Study Guide

Hedda Gabler Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

By Henrik Ibsen

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Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Anticipation Stage

Eilert is back in town.

Hedda perks up a bit when she hears that Eilert is back in town. As we find out later, he’s one of the people who allows her "a glimpse into a forbidden world." Hedda is clearly dissatisfied with her situation, and this is the potential "gratification," as Booker says, that "presents itself" during the anticipation stage.

Dream Stage

Hedda manipulates Eilert and Thea

The dream stage is the period in which the protagonist thinks she’s getting everything she wants. The problem is, it’s hard to know exactly what Hedda wants in this play. We know what she doesn’t want: to be married to George, to be a repressed female, to live below her social and economic standards, etc. But it’s hard to see how pushing Eilert off the wagon is going to help in any way. You’ll see us argue in Hedda’s "Character Analysis" that manipulation is the only entertainment she has. It’s actually fun for her. If this is true, then the closest Hedda gets to a dream stage is having manipulative control over the other characters. When Hedda coaxes Thea into telling her the whole sordid story of her miserable marriage and "companionship" with Eilert, when she gets Eilert to start drinking again, and even when she convinces him to take the pistol and strive for a "beautiful" death, Hedda is as close as she’s going to get to freedom.

Frustration Stage

Hedda admits that she’s pregnant – not just to George, but to herself.

The bun in the oven seems to be the straw breaking the camel’s back, if you will allow us to painfully mix our metaphors here. Hedda’s response to her husband’s joy is: "Oh–I’ll die! I’ll die of all this!" If that doesn’t convince you that we’ve entered frustration land, there’s always the stage directions: "(clenching her fists in despair)." Right. In fact, the only thing that perks Hedda up is the knowledge that Eilert’s death was beautiful and courageous.

Nightmare Stage

Eilert’s death was NOT beautiful. Nor courageous. In fact, it was kind of embarrassing. Also, George has just committed the rest of his life to re-writing Eilert’s book. Oh, and the Judge has Hedda under his control.

In the words of Hedda herself: "What is it, this—this curse—that everything I touch turns ridiculous and vile?" Her last ditch attempt at finding beauty in the world has failed. Perhaps worst of all is the realization that the one freedom she had – to manipulate others – is gone, now that the Judge is essentially blackmailing her with his knowledge of the pistol situation.

Destruction or Death Wish Stage

Hedda kills herself.

This one is pretty clear. Hedda has a death wish. She fulfills it rather effectively.

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