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Hedda Gabler

Hedda Gabler

by Henrik Ibsen

Analysis: Tone

Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?

Pointed; Wry, especially with regard to all those Victorian standards

Ibsen isn’t beating around the bush here. He’s making a clear argument about the dangers of Victorian values and the damage they cause to the individual – especially to women. Hedda is miserable and ends her life when she can’t take the repression any more; this is hardly a subtle point. There’s also a bit of sardonic humor tossed in, again with regard to societal mores. Characters like Hedda and Brack obviously don’t buy into the Victorian prescription for strict living – after all, Brack is trying to have an affair with Hedda and she’s trying to goad a man into drinking. Their attitudes seem to reflect those of the playwright, who mocks these values in dry exchanges like the debate over the presence of a chaperone in Act II. Hedda doesn’t really care; she’s just playing along, and secretly scoffing at the system as she does so.

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