Both Henrik Ibsen's 'Hedda Gabler' and Oscar Wilde's 'The Importance of Being Earnest' depict the constant conflict between the individual and the society in which they live; and, more specifically, the struggle of the individual to construct his or her own identity in light of the rigidity and demands of social life. While Hedda Gabler, the protagonist in Ibsen's play, and the characters of Wilde's, most prominently, Jack and Algernon, employ different strategies to maintain their individualities while simultaneously adhering to social expectations, both plays depict elaborate characters and often futile attempts to construct identities for themselves and for the public. For Hedda, in order to establish some sense of control in her life, she actively manipulates the characters around her as if they were marionettes while she lives in fear of public scandal. Jack and Algernon likewise fear scandals just the same; they, on the other hand, take control of their inner desires by creating fictional alter egos for themselves, thereby allowing them to subsume socially acceptable roles while simultaneously pursuing separate, less acceptable desires. Thus, in both Ibsen's 'Hedda Gabler' and Wilde's 'The Importance of Being Earnest', the playwrights conceive characters caught up in the conflict between appeasing the society and their own individualities.
[...] She finds herself completely encaged in this life of domesticity and sees no hope for an alternative to her future. Therefore, she directs her attentions outwards, towards the lives of those surrounding her. She finds herself unable to relinquish her desires for control and power, thus leading her to actively strive to control the lives of others. She subsumes the role of the unsuspecting manipulator, thereby allowing her to maintain her mask of womanhood and domesticity while simultaneously attaining some semblance of control. [...]
[...] Likewise, in Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, the idea of a private and public self as separate entities is conveyed through the idea of the double life. Wilde's play, like Ibsen's, is set in upper class Victorian England in which there is a strict set of customs and expectations that dictate the way people should behave. Because of these customs, Jack Worthing, the play's protagonist, and his best friend, Algernon Fairfax, construe alter egos for themselves thereby allowing them to both maintain their upstanding social roles on the one hand, and indulge in their innermost fantasies and desires on the other. [...]
[...] Ironically, Jack discovers, at the close of the play that his name is in fact and that, for his entire life, he has been “speaking nothing but the truth.” (IBE, 54) In a sense, by concluding the play with this revelation that all of Jack's deceptions were ultimately true, Wilde effectively blurs the line between truth and lie and reality and fiction, suggesting that the two are not so disconnected. Ultimately, despite the inherent differences between Ibsen's Hedda Gabler and Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, both plays tackle the conflict between maintaining individual identity while simultaneously adhering to the rigidity and confinement of [...]
[...] Elvsted arrives at their home in a state of frenzy and Hedda reacts by assuming the role of the caring and supportive friend, urging her to tell her and Tesman the whole story of her troubles 12). Mrs. Elvsted mentions coming out in search of finding Lovborg, who gave lessons to her husbands children. Seeming to sense more to the story, Hedda encourages her husband to leave to write Lovborg a letter, leaving her and Mrs. Elvsted alone together. Though Mrs. [...]
[...] Evidence of her father's omnipresence is most readily conveyed through the General's portrait, which, described in detail in the opening scene hangs in the drawing room and dominates at the center of the entire play. The General, having died, has left Hedda with little more than a few material possessions (the portrait, her piano, and his pistols) and his aristocratic, military values. Thus, in attempts to establish some sense of security as well as to adhere to the conventions of marriage, Hedda marries George Tesman, a middle-class scholar who, in stark contrast to Hedda, was raised by three women. [...]
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