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The physical objects Essay

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What is the significance of the physical objects that Ibsen has used in Act-1?”Amidst a beautiful rose garden, where the sunrays came beaming down, she was sitting as though she had been totally oblivious to the happening of the world.” This is the way a novelist would elucidate such a situation, with the use of apt words and adjectives, using his language skill to express the emotions of the characters but drama involves a completely different approach, an entirely special technique of writing.

A dramatist would probably have to delineate the same situation by the physical presence of the beautiful roses, the display of the beaming sunrays and with the actress having to emote the feeling of loneliness. And it is only then, that the audience would understand that ” in the beautiful rose garden, there is a girl feeling very lonely.”

In what you would call ” A Good Drama”, the audience is challenged to look not only at the dialogue and actors, but is challenged to examine staging, lighting and even the furniture.

Stage directions become cryptic messages of characterization. The dramatist’s portrayal is well supported by the physical presence of certain objects and the audience’s dramatic interpretation goes beyond the traditional analysis of dialogue and relationships. This “environmental thinking” creates a new dimension of meaning in drama It is this kind of interaction between the living and non-living “characters” which allow Henrik Ibsen to reveal emotion and motivation in his play Hedda Gabler. Ibsen gives detailed stage directions about the lighting, the props, and certain objects, to achieve his effects and to supplement his thoughts.

Two of the most dramatically significant of these objects are the portrait of Hedda’s father and the pair of pistols. Each of these emphasizes the dissonant relationship between Hedda and her new environment. Though the portrait of Hedda’s father in a general’s uniform is never directly referred to, it gives us an indication of Hedda’s military-aristocratic paternal background. The pistols were inherited by Hedda from her father. Her perplexing habit of aiming the pistols at people {Eilert} dramatizes the profound dissonance between herself and her present world, and her frustration with the emptiness of her life.

It seems she can conceive of no future for herself other than a life of excruciating boredom. The way in which the portrait and the pistols figure in her world suggests that she is caught up in the repetition of her past rather than engaged in the creation of a future. This is because Hedda, a beautiful young lady was married to Tesman, an indefatigable scholar, both of them having hardly any evident similarities. Although there is no apparent reason for them to have got married one is coaxed into believing by Hedda’s attitude that Teman’s world seemed to offer her some sort of security. However she began to feel suffocate in the claustrophobically middle class atmosphere.

An early indication of Hedda’s hostility to the world in which she finds herself is when, on an impulse, she speaks demeaning of a hat, which she knows to be Aunt Julie’s, {Tesman’s aunt} but which she pretends to believe is ‘the maid’s’. That hat was newly and specially bought by Aunt Julie and was even considered attractive by Tesman but Hedda referred to it as “old” which proves to be a clear indication of the difference in the social classes from which Hedda and Tesman came. The mention by Aunt Julie of her parasol being hers and not the maid Berta’s signifies that in spite of the demeaning behaviour of Hedda towards Aunt Julie, the aunt never reciprocated the same way.

If Hedda’s character has been formed in a military-paternal setting, Tesman still lives in an atmosphere of motherly concern, brought up as he has been by a trio of self-sacrificing women Aunt Julie, Aunt Rina and Berta. Tesman’s elation over his bedroom slippers, which were embroidered by Aunt Rina, and the fact that he even mentioned about them to Hedda on their honeymoon, is clearly proved by it.

Differences between Hedda and Tesman are further indicated by the piano, which was placed in the drawing room. The piano does not “fit” in the drawing room, just as Hedda doesn’t “fit” into the Tesman family and its middle-class lifestyle. George and Hedda make different assumptions about remedying the problem of the piano. George assumes they will trade it in for a new piano and is startled by Hedda’s extravagant assumption they will keep it and buy a new one.

The entire drawing room itself is indicative of what kind of a mismatch Hedda was to Tesman’s family. The room is like Hedda in its sophistication and elegance. It symbolizes Hedda’s lifestyle, rather than those of the Tesmans. Aunt Julie expressing surprise at Hedda having the covers of the furniture removed further reflects this. This reminds us of the saying that “one man’s luxury might be another’s necessity.”

Also the reactions of the characters to the lighting and the position of the glass door are of some significance. While aunt Julie wants the glass door open to welcome the morning fresh air, Hedda refers to it as the “flood of sunlight”. She however prefers to draw the curtains so that the light becomes softer and does not want the light to go away completely. Light often represents life and aliveness and thus aunt Julie’s welcoming of the morning light epitomizes her optimistic attitude towards life and her positive thinking.

Darkness usually symbolizes danger or vice but Hedda’s want of “soft light” and not complete darkness gives us signs of her mysterious past. It shows us that although Hedda was interested in all the mysteries and adventures of life, she preferred to keep a sufficient distance from all those things, which would disturb or disrupt her life’s stability. In this way Ibsen uses the glass door to indicate their varying attitudes towards life.

Hedda’s emptiness of life is further illustrated by her distastefulness towards the flowers and her finding the flowers somewhat stifling. Flowers usually are a mark of happiness and hope and often symbolize a new freshness of life. But Hedda’s views about the flowers are somewhat opposite. Thus Ibsen has skillfully used various physical objects to reflect essential characteristics of the relations between the characters and to personify his characters. His detailed stage direction reminds us of what, owner of Prithvi theatre, Mumbai had said, ” Stage direction is an integral part of every drama. Without the props appropriately placed on stage, the play, however brilliant it may be, appears like a body without a soul, a tear without an emotion and love without a heart.”

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