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Henrik Ibsen wrote the play Hedda Gabler about a woman who marries out of convenience a man she does not love and literally bores herself to death, she takes her own life at the end of the play. Therese Raquin is a novel by Emile Zola about a woman who along with her lover kills her husband, in order for them to be together, but the guilt of the murder causes them to commit a joined suicide. Both works take place in the late 19th century. In this essay I will discuss these two characters, Hedda Gabler and Therese Raquin, and the effect boredom has on them and on the decisions they make.
The first thing Ibsen and Zola do to build up Therese and Hedda’s boredom was by the setting. Zola filled Therese’s childhood with disease, over protectiveness and loneliness, she was “brought up in the clammy heat of a sick-room” 1. Even when they moved to Paris she was stuck in the tiny apartment above the haberdashery, “she’s bored to death in that shop” 2. Zola describes it as “dark, low and cramped” 3. Therese had to endure the claustrophobic boredom of petty life in the backstreet Paris haberdashery. Furthermore, Zola introduced the Thursday gatherings.
The “Thursday evenings were a torture to her” 4 and “Therese played with a lack of interest” 5. In its’ guests she “could find not one real human being; at times she was overcome by the hallucination of being immured deep in a burial vault in the company of mechanical corpses” 6. Zola made the Thursday gatherings so repetitive and introduced such dull people to further intensify Therese’s boredom and entrapment trying to give her motive for her future actions. The house of the Raquins’ was a dead house that just happened to still be living.
Ibsen, on the other hand, gave Hedda a “specialist” 7 for a husband, made her responsible for a house she is not interested in and did not appreciate and surrounded her by dull people, other than her husband there was Aunt Julie, Mrs. Elvsted, and even Lovborg, the man who used to and give her “a glimpse of a world that she’s forbidden to know anything about” 8, was now reformed. Both characters marry for reasons other than love. Therese marries her cousin Camille because she had given up on hope; she had a feeling of indifference.
But she also felt an obligation towards the woman who took her in and raised her. Hedda, on the other hand, “had danced [her]self out” 9 by driving away all her admirers and playing too hard to get. As a 19th century twenty nine year old woman Hedda was considered to be too old to still be not married by society. And so, she marries George Tesman out of convenience, even though he is of a lower class than she is, because she is “much too afraid of scandal” 10. Eilert Lovborg even calls her “a coward at heart” 11.
Even though we see Hedda married to 2Tesman since the beginning of the play, Ibsen chooses to title the play Hedda Gabler using her maiden name, instead of her married name. This is to show that she is not fully accepting the fact that she is married and still seeks her freedom. Also, Ibsen almost shows Hedda as a person against marriage, she finds that “the most unbearable thing of all” 12 is “to be everlastingly together with-with one and the same person” 13 especially “a specialist” 14 like George Tesman. Because the two characters do not marry out of love they are miserable and bored with their lives.