‘Paradise Within’: Hedda Gabler and John Gabriel Borkman as Types of the Romantic ‘Self’
If we cannot conceive of Hedda Gabler posing the highly articulate metaphysical queries of Wallace Stevens’s woman in ‘Sunday Morning’, it is probably beacause we know next to nothing of her psychic life. Hedda’s history is predominantly social — a fully dramatised image of a ci-devant aristocrat for whom Gablerism is a code of obligations heaped by nobility upon her nature, and who lives in a world where people no longer do ‘that sort of thing’. But as a psychological study of sexual distress, the fear of death, and the yearning for some intimation of immortal value, Hedda Gabler is enveloped in almost Pinteresque blankness. A phrase, a gesture, a sense of something left unspoken beneath broken sentences — we clutch at straws to make her whole or, bewildered by the force that drives her, attribute to her actions the motiveless malignity of Iago. More recently, she has been portrayed as a woman in whom the poetry of life runs deep but whose channels of expression have been dammed by the society in which she lives, in whom idealism burns with a hard gem-like flame but which — thwarted by her status in the world — can only burn itself and others in an agony of frustration.
KeywordsShipping Amid Dementia Posit Straw
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- 4.Thomas Mann, ‘Disorder and Early Sorrow’, in Lionel Trilling (ed.), The Experience of Literature (New York, 1967 ) p. 690.Google Scholar
- 6.Muriel Bradbrook, ‘Ibsen and the Past Imperfect’, in Daniel Haakonsen (ed.), Contemporary Approaches to Ibsen, ii,(Oslo, 1971 ) 7–24.Google Scholar
- 11.Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ and ‘The Genealogy of Morals’ trs. Francis Golffing (New York, 1956), pp. 23–4, 28.Google Scholar
- 17.John Northam, Ibsen: A Critical Study (Cambridge, 1973) p. 184.Google Scholar
- 22.Feodor Dostoievski Crime and Punishment trs. Constance Garnett (London, 1967) pp. 230, 235–6.Google Scholar
- 24.Charles Lyons ‘The Function of Dream and Reality in John Gabriel Borkman’Scandinavian Studies, xlv (1973) 304, 293.Google Scholar
- 26.G. Wilson Knight, Ibsen (Edinburgh and London, 1962) p. 96.Google Scholar
- 29.Cf. T. E. Hulme: ‘Romanticism, then, and this is the best definition I can give of it, is spilt religion’ — in Herbert Read (ed.) Speculations (London, 1936 ) p. 118.Google Scholar
- 33.Lilian Furst, Romanticism in Perspective (London, 1969) p. 99.Google Scholar