


message 21: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) MJD wrote: "Inkspill, what elements of the play did you like the best, be they aesthetically pleasing and/or thought provoking?"

I like the realism – truths are not sugar-coated – and in their presentation there is poetry but an earthy kind.

I like how the characters are not caricatures (that adhere to society’s expectations, especially where gender is concerned).

I also like how Ibsen tells a story without it being a sermon / big messages of good or bad. This is partly because the main characters are a mix of good-bad and flawed, and they believe they are motivated by a goodness; that’s their own personal definition of good rather than the archaic communal one lorded over by society.

I know there are other playwrights who write like this now – but as I understand it – Ibsen was one of the first – making him a ground-breaker that made way for a lot of the earthy realistic dramas we have today.


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