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Does anybody feel like editing an ELIT essay? (1 Viewer)


Just finished a big term paper, not sure how I feel about it. It compares Nora from "A Doll's House" and Hedda from "Hedda Gabler", two Ibsen plays. Please tell me what you think, it is currently untitled.

Henrik Ibsen was a Norwegian playwright and poet. He was involved with more than 145 plays throughout his lifetime. He has been dubbed "the greatest and most influential dramatist of his time"(Hemmer 1), and is claimed to have been largely responsible for the modernist dramatic movement of the late 19th century. Though he denied being a feminist, his works have nevertheless made an impact on many male-dominant societies. He questioned norms that were sacred and untouchable, especially to Victorian culture. The marriage state was one of these unquestionable unions that Ibsen decided to portray in a context that was scandalous to the Victorian bourgeois. His depictions of unhappy middle class unions and women acting as individuals upset a comfortable social order in which men reigned supreme and women were subordinate. Whether Ibsen felt himself to be a feminist or not, he indeed fueled a heightened awareness in women, which led to an internal questioning of their state of existence, their role as wife and mother, and the importance of their own self-fulfilment.

Both "A Doll’s House" and "Hedda Gabler" focus on femme-fatale characters who question the worlds around them, as well as the people in it. Christine M. Bird writes that "‘A Doll’s House" explores what might happen when a simple, decent woman, who wants only to lead an ordinary life, marries a man who will stop at nothing to get his own way, whereas "Hedda Gabler" reverses the situation. There a simple, decent man marries a woman who wants only to control a human destiny"(106). Though Christine implies that Nora of "A Doll’s House" is completely unlike Hedda Gabler, the women do share comparable realities and aspirations, as Arthur Ganz states, "[Ibsen] used again in "Hedda Gabler" the same pattern of action and character relationships that he had employed eleven years earlier in "A Doll’s House"(9). When examining the similar incidents and character connections within both plays, it is clear that though the two women share similar circumstances, they are fundamentally different in the way they react to these situations. Ibsen created in his later play a darker, more sinister and extreme version of Nora Helmer in his heroine Hedda Gabler.

To start, both plays incorporate similar key incidents which illicit differing responses from the leading females. These reactions allow the audience a glimpse into the inner character of both women. Similar plot features which are worthy of discussion are: both Nora and Hedda’s husbands are up for career advancements at the outset of the narratives, both dramas focus around crucial pieces of writing, and both women erratically play the piano immediately preceding the climax of the plot.

First, Nora’s husband Torvald had just been promoted to manager of a bank, and he will receive a large raise for this advancement. This excites Nora, because prior to the outset of the play she had forged her father’s signature in order to take out a loan to save her husband from a deadly illness. She is paying back this loan in secrecy when the play begins, and becomes increasingly preoccupied with money and her debt.

In contrast to this, Hedda Gabler’s husband is also up for a promotion, a professorship in history, yet Hedda does not seem concerned with their financial situation or money whatsoever. She demands frivolous items from Tesman such as a second piano, another servant, and a saddle horse, though it is quite clear that they cannot afford such things. When Tesman worries about money, Hedda laughs and pokes fun at him. These two very different approaches to finances suggest that Nora is the more deliberative and thoughtful of the two, while Hedda is thoughtless and selfish.

Another comparable plot element is the focus around a certain document. Nora is constantly confronted by her forged signature on the promissory note that is in her loaner’s possession. This note symbolizes the secret crime that Nora has committed, and most of her efforts throughout the play revolve around her keeping this loan hidden from her husband.

In "Hedda Gabler" Hedda comes into possession of a manuscript written by her husband’s main competition, Ejlert Lovborg. Ejlert confesses to her that he has lost his manuscript, but rather than return his prize to him, Hedda gives him one of her pistols and tells Ejlert to have a beautiful death. After Lovborg leaves she destroys the manuscript. Nora’s approach to her loan bond indicates that she is fearful and passive, traits that she overcomes later in the play. Hedda’s actions can be attributed to various motives such as revenge, malice, or boredom. It is known that she is not concerned with advancing her husband’s position, so she did not destroy the manuscript to benefit him. Unlike Nora, Hedda’s actions are driven by emotion rather than reason.

Last, both women resort to the piano as an emotional outlet at the height of their agitation. Nora dances a wild version of the Tarantella, a rapid traditional dance. Her spastic movements and disregard of her husband’s orders to stop the dance alludes to her agitated mental state. At this point in the drama Nora realizes that her old fabricated existence will no longer suffice. She finally understands that she cannot continue her loveless marriage to Torvald, and begins to contemplate suicide as an escape from her empty reality.

Similarly, Hedda wanders off to play a frenzied dance melody immediately before her suicide. Composer Edward Harper expressed this song as "Chopin’s haunting Mazurka in B flat minor op.24"(336) in his operatic rendition of "Hedda Gabler". The opening bars of the song are dissonant and erratic, which match perfectly to Hedda’s shaken mental state, inner turmoil, and imminent suicide. In this respect both Nora and Hedda use music as emotional outlets right at the height of their mental agitation in each respective play.
Along with plot-line parallels are similarities between character relationships in each play. Both plays contain a former schoolmate who returns after a long absence, and both women possess an intense desire that a man justify her idealization of him through his actions.

To begin, Nora is reunited with her old school friend Mrs. Linde, who’s older and wiser viewpoints act as a foil to Nora’s naive world views. As the play continues onward however, Nora’s role shifts to the wiser, empowered woman as she seeks a life independent from a male guardian, while Mrs. Linde returns back to her former love.
Likewise, in "Hedda Gabler" Mrs. Elvsted returns after a long absence from Hedda’s life. Though the women were never friends, they went to school together. Mrs. Elvsted remembers being tormented by Hedda and is still quite fearful of her. Mrs. Elvsted also acts as a foil to Hedda, but operates in an opposite manner as Mrs. Linde does to Nora. Mrs. Elvsted is a meek and caring woman who leaves her husband to pursue a relationship with Ejlert Lovborg, whom she assisted in creating the same manuscript that Hedda destroys. Mrs. Elvsted serves to further reveal the negative qualities that construct Hedda’s identity. Therefore the two estranged women are reintroduced into the protagonist’s lives in order to further the plot and to build a contrast between the foils and the protagonists. In "A Doll’s House" Mrs. Linde’s successful independence from a male inspires Nora to question her own marriage and her potential to achieve more. In "Hedda Gabler" Mrs. Elvsted’s fear of Hedda further demonstrates Hedda’s abhorrent qualities.

Also, throughout both plays each woman is preoccupied with an important man in her life completing an action of extreme significance to her. Arthur Ganz writes that both women, "dream of achieving self-realization by seeing an admired man perform an act of extraordinary courage. In each play the failure of the man to do what the heroine desires precipitates the decision by the heroine to take destiny into her own hands and separate herself drastically from the life she has previously known"(11). In "A Doll’s House" this manifests itself through the ‘miracle’ that Nora constructs within her mind. She imagines that Torvald will perform the very brave and heroic act of taking the blame for Nora’s forgery. When Torvald fails to act heroically, it gives Nora the final push she needs to leave him and face the world on her own.

Similarly, Hedda Gabler continually mentions ‘vine leaves’ in Ejlert Lovborg’s hair. When Lovborg returns from a party without the symbolic freedom and fame that the vine leaves represent to her, she is extremely disappointed. She later tells Lovborg to have a beautiful death, and supplies him with a pistol. When she finds out that his death was actually a gruesome accident, she is horrified. Shortly after this realization, Hedda kills herself. Nora and Hedda both deposit all of their faith into one projected event, and when this event does not occur they are both completely crushed and remove themselves from their disappointed situations. It is in this manner that Nora and Hedda are most similar. They both place all of their hopes on one man, and when he does not fulfill their dreams, they seek them out elsewhere. Nora wanders off into the world to find her destiny, and Hedda meets destiny at the end of a gun.

Therefore, through comparative plot instances and characters, Ibsen has painted a portrait of two largely different women. Nora Helmer begins her story as a meek, unfilled woman who is struggling to hide a horrible secret, and ends the story as an independent entity striving to start life anew. Hedda Gabler begins her drama as a bored, self-absorbed and manipulative woman, who’s biggest concern is her own commonplace life. At the close of the play Hedda realizes that all she will ever be is ordinary, and chooses the grandeur of suicide instead. Though these women possess different temperaments and preoccupations, they both struggle to obtain freedom from a cage that their separate worlds have placed around them, and though they gain their independence in different ways, they both ultimately achieve freedom through their own actions.


Senior Member
I can't give you a full critique cause I'm neither in the mood nor do I have the time, but, I would suggest that you change your introduction to be more focused on the topic itself. Starting off with general, historical information, makes it seem more of a biography than a comparative essay.

I could be totally wrong, I only did a 5 second skim, in which it seemed that you were talking more about some specific work than the author himself.

Edit: Heck, you can use your conclusion as your intro ;)
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